New Car Review: 2014 Kia Cadenza

Front 3/4 view of 2013 Kia Cadenza

Credibility.  It's a big deal.  Especially when you're trying to get people to embrace a new concept.  Like Kia making a different type of car.

And that's where details matter.  Kia wants you to believe they've built an extraordinary near-luxury sedan. They want you to believe the woman driving the car is going to her 20th high school reunion.  Which would make her 38. Two years shy of 40. Her name is Teresa Moore, she's a supermodel and she's a lot closer to her 20th birthday than to her 20th high school reunion. There's a reason you didn't notice her in high school. She was across town in day care.

There's another version of the ad that uses mainly the night driving shots and blurbs from reviews including one from CNET that says "The Cadenza proves Kia can do luxury."  Okay, CNET said that (at least in the headline of its review).  But it's hype.

Both those things are small in the world of advertising, but it's especially a shame to see them related to the Cadenza because the Cadenza should be viewed and promoted as what it is...an amazing achievement in large family cars, a compelling competitor to the new Chevrolet Impala, Toyota Avalon, Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima and Hyundai Azera.

Rear 3/4 view of 2014 Kia Cadenza

It looks simply amazing...although it is a close corporate cousin to the Azera, Kia went its own way with the styling, and they've created a stunner.  It's especially elegant in a dark color like the one we tested (shown in the photos in this review).

It drives like a dream, with ride that's not too firm and not too soft and handling that never makes you feel like you've bitten off more than you can chew when you take a curving off-ramp a little hot or make an emergency maneuver.

The engine, a 3.3-liter V6 with 293 horsepower (the same unit that's in the Azera), is quick and smooth, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.  And it gets respectable gas mileage too, at an EPA estimated 19 city/28 highway.

18-inch allow wheels, a full complement of airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control and vehicle stability management are part of the $35,100 base price, as are dual-zone climate control, power windows and locks, an Infinity Surround Sound audio system, UVO telematics, rear camera, navigation with 8-inch color display, satellite radio, Bluetooth, leather seat trim with heated power front seats, push button start, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, paddle shifters, auto-dimming rear view mirror, floor and trunk mats, fog lights, LED positioning lights, heated power-folding mirrors with turn signal indicators, rain-sensing wipers, LED taillights and a backup warning system.

Again, for $35,100.  That's considerable value.

Interior view of 2014 Kia Cadenza

Kia's press fleet folks added $6,000 in options via two $3,000 packages...the Technology Package (advanced smart cruise control, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, electronic parking brake, hydrophobic front door windows, and 19-inch alloy wheels for $3,000) and the Luxury Package (panoramic roof with power sunshade, HID headlights with adaptive lighting system, Nappa leather seat and interior trim, power driver's seat cushion extension, ventilated driver's seat, heated outboard rear seats and steering wheel, power tilt & telescoping steering column, integrated memory system and a power rear window sunshade also for $3,000).

Total price with freight and handling ($800)....$41,900.

Frankly, the Kia aces its Azera cousin.  The quality of materials (even setting aside the upgrades to Nappa leather in our test car) just seem a bit better.  I'd need to drive them back to back (and I recommend that you do)...but the Cadenza and the Impala may be in a tie for best large family sedan you can buy right now.  Toyota knows we're eagerly awaiting our chance to put the Avalon into the mix.

Again, don't be put off by the advertising.  The Cadenza is a tremendous car and a tremendous value that doesn't need any exaggeration about what it is.  It speaks for itself...eloquently.