New & Used Kia Cadenza: In Depth
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The Kia Cadenza is a large front-drive family sedan, a size up from the brand's Optima four-door. Its competitors include cars like the Ford Taurus, Toyota Avalon, and related Hyundai Azera. The Cadenza is now the second most expensive car in the Kia showroom, sitting just below the range-topping, rear-drive K900 luxury sedan.
Known in its home market as the K7, the Cadenza has been available in South Korea and in other markets since 2010 but only arrived in the U.S. for the 2014 model year. Along with the K900, it is meant to pull the brand upmarket to get in front of near-luxury buyers.
MORE: Read our 2015 Kia Cadenza review
Although the Cadenza is closely related to the Hyundai Azera, it has entirely different sheetmetal and interior appointments, and the suspension calibration is slightly sportier. The Cadenza is one of the best-looking Kia models yet; it manages to carry the proportions of a rear-drive sport sedan even though its drive wheels are up front. It makes the most of the trim, taut, and clean lines of the newest Kia design language ushered in under Peter Schreyer. The Cadenza looks European-influenced, but not derivative in any way up close.
All Cadenzas are powered by a 293-horsepower, 3.3-liter V-6; a six-speed automatic transmission sends the power to the big car's front wheels. The engine makes 255 pound-feet of torque, but the peak doesn't occur until high up in the rev range, making the engine feel weaker than its ratings would suggest. The transmission makes the best of this, however, and also includes a manual-shift gate for those who want to make gearchange decisions for themselves. While it looks sporty, the Cadenza is tuned more for comfort than anything else. Among its main competitors, the Cadenza's EPA fuel-economy ratings—19 mpg city and 28 highway—are only okay.
Comfort is indeed the focus for the Cadenza. It has plenty of legroom all around, and with the Luxury Package the front seats have extendable thigh supports and there's ventilation for the driver's seat. Other options inside include a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, as well as plush Nappa leather. Overall, materials, upholstery, and switchgear are very impressive throughout the cabin. Ride quality is on the firm side for a luxury car, but the Cadenza is tight and refined, with enough sound insulation to filter out most road and wind noise. The only disappointment is that the available panoramic sunroof ends up severely limiting rear headroom, effectively lowering the ceiling.
Standard equipment in the Cadenza includes LED taillamps and running lamps, smart-key entry, cruise control, a rear camera system, rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, and a 550-watt Infinity sound system. A new infotainment system with eight-inch touch screen and navigation with satellite-radio-based traffic information is standard. At the top of the range, the Technology Package adds smart cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and a lane-departure warning system, among other things--all typically found on more expensive luxury cars. The Cadenza has not yet been tested by the NHTSA, but the IIHS gives it top 'Good' ratings in the four categories for which it has been evaluated.
Though only a year old in this market, the Cadenza sees several updates for 2015. Kia has added its Flex Steer system, which offers three levels of steering weight from which the driver can select. All Cadenza trim levels now come with an eight-way adjustable power front passenger seat, while the Technology Package now includes rear cross-traffic warning. Limited models get a standard surround-view camera system as well as a new analog clock.