- Pleasant ride
- Hushed interior
- Affordable active-safety features
- Excellent infotainment system
- Spacious trunk
- Lacks rear headroom
- Too-light steering
- The Kia badge?
The 2015 Kia Cadenza is no sport sedan, and not quite a luxury car, but it offers many of the features premium buyers want, excepting maybe the badge, for a solid price.
Just in the year since it's been introduced, the Kia Cadenza has been joined by an even larger, luxury-minded sedan, the rear-wheel-drive K900. Yet the Cadenza, the value-oriented brand's first sedan foray above the $40,000 base-price level, represents Kia's desire to be taken seriously as a brand that can provide luxury—even if that's very value-oriented luxury, like in this case.
The 2015 Kia Cadenza continues to try to erase memories of the similarly-sized Kia Amanti while injecting the brand's latest European-influenced design and sporty demeanor, without actually being sporty. The Cadenza is closely related to the Hyundai Azera, but the two are well differentiated by unique exterior and interior treatments. The Azera's smooth, flowing design and deeply sculpted sheetmetal stand in contrast to the Cadenza's taut, more athletic look.
Kia isn't actually calling the Cadenza a luxury sedan--just a 'premium' one. And it's in an in-between market niche that some shoppers might find just right. At $35,700, the 2015 Cadenza includes lots of standard equipment and is quite the value considering it's about the same price as a well-optioned Optima (SX Limited), Accord, or Camry, all of which are smaller. With the Luxury Package and the Technology Package added to that, you get things like a panoramic sunroof, power retractable sunshade, Nappa ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, 19-inch alloys, smart cruise control, blind-spot detection, and lane departure warning—all for about $42k.
The 2015 Kia Cadenza feels quick and responsive relative to other large front-drive four-doors; it's not a true sport sedan by any stretch. Power is provided by a 3.3-liter V-6, making 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet. The V-6 doesn't make all that much torque at the low end of the rev band, which means that stepping away from a standing start, or up a steep hill, feels a bit more sluggish than you'd guess from its power output—until the revs build, and then you rocket ahead. Steering lacks road feel and requires a lot of small corrections to stay on course on the highway. When driven at anything but a sport-sedan pace, this is a car that feels confident on the back roads yet maneuverable in town.
The Cadenza has top-notch interior comfort, without those boat-like old-fashioned big-car motions. It's also luxury-car quiet inside. Get the Luxury Package and you'll have ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and even an extendable driver's thigh bolster—something rare in this class of cars and something that will be appreciated by tall drivers. In back, the available panoramic roof really limits headroom, though.
Once you're in, this is a sedan, that won't let you down on the subtle details. The Cadenza is a very quiet-riding sedan, with almost no wind noise, and very little road noise, at highway speeds. Materials, and the leather upholstery, are very impressive throughout the cabin.
The Cadenza gets Kia's UVO eServices system, which provides integrated roadside assistance, diagnostics, and other services, through a paired smartphone (no separate subscription is required). It also has Kia's eight-inch touch-screen system that responds well to natural voice commands and includes plenty of traditional physical buttons to back things up. Navigation is included as a standard feature, and it's one of the best systems on the market, with clear, colorful displays, live traffic information, and easy-to-intuit split-screen views.
Luxury badge or not, that's going to seem like a deal to a great many families and comfort-minded folks.