Korean sister brands Hyundai and Kia have certainly made their mark on American buyers. Hyundai is now a major player in family cars and utilities, while Kia is approaching premium brand status. In that vain, Kia is now taking a shot at the U.S. full-size sedan segment, one dominated by the Detroit three and Toyota. Kia’s big four-door is called Cadenza. With a solid track record in large cars back home, let’s see if a big Kia plays well here.
While full-size cars are no longer a huge market in the U.S., it is a car class that’s speaks volumes about a brand’s status and aspirations. Witness the boost Chevrolet’s pride is receiving from their redesigned Impala. A well-priced volume brand flagship sedan can also snare a few luxury buyers as well. And, that is the mission of the 2014 Kia Cadenza.
The Cadenza might actually have a broader audience than expected since it is somewhat smallish compared to other large sedans. With a wheelbase of 112 inches, and a length of 195.5, it’s almost six inches shorter overall than Impala, but nearly five inches longer than the mid-size Kia Optima, with which the Cadenza shares more than a passing Euro-themed resemblance.
The styling is very modern, yet not trendy, and should hold up well for the long period of time that big sedans generally go between redesigns. As to the name? For those of you who avoided music lessons in school, a cadenza is the portion of a song where a soloist gets to really show their stuff, and Kia hopes their Cadenza will bring down the house.
The upscale European influence of the Cadenza’s styling carries over to the interior. It’s driver centric, with nearly flush switchgear, yet clearly luxury oriented. Kia really sweated the small stuff too. Sensible gauges are well shrouded from glare. There are triple-sealed doors and lots of noise insulation to keep things ultra quiet; accompanied by some pleasant looking fake wood trim and soft touch materials.
A very long list of standards includes auto fold outside mirrors, heated leather seats, navigation with SiriusXM traffic, backup warning with camera, a 550-watt 12-speaker surround sound audio system, and Kia’s UVO eServices telematics which is top notch in ease of use.
Beyond that the Luxury Package adds driver’s seat memory and ventilation as well as panoramic sunroof. While the Technology package adds a raft of safety features including Advanced Smart Cruise Control, Blind Spot Detection, and Lane Departure Warning.
While its “not quite full size” size keeps rear seat legroom far from class best, space is still generous. The seat backs don’t fold however. Still, 15.9 cu-ft of trunk space is quite reasonable.
The Cadenza shares many mechanicals with the Hyundai Azera and that includes the 3.3-liter V6 with a front-wheel drive 6-speed automatic. It’s the brand’s most powerful V6 to date with 293-horsepower and 255 lb-ft. of torque.
And much like the Azera, the Cadenza doesn’t launch particularly hard off the line, and power builds gently once you do get rolling. It took 7.0-seconds to reach 60, and 15.5 to see the end of the quarter mile at 94 miles-per-hour. Even using the steering wheel paddles, shifts are not especially quick, but they are premium car smooth.
Through the cones, the Cadenza feels fairly light on its feet, but not so light that you forget how big it really is. There’s plenty of luxury class weight transfer and a soft feel when you ask for rapid response. Unlike other Kias that feel sportier than their Hyundai counterparts, we can’t feel a meaningful difference between Cadenza and Azera, and neither belongs anywhere near a race track. They do belong on the highway where ride quality is downright “plush”. The front struts and rear multi-links are definitely tuned for long distance comfort.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are about average for its class at 19–City, 28-Highway, and 22–Combined. We saw a better than expected 25.9 miles-per-gallon of Regular in mixed driving. The Energy Impact Score is average at 15.0-barrels of annual oil use with CO2 emissions coming in at 6.7-tons.
There is just one Cadenza trim level; Premium; starting at $35,900. Adding both the Luxury and Technology packages raises that to 41,900. Any way you slice it the Cadenza is a lot of large car for the money.
Indeed, taken as a whole, the 2014 Kia Cadenza does have a premium sedan nature, and yes, posture worthy of a brand flagship, but without going overboard on price. It is sportingly handsome, with a very well done interior, with lots of features, and a great ride. All things that should have Kia dealers, and Cadenza buyers, singing a happy tune.
Engine: 3.3-liter V6
Torque: 255 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 7.0 seconds
1/4 mile: 15.5 seconds @ 94 mph
EPA: 19 mpg city/ 28 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 15.0 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 6.7 tons/yr