All Cadenzas have leather upholstery, but step up to the Luxury Package and you get ventilated Nappa leather, with heated rear seats, and even a thigh extension for the driver's seat—adding comfort on those longer highway hauls. Overhead, this package also gets you a twin-panel panoramic roof, which brightens the interior and looks great from the outside but unfortunately really limits headroom in back. There are two scooped out ares for the outboard rear occupants' heads, but you'll be locked into a slightly slouched position.
Inside: Movin' on up
Switchgear and trims are decidedly different than what you'll find elsewhere in the Kia lineup. Only in the new Sorento will you find anything close to this. They're the two most expensive cars in the lineup, we know, but with their finer details, better attention to refinement, and even their new font for everything (um... wasn't that Volvo's?), they're clearly pointing the brand in a new direction.
Standard equipment on all 2014 Cadenza models includes rain-sensing wipers, a rear camera system, rear parking sensors, a smart entry system, an eight-inch infotainment center, and touch-screen navigation with satellite-radio-based traffic. And yes, this is all for the $35,100 base price.
The navigation system and interface here are in our opinion among the best on the market, with clear, colorful displays, easy split-screen views and, perhaps most importantly, hard buttons for many sound-system and climate tasks. Below the screen, flanking the analog clock is a row of climate buttons, while a row of audio and nav shortcut buttons is below.
Voice control works here, too—really well. Not long after we got into the car (and without listening to help), we placed a call and tuned to a satellite radio channel. And the Cadenza is also one of the first models to offer Kia's UVO eServices system, which, with a connected smartphone and an app installed, allows roadside assistance, diagnostics, and points-of-interest flagging, all without a separate subscription.
Our test car was nearly fully loaded, adding the $3,000 Luxury Package (the panoramic roof, HID headlamps, Nappa leather, ventilated driver's seat, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, power steering column, two-position memory, driver's seat thigh extension, power rear sunshade, and a first aid kit), plus the $3,000 Technology Package (19-inch alloys, smart cruise control, blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, hydrophobic glass, and an electronic parking brake), as well as a cargo net. That raised the bottom-line sticker price to $41,950.
True luxury-car feature set
Especially of note were the active cruise control, which has four different distance settings and, as we tested, will bring this car to a stop in gridlock-style traffic. And the power sunshade conveniently, and quickly, automatically lowers when you reverse.
To sum, the Cadenza is a real luxury sedan—with the features, comfort, and refinement that you'd expect of one, even at $20k more. The only thing it lacks is the cachet of the brand badge. Less than a decade ago Kia was a brand of last resort, the brand that turned out decent but boring little cars like the Spectra.
While Kia's South Korean cousin Hyundai (run as a fully independent brand here in the U.S.) has pushed harder into luxury territory with cars like its Genesis and Equua, the Cadenza makes sense as about as far upward as Kia can go right now.
In Kia's lineup, the Cadenza, true to its name, really is more of a virtuoso than the brand's ever had.
For more observations and details, including specs, pricing, and more pictures, see our full review of the 2014 Kia Cadenza.