Features, style and value. The Kia kitchen keeps cranking out increasingly tasty dishes using the same three ingredients, and in the 2014 Kia Cadenza it's created a main course aimed at attracting and satisfying some discriminating patrons.
So even if you find it finger-lickin' good, please use the cloth napkins.
The 2014 Kia Cadenza is a large sedan comparable with front-wheel-drive entries ranging from the Toyota Avalon to the Buick LaCrosse to maybe even the Acura TL, as well as its own corporate cousin, the Hyundai Azera. The Cadenza starts at $35,900 with destination (higher than Avalon and Lacrosse, and just $900 shy of the premium-badged TL) and tops out at $41,900, new highs for Kia.
There's nothing particularly head-turning about the Kia Cadenza, but there's something ultimately satisfying about its sporty, substantial, expertly crafted design. More timeless than flashy, we suspect the Cadenza's look will hold up in the long run better than many of its competitors' designs. It's the most upscale Kia ever (for now), and the design is in full support of the mission.
Inside the 2014 Kia Cadenza, a business-like, all-black dash amplifies the European sport sedan vibe emanating from the sheetmetal. Highlights include a technology offering that evokes the Starship Enterprise (or Millenium Falcon, whichever language your inner geek speaks), an available Nappa leather upgrade (too smooth to keep your hands off), and a backseat that's roomy enough to satisfy even the gangliest royalty. Long-legged drivers will appreciate Kia's first power-extendable thigh support, but we found the driver's seat just satisfactory overall.
On the Road
The 2014 Kia Cadenza is built on the same platform and is powered by the same powertrain as the Hyundai Azera, so we expected the Kia to drive like a sportier version of the Hyundai. What we didn't expect was for the Kia to feel more refined, with far better steering feel and a less obvious suspension -- differences Kia attributes to some minor chassis upgrades plus unique hardware and software tuning.
And while the European sport sedan comparisons stop at the styling, the Cadenza was perfectly willing to play along on some great roads. Rough pavement can expose some foundational shortcomings relative to competitors like Toyota Avalon or Buick LaCrosse, and there's a benign numbness overall, but we found the Cadenza notably more enjoyable than the Hyundai Azera and perfectly competitive from the perspective of the typical large sedan shopper.
Of particular note to rush-hour commuters, the 2014 Cadenza features an adaptive cruise control system that will bring the vehicle to a full stop in sync with the car ahead, and automatically start forward again if the stop was two seconds or less.
In Your Driveway
Here's what Joe Smartshopper might say about Kia: "The Kia (insert model name) looks good and offers a tempting list of features, but the quality and resale value tradeoffs just aren't worth it. In a few years we'll know if they're for real."
Guess what? It's been a few years, and Kia is for real. Quality continues to prove out, and that's reflected by increasingly competitive resale values. There are still plenty of good reasons to choose one of its many compelling competitors, but dismissing the 2014 Kia Cadenza on the grounds of quality or resale value aren't among them.
Kia Cadenza or Toyota Avalon?
The redesigned-for-2013 Avalon offers a newfound sense of style, superior refinement and a reputation that's helped build Toyota into one of the world's most trusted brands. The Cadenza offers more features for the money, along with a sportier vibe. Your call.
Kia Cadenza or Hyundai Azera?
For the more timeless design and superior ride, handling and feel, we'd go with the 2014 Kia Cadenza.
Kia Cadenza or Acura TL?
Weighing a Kia with an Acura is a bit of a stretch, but take the badges off and it gets more interesting. They're both sporty, tech-savvy value leaders, with TL the clear winner in driving and performance, and the roomier Cadenza taking the features-per-dollar title. Of course, Acura's reputation for great cars and happy owners can't be denied. Choosing between the Kia Cadenza and Acura TL won't be a common dilemma in the real world, but maybe it should be.
Already faced with several great choices in the segment, large sedan shoppers can thank Kia for making their task more difficult. Compounding the issue, the 2014 Kia Cadenza's unique mix of price, features and materials makes it a viable alternative to players on both the mainstream and luxury-brand sides of the divide.
In fact, one reason the Cadenza is so compelling is that Kia doesn't have a luxury-brand big brother to worry about. While Toyota, Honda and Nissan have to consider Lexus, Acura and Infiniti when designing, equipping and pricing their cars, Kia is free to adjust the recipe in whatever way makes the best dish.
Now, please pass the napkins.
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