Vital Stats

3.3L V6
293 HP / 255 LB-FT
6-Speed Auto
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,792 LBS
15.9 CU-FT
19 City / 28 HWY
Base Price:
Kia's Second Effort At Luxury Finds More Love Than The Amanti

The same recent global economic crises that have led luxury automakers to invade the small car market are also somewhat responsible for the influx of near-luxury sedans from mainstream automakers. As the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Audi are reaching down for new customers, automakers like Hyundai, Chevrolet and Toyota are reaching up to bridge the gap and fill in the white space between the industry's typical high-volume large sedans and established luxury sedans. Joining this emerging market, the 2014 Kia Cadenza is the latest sedan to blur the line between value and luxury. One of Kia's core focuses has been offering value to customers, and even with a starting price of $35,100, the Cadenza still represents plenty of that kind of thinking.

Despite what might first come to mind, the Cadenza is not named after a piece of furniture. Instead, Kia notes the name for its new front-wheel-drive flagship comes from the Italian musical term that translates as 'cadence'. The name thus fits in nicely with the brand's other musically inspired model name, Forte. Much like the Hyundai Genesis, the Cadenza will serve as a test of sorts to see how much customers are willing to pay for a Kia, and despite recent reports indicating that Kia has confirmed the Quoris for next year, the reality is that the availability of the bigger rear-wheel-drive flagship will be determined in part by how well the Cadenza strikes a chord with buyers.

This isn't Kia's first crack at mid-level luxury. That distinction goes to the bug-eyed, Amanti, which was killed off in 2009. The same basic recipe is still in place – V6 power, roomy interior and a lengthy list of standard features, yet this car seems altogether better outfitted to appeal to modern consumers than the baroque Amanti. We headed out to the great weather and even better roads near San Diego to test the 2014 Kia Cadenza to see for ourselves if it has the inner harmony and cadence to keep step with full-size luxury sedans or if it's just here to make a bunch of noise.
2014 Kia Cadenza side view2014 Kia Cadenza front view2014 Kia Cadenza rear view

The Cadenza was designed by Peter Schreyer – also known as the father of the Audi TT.

Like all current Kia models, the Cadenza was designed by Peter Schreyer – also known as the father of the Audi TT. From where we sit, the Cadenza is flashy enough to stand on its own among luxury sedans while still being recognizable as a Kia. Perhaps one of the more impressive elements of the Cadenza's design is that it looks nothing like its sister car, the Hyundai Azera, while also managing to create enough distinction from other Kia models that customers shouldn't have a hard time cross-shopping brands like Lincoln, Acura and Lexus.

Sure, the Cadenza's look has a lot of BMW 5 Series influence stretching from its blunt, squared-off nose to its pronounced rear decklid, but this is no knock-off. The strong face is anchored by Kia's signature Tiger Nose grille and aggressively shaped headlights, while the rear gets wide LED taillights and Audi-esque oval exhaust outlets. The Cadenza's best attribute might just be its profile. While many competitors are going with lower, sleeker rooflines, the Cadenza has a tall roof to go with its wide haunches and attractive body creases. Speaking of, the best line on the Cadenza is its front door crease – it starts off with a sharp rise that seems to parallel the A-pillar, adding to the design's depth and detail. Tasteful amounts of chrome accents finish off the exterior while 19-inch, multi-spoke wheels hint at the car's European sport sedan aspirations.

2014 Kia Cadenza grille2014 Kia Cadenza headlight2014 Kia Cadenza wheel2014 Kia Cadenza taillight

No, you cannot fit a credenza in the Cadenza.

Kia knew that if it was seriously going to take on the luxury sedan market, it would need an interior that looked and felt the part. From a styling perspective, this is where the Cadenza shares the most with its showroom counterparts, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The same styling that makes the Forte and Optima look upmarket in their segments is even more pronounced and works well inside this big sedan. Sprucing up the Cadenza's interior, just about all surfaces are covered in soft-touch material, convincing wood trim or soft leather, and Kia even focused on minor details when creating its lavish cabin, right down to the Cadenza's key fob, which uses a piano black case with what appears to be brushed aluminum buttons. The one big disappointment we noted about its interior was that the buttons on the instrument panel and center stack look and feel identical to pretty much every Hyundai and Kia product currently available.

