By Cars.com EditorsAugust 13, 2013
About the video
Would you pony up luxury-car prices for a luxury car that doesn't bear the nameplate of an established premium brand? Cars.com reviewer Joe Wisenfelder says the 2014 Kia Cadenza works hard to make a convincing case for "yes."
(hood slams) (upbeat music) (tires screech) Hi, I'm Joe Wiesenfelder with cars.com, and this is a new top of the line sedan from Kia. It's the 2014 Cadenza.
Cadenza's a made up word like Passat and Camry, but Passat and Camry don't sound like a piece of furniture. The Cadenza essentially succeeds the Kia Amanti, which was last sold in 2009 as a sort of premium slash luxury full-sized sedan. Like that car, it is a sibling of the Hyundai Azera, which meets kind of the same description. But this one costs just under $36,000, which is almost 3000 more than the Azera, but it comes with some more features, like a standard premium stereo, voice activation, rain sensing wipers, and perhaps most important, three years of free scheduled maintenance. In the past few years, Kia's have kind of looked like Audi's, especially in the back and that makes sense because the lead designer from Kia came from Audi. That's a little bit true in the back of this car, but the front seems to be taking on more of a BMW look. Both in terms of size and pricing, the Cadenza competes with the likes of versions of the Chrysler 300, the Buick Lacrosse and the Toyota Avalon and those are all cars that I think a lot of people would consider kind of premium slash in between regular and luxury. Very similar approach here. It seems like when auto makers decide they're going to make a premium or luxury car, sometimes they feel like they have to go with really confusing controls and knobs and stuff like that. I gotta say, Kia is doing it right here. The controls are very simple. You've got direct access buttons to things like FM, AM, separate one for satellite radio, phone, media, map, and destination separate buttons, and a very usable and clear touch screen Auto automakers pay attention, this is the way to do it. As it should, the Cadenza offers a lot of features that are usually associated with premium cars, though I should add, many of these are options. Our car is actually optioned up to about $41,000. Features include a rear sunshade, heated steering wheel, heated front seats, and ventilated driver's seat for those hot days like now. There's adaptive cruise control that maintains a preset distance from the car in front of you even if you slow down and speed up. Then there are safety features like blind spot monitor and lane departure warning. Another option I like is the instrument panel, which has a high resolution color LCD display in the middle. It shows you a regular gauge so it looks conventional, but it has some of the touches that can come only with a display as opposed to a regular mechanical needle gauge. The Cadenza drives nicely overall. There's a V6 engine that gives almost 300 horsepower, that's enough to move it out. But I have to say sometimes the accelerator pedal isn't very responsive, there'll be a little bit of lag, but this isn't generally speaking a driver's car. It's more of a touring car with a reasonably comfortable ride, even with this car's optional 19 inch wheels in place of the standard 18. If you want a driver's car, there are other places you can go. If you're considering a Cadenza, it's probably for stuff like this. The back seat is nice and roomy. I've got the driver's seat all the way back. Plenty of room for me here. With 107 cubic feet of interior volume, this is really on the high side even when compared to cars that are much bigger on the outside, like the Chrysler 300. One way that this car has an advantage over the 300 is has it a very low center floor hump. It's below ankle high. A rear drive car like the 300, has a hump about this high. It really takes away from the center seat space. Overall, quite big. The optional panoramic moon roof makes it feel even roomier back here. There are amenities like optional heated outboard rear seats, and again, the rear sunshade. I should mention though, the Azera has the rear heated seats standard. So you don't necessarily get everything in this car for the higher price than you would get from the Azera. There's often a space tug of war between the backseat and the trunk. Considering how roomy the backseat is, trunk ain't bad either. At 15.9 cubic feet, it's just fractionally less than the Hyundai Azera but definitely competitive with the other stuff out there. Unfortunately, Kia kind of went the full luxury route with the back seat. It doesn't fold down and that's more common among like European imports. You do have the pass through but cars like the Chrysler 300, Chevy Impala, and a lot of other modest to premium style cars do have the folding back seat in a full-sized sedan like this one. The Cadenza is a very nice car, and typical of Kia's, there's a lot of features in there for the money. Question is, how important is the name to you? Do you want your premium or luxury car to have a luxury nameplate? Will you buy a premium car from Kia or Hyundai? And speaking of names, I had to look up the name of Monte because I had already forgotten it. One thing you can say about Cadenza, you're probably not going to forget it. (car revs)