For the past few years Kia has been injecting its models with upscale features such as fine leather, climate-controlled seats and well-executed infotainment systems. But unlike its corporate cousin Hyundai with the Genesis sedan, Kia didn't have a vehicle of its own with the "premium" label attached.
That has changed with the Cadenza, an all-new sedan for the 2014 model year. The Cadenza sits above the popular Optima in Kia's lineup with prices that range from about $36,000 to $43,000. As such, the Cadenza is Kia's flagship, though it will hold that title only until the $60,000 K900 arrives in the coming months. We've already weighed the 2014 Cadenza's price and features relative to rivals such as the Toyota Avalon, Buick LaCrosse and corporate sibling the Hyundai Azera on the Kia Cadenza first review, so we'll quickly turn our attention to the large sedan's manners.
What the Cadenza Packs
Aside from the Cadenza's sophisticated style and overall good looks, this 5-passenger sedan has a lot to like. Kia has a reputation for value, and that hasn't gone out the window as the brand moves into the premium territory. Yes, the roughly $43,000 price tag for this loaded Cadenza will raise some eyebrows, but for that money Kia ladles on not only creature comforts such as climate-controlled seats, but technology such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-departure warning. Also in the mix are plenty of wood accents, supple Nappa leather seating, a suede headliner and 8-inch navigation/infotainment system with 12-speaker Infinity audio.
Then there's what's under the hood. On paper, the Cadenza's naturally aspirated V6 doesn't have that much more horsepower than the turbocharged-4 available in the Optima: 293 vs 274, and it actually has less torque at 255 lb-ft vs. the 4-cylinder's 269. But those two extra cylinders and lack of forced induction make for swift yet smooth power delivery. And like the Optima, that power is delivered to the front wheels via a smooth 6-speed automatic transmission. At 195.5 inches in length, the Cadenza is roughly 5 inches longer than the Optima and qualifies as a large car by EPA standards, yet it's a cinch to drive and park. In my days with it, the Kia never felt bloated or too big for its own skin.
What the Cadenza Lacks
As bright as the Cadenza is out of the gate, there's room for improvement. As with other Kias, my biggest gripe is with the suspension. It remains too stiff, a trait that is only magnified by rough pavement. Two co-workers riding in back during a lunch outing voiced their own dissent from the aft quarters, despite the ride being brief and speeds low.
The Cadenza's stiff legs would be more forgivable if it were a sports sedan built to carve corners, but it's not. With neither the sporty handling of a Nissan Maxima or VW Passat nor the plush ride quality of a Toyota Avalon or Buick LaCrosse, the Cadenza exhibits a somewhat confused persona. Lastly, and this is another rather common gripe, the Cadenza's steering feel could be better. It's a snap to use in low speeds, but feedback is vague as the digits increase.
My nits and the Cadenza's perplexing name aside, the future could be bright for this model that will soon be the middle child between the mainstream Optima and luxury-oriented K900. If history serves as an example, Kia is among the quickest out there to improve its cars. It has strived to make good ones great, and I have no reason to believe it won't do the same with the Cadenza.
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