Comfort is another strong point, regardless of which seat your butt is parked in. The driver gets a 10-way power adjustable seat (including adjustable thigh support) with heating and ventilation, while rear occupants get heated outboard seats and 36.8 inches of legroom. That's a few inches short of competitors like the Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon, felt like it ought to be enough to accommodate all but the tallest of passengers. Also down slightly from its rivals are rear headroom at 37.3 inches and cargo space. The trunk is far from undersized at 15.9 cubic feet, but no, you cannot fit a credenza in the Cadenza.

2014 Kia Cadenza interior2014 Kia Cadenza front seats2014 Kia Cadenza rear seats2014 Kia Cadenza rear cargo area

It comes in about $2,000 more than a loaded Impala, but $8,000 less than a comparably equipped Volvo S80.

All Cadenza models will get navigation and leather, but the only models available for us to test were fully loaded with the Luxury and Technology packages. While we weren't able to see what the Cadenza offered in base form, we can say that fully loaded Cadenzas boast equal shares of comfort and high-tech goodies, and our tester increased the luxury quotient even more with the no-cost-option White Package that consists of white perforated Nappa leather seats, dark wood accents and a suede-like material used on the pillar trim and headliner. As-tested, this Cadenza comes in at $41,900, which is about $2,000 more than a loaded Impala, but $8,000 less than a comparably equipped Volvo S80. As an added value bonus, Kia is offering the Cadenza with a three-year, 37,500-mile complimentary maintenance program.

There are plenty of highlights for tech lovers as well, including the standard navigation system with excellent graphics and voice commands as well as the complimentary UVO eServices that offers automatic 911 dialing, Google Maps send-to-car and a function to help you remember where you parked. Optional tech features include Kia's first-ever adaptive cruise control that comes with the Technology Package and the Thin Film Transistor display that is part of the Luxury Package. Unfortunately, while Jaguar, Cadillac and even Dodge use large reconfigurable LCD gauge cluster displays, the Cadenza has what is essentially just a virtual speedometer with a smaller, configurable center display – not unlike the 4.2-inch displays found on many modern cars. While the rest of the interior seems well thought out and executed, this gauge cluster is a case of using technology just for the sake thereof.

2014 Kia Cadenza engine

The best thing about driving the Cadenza is its refinement.

Like the Azera, the 2014 Cadenza is powered by a direct-injected 3.3-liter V6 producing 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque ­– enough to make the Cadenza Kia's most powerful model ever. The sole transmission is a six-speed automatic, which also offers manual shifts using either the shift lever or steering-wheel-mounted paddles. While nice to have, we found that manual shift mode isn't often required thanks to plenty of power from the engine and shift points that don't seem geared toward max fuel economy at all costs. The Cadenza still gets average fuel economy for the segment with EPA ratings of 19 miles per gallon city and 28 mpg highway, and it runs on regular-grade gas.

With almost 300 horses at its disposal, the 2014 Cadenza does a great job of motivating its 3,792-pound curb weight, but more than its power, the best thing about driving the Cadenza is its refinement. On just about any road surface, the Cadenza's cabin is extremely quiet, allowing for easy conversations with rear-seat occupants even at highway speeds. Kia says its new flagship has a sport-tuned suspension, and we found the overall ride quality landed somewhere between a cushy luxo sedan and a firmer European sport sedan. The compromise makes for a perfect long-distance driving car; during this first drive, we put about 200 miles on the odometer. Our drive route consisted mainly of tight and twisty roads, which are usually better suited for testing sportier cars than the Cadenza, but at least it packed a lot of steering and brake inputs into a relatively short trip. The Cadenza's electric power steering outperforms many of its rivals in terms of feedback and overall lack of numbness, while the brakes are strong and responsive. Again, this isn't a sports sedan, but we're happy to report that it didn't feel out of place along some of the best roads Southern California has to offer.

