Kia Cadenza — Sedan excellence

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Before we climbed into the all-new full-sized luxury offering from Kia, we knew we would like it because we were enamored of its platform mate, the Hyundai Azera, after a 1,500-mile trek last year. What we weren't expecting was how much more we liked the all-new mid-sized Cadenza sedan.

Both sedans have the same energetic 3.3-liter direct-injection V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic and both provide a generous helping of performance measured in the mid-six-second range from 0 to 60. Both offer a quiet, well-appointed interior and both are well-suited to haul four adults in style and comfort including their belongings in a trunk measuring nearly 16 cubic feet. One downside, the rear seatbacks do not fold down for added cargo space.

What we found was that the Cadenza, loaded
with enough standard and optional equipment to compete with the top-line luxury and family sedans in the full-sized segment, has a more sporting persona that competes more directly with such nameplates as the Acura TL, Cadillac CTS and Audi A6. The Azera has been designed to tackle the likes of the Toyota Avalon, Chrysler 300 and Buick LaCrosse.

Make no mistake, the Cadenza is not a sport sedan in the mold of BMW, but it’s sportier than the Azera and most of the family-class competition, more in tune with the Acura and Cadillac. The ride will be compatible for most people, we think, but the suspension is aggressive enough for grins and giggles on winding stretches of road. The electric power steering offers excellent feedback.

The 3.3-liter V-6 engine — the only engine offered — is a good fit for the Cadenza's luxury persona. Performance is at or near best in class and is exactly what is expected with 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. That's good for measured times of 6.3 seconds from 0-to-60 and 14.8 seconds at 95.7 mph in the quarter mile. Even more impressive is the short 118 feet it took to stop from 60 mph.

Kia says not to worry about gas mileage — the V-6 comes with an EPA rating of 19 mpg city and 28 highway (22 combined), standard fare for the segment.

The Cadenza gets a more mature rendition of Kia's current styling theme. The Kia-style grille is a bit smaller and the overall styling details more subtle, but the family resemblance is unmistakable. It's a design that should wear well over time and remain up-to-date years down the road.

Kia has done a lot of work on its interiors in recent years, and the company has hit the top of the charts with the Cadenza, which gets true luxury touches with first-class materials, well-damped buttons, quality leather and a well-designed dash. Controls for the audio, climate, phone and navigation systems are easy to find and use. The touchscreen features large "virtual buttons" with logical placements. Rear-seat legroom is quite adequate with commendable shoulder room — none of our usual passengers uttered a word of discontent.

Kia has kept pricing simple with just one model starting at $35,900 including destination charge. Many people might be content with the standard features, which are many, including keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone climate control, 10-way power driver's seat, rearview camera, navigation, and a 12-speaker Infinity sound system. Standard safety includes features such as traction and stability control, side-curtain airbags, rear-park assist and hill start assist.

While Kia has seemingly checked all the boxes there are three option packages: Luxury; Technology; and White. So what more do you need? Well perhaps you might be tempted by a panoramic sunroof, upgraded leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, a driver's seat cushion extender, and a power rear sunshade that comes in the Luxury package. And you might be enticed by 19-inch alloy wheel, adaptive cruise control (our favorite feature), and blind spot/lane departure warning systems in the Technology package.

The White package includes white leather upholstery, added wood-grain accents and suede headliner, sun visor and rear shelf trim.

The packaging idea keeps things simple, but you could end up paying for things you might not necessarily want. The way our test car came the price rose to $41,900 including the Luxury and Technology packages. The White package came as a no charge extra.

Kia has done a commendable job in building a car that offers more space, more luxury and more performance than the company's mid-sized Optima family sedan. Winning over Optima owners should be no problem. If non-Kia owners can be convinced to give the Cadenza a test drive while shopping for entry-level full-sized luxury, they might indeed become Kia owners.

Base price: $35,900; as driven, $41,900
Engine: 3.3-liter V-6
Horsepower: 293 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 255 foot-pounds @ 5,200 rpm
Drive: front wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 112 inches
Length: 195.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,668 pounds
Turning  circle: 36.5 feet
Luggage capacity: 15.9 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 28 highway, 19 city
0-60: 6.3 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Toyota Avalon, Acura TL, Buick LaCrosse

The Good
• Upscale interior
• Standard equipment plentiful
• Solid performance from V-6
• Stylish exterior design

The Bad
• No engine option

The Ugly
• If you want an option you will have to buy a bundle