This review is part of a ten-car comparison of large sedans. The Cadenza is ranked third place of ten.
Kia had a few extra months to bring its large sedan to the market compared to its parent company Hyundai. And accordingly, the 2014 Kia Cadenza – a mechanical twin to the fourth-place Hyundai Azera – is a more polished product than its corporate cousin.
The Cadenza's ride is smoother than the Azera's, its interior feels richer, its controls are better designed, and its infotainment system looks five years newer.
One thing Kia sadly couldn't fix was the lack of headroom in this car's design. There could also be a roomier trunk and a slightly smoother ride. But overall, the Cadenza is a better-rounded product than the Azera, and appropriately justifies its higher price tag. The Kia brand isn't known for large sedans with sticker prices that can exceed $40,000 (expect to pay $34,471 out the door for a well-equipped mid-level model), but the Cadenza – while imperfect – has a lot of luxury to offer for the money.
There's little remarkable in the Cadenza's driving dynamics, good or bad. It has a smoother ride than the stiff Azera, but it could handle some bumps a bit better. The light steering feels more natural than the Azera's, but it's not as quick to respond. Their shared engine is punchy here as well, but the Cadenza's 200 pounds of extra weight costs it 1 mile per gallon in EPA ratings, for a total of 22 mpg.
Overall, the Cadenza is generally competitive with this class's driving dynamics – you're not going to buy the car because of how it drives, but at the same time, it's not likely to be a deal-breaker.
A better reason to buy the Cadenza is its interior, which boasts premium-grade trim and details and a sophisticated and user-friendly infotainment system. The seats are well-shaped and comfortable – if you have enough headroom. You'll just squeeze in at 6 feet except in the center-rear position, which would leave a taller adult with his or her head bowed.
The Cadenza has decent but unexceptional trunk room by the standards of the class, at 15.9 cubic feet. Unlike in the Azera, the rear seat doesn't fold down to increase cargo flexibility.
If you're expecting the Kia badge to yield cut-rate pricing, think again. The Cadenza starts at $35,100, with more even more standard equipment than the base $31,000 Azera. It's well-equipped with a $38,900 sticker price as comparable to the competition – with an estimated transaction price of a midpack $34,471 – and there's plenty more that you can add to send the cost past $40,000.
In case those figures aren't dear enough, Kia will soon join Hyundai in offering a new larger rear-wheel-drive flagship: the 2015 K900, which will slot above the Cadenza in the brand's lineup.
Kia's last flagship sedan – the Amanti, introduced in 2004 – proved that the brand could offer a big, smooth-riding car with outstanding interior quality. Odd styling and squishy handling helped sink that car even before accounting for general mistrust of the Kia brand.
The Cadenza offers neither issue. It's not sporty, but it's stylish and fully credible in its driving dynamics – a claim that can't be made by some more established competitors.
A well-finished cabin and very quiet ride are notable Cadenza strengths, and they're backed up by all-around competitive traits in most other ways. Except for the disappointing lack of headroom, this Kia is at least okay in every way – by the high standards of today's large sedans – and better than most in several of them. If you aren't too tall, be sure to give it a look.
Overall grade: B
- More photos of the 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium
- Report card: Rating the Cadenza -- how does it compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance, and fuel economy?
- Report card: Ranking the Cadenza -- how does it stack up for different types of buyers?
More from this comparison:
- Previous review: 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited (4th place)
- Next review: 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ (2nd place)
- Rating the ten large sedans
- Ranking the ten large sedans
- Quick summaries of the ten large sedans: Pros, cons, conclusions
Vehicle tested: 2014 Kia Cadenza
Vehicle base price (MSRP): $35,100
Version tested: Premium
Version base price: $35,100
Vehicle price as tested (MSRP): $39,055
Vehicle price as comparable (MSRP)*: $38,900
Estimated transaction price as comparable**: $34,471
Test vehicle provided by: Ourisman Kia; Chantilly, Va.
Length: 195.5 inches
Width: 72.8 inches
Height: 58.1 inches
Wheelbase: 112.0 inches
Weight: 3,792 pounds
Trunk volume: 15.9 cubic feet
Turning circle: 36.6 feet
Engine: 3.3-liter V6 with 293 horsepower
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
EPA city mileage: 19 miles per gallon
EPA highway mileage: 28 miles per gallon
EPA combined mileage: 22 miles per gallon
Assembly location: South Korea
For more information: Kia website
* "Prices as comparable" reflect 2014 models with leather seats, a sunroof, a navigation system, a premium audio system, heated front seats, and certain other premium features.
** Transaction price estimates are based on data from Truecar.com and dealer quotes.