The Kia Cadenza doesn’t represent just another small step for the South Korean automaker, who as recently as 15 or so years ago was ready to join its countryman (and now parent) Hyundai for fast-trip back across the Pacific.
It’s more like a giant leap.
With the Cadenza, Kia, whose U.S. fortunes once were tied to a compact sedan (Sephia) and small SUV (Sportage), steps into competition with some of the big boys in the entry luxury segment, including imports from Europe and other Asian competitors.
Introduced at the 2013 North American Auto Show in Detroit, the Cadenza -- its name is Italian for “cadence” -- is offered in one well-equipped trim mode (dubbed Premium) for a base price of $35,900 (including destination and deliver) with options like 19-inch wheels, advanced smart cruise control, lane departure and blind spot warning systems, and Nappa leather seat trim boosting a final price tag into the low $40,000 range.
You may or may not delve deep into the options, which are offered in packages. That’s because standard features on this roomy, well-enriched five-passenger sedan include a navigation system with an 8-inch display screen, a rearview camera, rear park assist, Bluetooth wireless technology, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, Kia’s new UVO infotainment system and more.
The Cadenza comes with a 3.3-liter V6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. With 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque, it packs enough punch to move its 3,668 pounds (3,792 with 19-inch wheels and the technology package included) without straining its capacity. Fuel economy is rated at a solid 19 miles-per-gallon city, 28 highway and 22 combined.
Passengers will love the high-quality interior materials and comfort features in the spacious cabin, and not just those sitting in the front. Front seat leg room is 45.4 inches. Rear riders get a generous 36.8.
Headroom is generous as well, 40 inches in the front, 37.8 in the back though you lose a couple of inches in the front and an inch-and-a-half in back in models equipped with the optional sunroof.
When it comes to convenience features, Kia seems to have mastered the concept of blending modern-day technology with user-friendly operation quite well.
Drivers will love the ease of operation for controls for the navigation, audio, and climate control systems. The dual-zone A/C works by pushing clearly marked buttons on the center stack (it can be set to automatic as well). Audio presets show up on the touchscreen, or you can manually scan the radio dial by turning a small knob. Pushing one button gets you to AM/FM listings, another one satellite radio channels.
Other functions for vehicle and personal settings also operate off easy-to-use button-like icons displayed on the touchscreen display.
A comfortable, cushy ride is often one of the expectations for buyers in the segment, and the Cadenza delivers there as well. It’s like cruising on a cloud at highway speeds, and the smoothness even is noticeable in urban traffic.
Yet the firm suspension still delivers the impression you’re driving a much smaller vehicle than one with a wheelbase of 112 inches. Parking it is no problem either.
Kia has ventured into this class before, having dipped its toes into the high-end full-size sedan segment before with the Amanti.
But the Amanti didn’t have nearly what the Cadenza has to offer either in the way of mechanics or comfort features, and it couldn’t stand up to the competition. It lasted only from 2004 to 2009.
Off initial impressions, the Cadenza looks to be a more viable contender.