The 2014 Kia Cadenza answers one question, and asks another.
The answer to the first question is yes. Kia can build a luxury car.
The answer to the second question is a little tougher. Will consumers buy a luxury car with the Kia name?
Both Toyota and Nissan faced that question once and felt the answer was no. Those carmakers didn’t think luxury buyers would pay extra for a pedestrian name. Thus was born Lexus and Infiniti.
Will Kia have to take the same route?
If it does, the South Korean carmaker already has a solid start. The Kia Cadenza may not reach top end of the luxury market with incredible technology or outrageous touches, but it definitely delivers an upscale ride.
Let’s start with the interior. My car had the upgraded Nappa leather seat trim. If you get it, make sure you occasionally run your hand over the leather so the soft and smooth finish isn’t wasted on your rear end. Any luxury car would be proud to wear this hide on its seats. And I should mention that the seats were also incredibly comfortable. Plenty of adjustments that allow you to make it fit your body style. They’re also heated and cooled. Throw in a heated steering wheel and we’re talking true comfort. Perhaps the most impressive thing was the backseat. My six-foot three friend sat back there one evening and actually called it “comfortable”. Perhaps it’s was just because he’s so used to having to fold himself into other cars, but he gave it two thumbs up and that says a lot.
The overall look of the interior is nice. My car had a faux wood trim that looked nicely upscale. The look of leather stitching on the dash helped as well. Kia even put an analog clock in the center to give it that Lexus feel (although Kia’s clock is round compared to the oval Lexus timepiece). Interesting that there’s just something about an analog clock that says luxury.
The UVO dash display works well. I didn’t have any issues with the layout or the way it functioned. The navigation system was above average, but still not as good as my phone (hard to find a car that can outdo google maps).
Up front, the Cadenza has just one engine choice. It’s a 3.3 liter V6 pumping out 293 horsepower. The Cadenza is not a performance car. The six-speed transmission delivers the power smoothly, but it’s not geared to impress anyone at a traffic light. Still, I don’t think it has to. Most people who buy this type of car want enough power to blow past the slow traffic on the freeway. They don’t really care about stop light drag races. Mileage is decent, 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway. My week with the car averaged about 21 mpg.
It has the latest in high tech safety stuff. Adaptive cruise control helps to slow you down if you get too close the car ahead of you. There’s a side warning system to let you know when there’s a car in your blind spot. It also gives you an alert when a car is there and you hit your turn signal (of course that assumes you do something so bold).
I think styling is a slight weakness for the car. It’s not that it doesn’t look good, in fact I think the styling is great. The problem is that it looks a little too much like a Kia Optima. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Optima’s looks, but if someone is paying extra for the top of the line car they want more than just a trim level to impress their friends. Put the two cars side by side and you can tell them apart (with the Cadenza looking slightly little nicer), but on the road they’re just a little too similar.
Of course folks might overlook that when they see the price. The base model (called “premium”) starts at $35,100. Kia now has a nearly fully loaded model called the “limited” that will cost $42,400. For the extra money you’ll get a panoramic sunroof, HID headlights with Adaptive Front Lighting System, 19″ Alloy Wheels, Power Operated Rear Window Sunshade, Extendable Driver’s Seat Cushion, Heated Rear Seats, and those great Nappa Leather Seats. It’s an impressive package for the price.
Years ago, Kia sold a car called the Amanti that was supposed to be its luxury model. It didn’t make much of a dent in that market, but it was a decent first try. With the Cadenza, Kia has delivered on its promise.
The only question left is whether luxury buyers are ready.