It's obvious that picking a new Cadenza is supposed to be a no-brainer decision. Not that you won't want to examine it thoroughly before signing off on your purchase, but with a generous amount of built-in luxury and convenience hardware/software, picking your color scheme just might be the only scheming you have to do.
The Cadenza's introduction is a significant one for Hyundai's subsidiary. The brand that once sold mainly small cars and wagons to younger, first-time buyers, has gradually expanded its lineup to include a variety of smartly styled vehicles that look nothing like their Hyundai counterparts.
The Cadenza is a prime example of this philosophy. It's similar in size to, and shares the same stretched architecture as the Hyundai Azera. However Kia design boss Peter Schreyer (a rock star in the automotive design world) has taken a totally unique approach in shaping the Cadenza's sheetmetal. His efforts have yielded a subtle-looking sedan that conveys a greater sense of class and polish than the Azera with its trendier looks. Clearly the Cadenza is Kia's attempt to gain favor with more mature buyers who place pampering content atop their must-have list.
The interior design work is equally low-key, but is right in step with most luxury-oriented models. The hardware and trim are first-rate, the big and round gauges are easy to read and the steering wheel is comfortably thick. There's no shortage of dashboard and steering-wheel switches and buttons to fiddle with, but at least they're clearly marked.
Pushing the starter button engages a 3.3-liter V6 with 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. Pulling away from a stop, the Azera-based powerplant balks at being pushed too hard, likely in the interests of maintaining its 19-mpg city and 28-mpg highway fuel-economy rating (using regular-grade gasoline). When you're rolling, it gathers itself up quickly and pushes you back in your seat without much difficulty.
Connected to the V6 is a six-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Although the Cadenza seems to be geared for older buyers, the car's "sport-tuned" suspension is somewhat firmer than that of some of its competitors, but still returns a good ride without a lot of clattering from underneath. The electric power-steering rack is responsive and tends to skitter around the highway much less than in some other rides with similar tech.
Base models - actually the car comes in only a single edition - pile on the goodies with a leather-fitted interior, 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, dual-zone climate control with front and rear-seat ventilation, navigation system with eight-inch touch-screen display, rear camera with backup warning and a 550-watt Infinity-brand sound system.
An optional Luxury Package adds a panoramic sunroof, power rear sunshade, heated steering wheel, front and rear heated seats with upgraded soft-leather seat covers and a power-tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel.
Taking the full-load route also means adding the Technology Package that touts blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems and smart cruise control that keeps a safe distance from the vehicle in front. The package also includes 19-inch wheels (18-inchers are standard) plus a feature that Kia calls hydrophobic front side windows that will repel water, which is handy on rainy days. You can check it out on www.youtube.com and see it in action.
Unfortunately, the Cadenza cannot be ordered with all-wheel-drive, but since it isn't offered on any Hyundai/Kia sedan, its absence is no big surprise.
Fully optioned, the Cadenza brushes up against the $42,000 mark. That means it's now trespassing on territory staked out by the bigger rear-wheel-drive Hyundai Genesis as well as a number of other established luxury sedans.
That probably won't bother Kia's buyers who will see the Cadenza as an honest, straightforward luxury car, minus the pretense and posturing of competing marques.
And that makes it a no-brainer in every sense of the word.
What you should know: 2014 Kia Cadenza
Type: Four-door, front-wheel-drive mid-size luxury sedan
Engine (hp): 3.3-liter DOHC V6 (293)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Market position: Kia's foray into the entry-luxury field is a relatively new experience for the Hyundai-owned automaker (the previous Amanti sedan really doesn't count), but the timing seems right for expansion in this direction.
Points: Attractive design exudes style, luxury; Peppy, smooth-running V6 moves Cadenza along smartly; All-wheel-drive, hybrid options would increase buyer interest; Healthy list of standard features adds to car's appeal; Assuming loyalty to competing luxury brands doesn't sidetrack buyers, Cadenza's success would seem assured.
Safety: Front airbags; front/rear side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG (city/hwy) 19/28
Base price (incl. destination) $35,900
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