Kia, fresh from challenging the traditional four-door sedan segment with the Optima, is moving upscale with an all-new 2014 Cadenza that is to be the company’s flagship. Competing in the premium class means more technology and premium materials, a concept similar to that used by Japanese manufacturers when they wanted to move upstream with brands such as Lexus, Infiniti and Acura – except Kia has not created a separate brand name.
By TOM STRONGMAN
The result is a car that looks, feels and drives with the comfort and technology of most first-rung luxury cars. It is quiet, responsive and solid.
The all-new sheetmetal reflects an understated, European style, which is not surprising because Peter Shreyer, Kia president and chief design officer for both Kia and Hyundai, came from Volkswagen in 2006 where he was known for his contributions to the Audi TT. Shreyer was responsible for Kia’s signature tiger-nose grille. The Cadenza’s subtle body lines are more mature and less animated than the Optima, and the car looks especially graceful from the side.
Will buyers pay premium prices for an upscale Cadenza? Based on my drive, I see no reason why price, which is comparable to a Toyota Avalon Limited, Hyundai Azera or Lexus ES 350, should be an issue. Plus, Kia has a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
There is only one model, and its base price is $35,100. Standard features include a navigation system, rearview camera, dual-zone climate control, 12-speaker Infinity audio system, push-button start and 10-way power driver’s seat.
The Luxury Package bumps the price to $38,100 and it includes state-of-the-art instrumentation with a TFT LCD screen, Nappa leather upholstery, 12-way driver’s seat with ventilation and heated steering wheel.
Adding the Technology package brings the price to $41,100, and with it comes blind-spot detection, lane departure warning, water-repellant hydrophobic front side windows, 19-inch wheels and Kia’s advanced cruise control that keeps the vehicle a set distance behind the one in front and will stop the car if needed.
The wheelbase is two inches longer than the Optima, and the standard engine is Kia’s 3.3-liter, 293-horsepower V-6. This direct-injection engine is smooth, its power delivery linear and it is reasonably quiet. The six-speed automatic transmission that drives the front wheels works seamlessly and can be shifted manually with paddles on the steering wheel.
The Cadenza’s well-designed cabin has the quality of materials, design and execution that one expects for this price. The test car’s wood, leather and chrome trim were quite pleasing.
Convenience items include the Infinity audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, navigation system, keyless ignition, Sirius satellite radio, leather seats, panoramic sunroof, heated and cooled front seats, heated outboard rear seats and heated steering wheel and power front passenger’s seat.
The steering wheel has fingertip controls for audio, cruise control, telephone and trip computer functions.
The base price of the test car was $35,100. Options included the panoramic sunroof, high-intensity headlights, heated rear seats, ventilated driver’s seat, leather trim, power rear sunshade in the luxury package; and the blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure system, hydrophobic front door windows and 19-inch wheels of the technology package. The sticker price was $41,900.
The basic warranty is for five years or 60,000 miles, with a powertrain warranty for 10 years or 100,000 miles.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail is email@example.com