By Keith Buglewicz
The 2015 Kia Cadenza rolls into its second model year with largely the same mix of features, driving pleasure, style, and value that were the sedan's hallmarks when it was introduced last year. Its price starts around $36,000, and you can go for premium-level amenities including Nappa leather and a panoramic sunroof when you upgrade to the Limited model, which starts at about $45,000. Keep in mind that's not too far off from full-size competitors like the Toyota Avalon and Hyundai Azera, neither of which are as fun to drive. The Chevrolet Impala comes closest to beating the Cadenza at its own game in looks and features, but the Cadenza still merits strong consideration for anybody looking for a comfortable and luxurious full-size sedan.
The Cadenza is sportier than some cars, and not as sporty as others. While some like the compromise, others might want more focus from their large sedan, and both sportier and softer alternatives abound.
This year, Kia makes the Cadenza Limited's Technology package and panoramic sunroof available on Premium models, and makes things like an 8-way power driver's seat standard equipment. Limited models get a new grille design, and also get standard Flex Steer and surround-view monitor.
Buyers of large front-wheel-drive sedans like the 2015 Kia Cadenza are generally looking for a comfortable and roomy car to pamper them on their daily errands, with sporty driving a...
... secondary consideration. In that perspective, the Cadenza nails it. Not quite as sporty as it looks, the Cadenza still offers a sporty-enough ride, but one that definitely skews toward comfort. The Cadenza is related to its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Azera, and shares that car's engine and basic underpinnings, which made us all the more surprised by its better driving characteristics, including steering feel. We were also impressed by the seamless powertrain and cabin that remained notably quiet on the highway. Rough pavement can belie the sense of sophistication the rest of the car works hard to convey, but overall, the Cadenza drives about the same as any of today's good large sedans.
ADVANCED SMART CRUISE CONTROL
Cruise control systems that monitor traffic are quickly becoming one of our favorite modern features. The 2015 Cadenza offers one of the better systems, able to bring the vehicle to a full stop in sync with the car ahead, and automatically resume if the stop was two seconds or less.
NAPPA LEATHER INTERIOR
Leather trim can feel like rubber, but the Nappa leather available in the Cadenza is the soft-supple surface you expect. It's available on the Kia Cadenza Limited with the White, Gray, or Black Leather interior package, or on Premium models with the Luxury package with beige or black leather.
The 2015 Kia Cadenza gets an interior upgrade with new wood trim and metal accents, a new analog clock, and LED map and reading lights. Otherwise, things carry over from last year. We like the stylishly straightforward dash, and credit it with a big part of the car's sporty persona. The front seats are comfortable, though not quite best-in-class, and the rear seat is as roomy as you expect from a large sedan. The trunk is large enough to swallow an entire foursome's golf bags. Beyond all that, we really appreciated the Cadenza's overall sense of quality and refinement.
The 2015 Kia Cadenza isn't going to grab your eyes the first time you see it. However, its handsome lines and satisfying proportions grow on you over time, in a good way. The fact that it bears a strong family resemblance to the new Kia K900 luxury sedan certainly helps impart an upscale air. This year, Limited models are distinguished by a new grille design and fender garnish.
Given Kia's reputation for offering feature-dense cars, it's not surprising the basic $35,700 Cadenza Premium offers a lot for the money. There's keyless entry and push-button start, leather seating, an 8-inch central display, navigation, a 550-watt/12-speaker Infinity audio system with AM/FM/CD/MP3/Satellite radio, plus USB, Bluetooth and auxiliary audio connectivity. The standard UVO eServices includes the ability to automatically call 911 if airbag deploys, and to send a navigation destination from your computer to the car. Newly standard this year is an 8-way power driver's seat, and rear-seat passengers get a center armrest with cup holders and a USB charging port.
The Cadenza Premium option packages include the Technology and Luxury packages. The Technology package includes driving aids like active cruise with lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot and cross-traffic warnings. It also adds water-repelling hydrophobic glass. A Luxury package adds in ventilated driver's and front-passenger seats, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and a 7-inch TFT display in the gauges. A panoramic roof is also available, either as a standalone option or as part of the Luxury package. Premium models also get Nappa leather if they order beige or black leather with the Luxury package. Not surprisingly, Limited models come fully loaded.
There's only one drivetrain option for the Kia Cadenza: a 3.3-liter V6 engine matched with a 6-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels. Smooth, quiet and refined, the drivetrain is easily on par with similar offerings from Toyota, Chevrolet, and Hyundai, which shares the same setup. Similarly, fuel economy is about average for the category.
293 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
255 lb-ft of torque @ 5,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/28 mpg
When you include the $800 destination charge, the 2015 Kia Cadenza starts at $35,700 for the standard Premium model. However, you'll likely want to add the $3,300 Technology and $2,100 Luxury package to that, and at that point, you may as well just go whole hog and buy the Limited, which includes everything and starts at a little more than $45,500. Interestingly, that's actually more than you'll find yourself paying for a Toyota Avalon or Chevrolet Impala, and the price is closer to a Lexus ES. However, the Cadenza offers up luxury-levels of equipment, balancing out that equation somewhat. Before buying, check out what others in your area paid with Kelley Blue Book's Fair Purchase Price. We expect the Cadenza to benefit from the same rise in resale values that's improving the fiscal appeal of most Kia vehicles, but it will still likely lag behind Toyota and Lexus.