2014 Kia Cadenza rear 3/4 view

If buyers can get past the badge, the Cadenza has the potential to steal customers away from Lexus, Acura and Volvo.

Another benefit of driving the twisties was the opportunity to put features like the adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems to the test. Lane departure uses a camera mounted near the rearview mirror, and it releases a rather annoying audible tone when you get close to (even if you don't actually cross) road lines. Kia's adaptive cruise control is one of the smoothest systems we've tested – especially in stop-and-go traffic – and it uses a radar built into the lower air intake of the front fascia. While some adaptive cruise control systems can lose the car they're following during turns, the Cadenza was never beset by this problem, even when facing sharp corners.

The Cadenza's list of obvious competitors include the Avalon, Impala, Ford Taurus and Buick LaCrosse, but if buyers can get past the badge, the Cadenza has the potential to steal customers away from Lexus, Acura and Volvo, and maybe even higher up the ladder to Mercedes-Benz. While it's hard to think of a $42,000 Kia as being a value, the equipment stuffed into a fully loaded Cadenza should make the car hard to overlook for anyone desiring a smooth, comfortable and luxurious sedan.

During the launch presentation, Kia representatives kept commenting about how the Cadenza should be a surprising car, playing on its "Power to Surprise" tagline. After looking at Kia's current portfolio and spending a day with the Cadenza, it might want to consider changing its slogan to "Power to Frighten"... rival automakers. Of course, at this point, anyone who is surprised by Kia just isn't paying attention.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      Many KIA reviews of their new cars are generally positive and this one does pack in lot of value but from my own experience these look good but when it comes to handling and driving dynalics they just dont match the level of equipments, improved quality of interiors KIAs offer..... I own Kia for 6 months and already shopping for other brands .....
      H.E. Pennypacker
      • 1 Year Ago
      i think schreyer is a talented designer, and maybe top 5 in the world, but it looks like he phoned this one in. it looks a little too germanic.
      Polly Prissy Pants
      • 1 Year Ago
      "If buyers can get past the badge, the Cadenza has the potential to steal customers away from Lexus, Acura and Volvo." And therein lies the rub. The badge is a significant factor in that kind of purchase (if not THE most significant) and it would be much easier for Kia to change the badge than change perceptions. American shoppers are way too image and brand conscious to ever make this a big seller.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Not liking the design. Looks somewhat generic and much behind the look of the Optima in my opinion. In fact, after reviewing the photo gallery of this car, the design that impressed me the most was the key fob. LOL. I'd much rather drive a Hyundai Azera.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I own a 06 Lexus GS awd and am looking for something new. Drove the following: Avalon Limited, nice inside but too much hard pastic around the climate control area. The suspension crashed over bumps and the car generally drove poorly. Smallest Nav screen of the bunch at 42k. Impala LTZ V6, transmission constantly hunted for gears, thought it was the V6 so I test drove a 4 cylinder and it was the same. Inside was ok but nothing great. Drove much smoother than the Avalon and is much improved over the last "rental" model. Buick LaCrosse, extremely cheap inside (IMO). Nothihing special and cst 41k... Not a consideration. Lexus ES350, better driving car than the Avalon but at 45k it should be. Lexus cheapened up the interior by taking out lether seats making them an option. Also found mismatched interior parts. Overall, the previous ES drove much better. I wanted to like this car but ultimately it's not in the running. Chrysler 300, Lincoln MkZ or whatever it's called are nice but optioned out with awd your looking at 42K+ and there are quality issues with the Chrysler and The Mytouch system in the Lincoln still needs work. Looked at the ATS but your talking 50k including options to get the 2.0 turbo or the V6 with awd and options. The Caddy is the best driver too. That brings me to the Kia Cadenza. I have driven 4 examples and continually come away impressed. Owning a Lexus I never thought that I would even consider a Kia or better yet drive one. The Cadenza drives better than all mentioned above except the ATS. It's more feature laden, the UVO system works better than all above including the ATS Cue system. There are a couple items I would change about the Cadenza but the looks inside and out are not things I'd change .Now here's the good part for you who think you are paying 42k for a Kia. First off, never pay retail! Second, this is a car you can lease or $329.00 a month for 36 months including scheduled maintenance and 12k miles per year with 0 down! You don't like it after 36 months, dump it. If you want to buy it, they have programs that drop the price 6K. Honestly, you have to drive the Cadenza to believe it. In 1989, Lexus and Infiniti stated up and people laughed at the thought of a luxury Japanese car. The Gernans laughed and the Americans didn't think much about it. The Lexus LS 400 sent all the luxury car companies back to the drawing board. Ironically, that car had a starting price of 35k. I wonder if Hyundai and Kia might be the next Lexus or Infiniti? I think I can get by the snobbery of the Kia nameplate fr $329 a month.
      Eta Carinae
      • 1 Year Ago
      great car none the less, but my problem lies with the company....what are they thinking ? pushing both hyundai and kia into luxury seems kinda redundant.....they will start running in sales cannibalazation of cars in each line up.....I could see each brand had different target markets such as what GM is doing with Cadillac and Buick.......but what justifies me buying this over an Azera....even though stated in the article "they are nothing alike"......alot of people will just see another kia
      Mike Lee
      • 1 Year Ago
      It looks \'okay\', but not as elegant or as luxurious as the Hyundai Genesis. The Genesis looks very much in the same league as its\' peers (Lexus, Infiniti, et al), but the Cadenza just looks like a bigger Kia.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Mike Lee
        So? Avalon just looks like a big Toyota. Impala just looks like a big Chevrolet. Passat just looks like a big VW.
      Papi L-Gee
      • 1 Year Ago
      In softening the exterior cues from other cars, this one comes off a little bland for my tastes. It's a far sight better than the Amanti was, though.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm not saying that Kia is making a mistake by staying with FWD in this segment and not channeling the RWD Kia GT concept but ... Kia has left the door open for Lincoln IF Lincoln is serious about offering RWD/AWD in its next generation of cars.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Good objective review, looks like a fine automobile and you are right, other luxury auto manufacturers have real competition to worry about as Kia moves upscale in quality, performance, styling and design.
      • 1 Year Ago
      WE LOVE OUR NEW CADENZA............................................ from 1990 to 2005 I only drove Lincoln Continental, (my favorite ) trading in every two years, and then Town Cars ( Which I hated ) traded that for the 2006 Dodge Magnum which then became my favorite, When they stopped making the Magnum I held onto mine, But When they came out with the Fully loaded Optima in 2011, I traded for that because gas was almost $4.00/Gallon. I was impressed with the Optima, and it gave me confidence in Kia. Can't believe the Quality Car they have built. ( Before that I would never consider a Kia ). When I saw the Cadenza, I was totally in love. It took us about two months to find the one we wanted , Since we are Seniors, we knew this would be our last car, and it had to be Fully Loaded, and the right color, that was the hardest. ( YES it is Pricey, and I bought the top of the line ( as always ) I DON'T REGRET IT FOR A MINUTE.... I LOVE IT.................I can't say enough about the luxurious comfort and ease of driving, It's like having my 1990 Continental all over again. We both have bad backs, getting in and out of this great car is a dream. Driving is a pleasure, the comfortable interior, and the smoothness of the road is wonderful. The new technology, and UVO system is wonderful, and actually saved us from being hit on a highway in NJ. A lot of the Navigation system is over my head, I am still learning it. But I am not sure about the Nitro Tires, We will see. I can't say enough good about my Cadenza, and how far Kia has come, I have a feeling we will see a lot more on the road, and maybe Kia will be the top seller in the industry. You can't beat the quality for the price.
      • 1 Year Ago
      BMW in the front, Audi in the rear, same poor quality an engineering of all Kias.
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