2014 Kia Cadenza pounces on luxury market

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Entry Price: $35,1002014 Kia Cadenza
Price as Tested: $41,900

Greg’s view

This week, we’re driving Kia’s luxury flagship, the 2014 Cadenza. This mid- to larger- size Kia is leading the way for future luxury car respectability as the manufacturer must first command more dollars to own one and, more importantly, find consumers willing to dole out the extra monies for Kia’s luxury vehicle.

Cadenza for 2014 delivers all that is good in a luxury car yet doesn’t cross the line that officially challenges Lexus, Acura, Infiniti, Cadillac, Lincoln or Mercedes-Benz just yet.

Currently, sibling Hyundai Equus does challenge the full size luxury cars, but for Kia and its Credenza the walk up the ladder will be a bit slower to better entice buyers and prove the company is a worthy competitor.

Thus, for now, Cadenza is Kia’s luxury flagship until an already planned full size and more expensive Kia arrives at show rooms perhaps in 2016 or 2017.

Credenza sits firmly in a class of mid-size luxury cars that features stout competition thanks to Chevy’s Impala, Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus, Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima and close cousin Hyundai Azera. Kia’s marketing explains that the Credenza “is a powerful, eye-catching statement that artfully fuses luxury, performance and technology into one expectation-defying package.”

Overall, I agree.

Cadenza’s exterior is well designed with luxurious and modern aerodynamic touches, and even a distinct sporty look its artistic stance. Fashionable to look at and pleasing to the eye, Cadenza shares a platform with Optima, although Cadenza’s mechanicals are built for V6 power and offers a wheelbase two-inches longer. As for Optima, only four cylinder power is available and the chassis is built for less power.

Inside, Kia’s fit and finish is noteworthy, as is the beautiful optional two-tone seating that is comfortable and eye catching. The gauges are easy to read, and an analog clock sits in the middle of the dash for an extra touch of opulence.

All Credenza’s come with a 3.3-liter V6 that develops 293 horses and 255 feet of torque. Power transfers through a well-built six-speed automatic through front drive mechanicals. Acceleration is peppy, as zero to 60 arrives in a hair over six-seconds, while EPA fuel economy is impressive at 28 highway and 19 city.

On the highway, Credenza is a fine handler, albeit not overly great in any one area. The suspension is the proven front-strut and rear-multilink setup, delivering comfort on the highway and even on rougher roads.

Our tester came with two options, a $3,000 Luxury Package and a $3,000 Technology Package. The Luxury unit adds a sunroof, HID adaptive headlights, tilt and telescopic, heated and ventilated leather Nappa seats, power rear sunshade and the two-tone white interior.

The Technology package brings smart cruise control with adaptive brain that will stop the Credenza, water repelling hydrophobic front door windows, lane-departure warning, blind-spot side mirror, electronic parking brake and beautiful 19-inch alloy wheels. If you order the White Interior Luxury Package option, it adds the Technology package automatically, resulting in a $6,000 add on.

If you choose the other side of the coin, the base Credenza for $35,100 is still a great car. Standard fare includes 18-inch tires on aluminum wheels, an 8.0-inch UVO infotainment touch screen with navigation, impressive 12-speaker Infinity audio system, a safety backup rear camera, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, and all the high tech safety features from traction control to 4-wheel discs.(This Cadenza would be my choice).

Overall, Cadenza is a new Kia that takes yet another big step toward full-size luxury, and does so with a growing respect from consumers and auto professionals. Cadenza is a Test Drive top pick in this class, especially when you add in the class leading 100,000 mile, 10-year powertrain warranty.
You owe Cadenza a test drive if shopping this market.

Tim’s view

Kia Cadenza’s sales performance will be an extremely important gauge determining whether Kia’s new strategic goal, to be accepted in the luxury car market by 2017, will be a success.

While there are several aspects of Cadenza that don’t quite live up to the luxury moniker, the new offering shows potential to do two important things. First, begin to change the public’s perception of Kia as a low budget manufacturer and second, give a glimpse of what will come in the future.

We believe Kia will prove to be successful on both fronts.

Cadenza brings notable changes in the handling department from its smaller, less expensive sibling, Optima. Cadenza has a less stiff suspension, allowing it to offer a smoother ride at the expense of steering response.

Body roll is subsequently increased compared to the Optima, giving Cadenza a more sluggish feel through tighter corners. Taller passengers will be much more comfortable inside Cadenza thanks in part to the extended wheelbase over Optima, resulting in more rear seat legroom and additional cargo space.

Cadenza’s most impressive offering is its power plant. It is amazing how well the 3.3L, 293 horsepower V6 performs above 5,000 rpm, which can only be described as a Honda VTEC-like rise in horsepower. The exhaust note at this range gets noticeably louder as the car pulls along to its 6,400 rpm peak horsepower point.

Cadenza’s six speed automatic transmission with paddle shift is run of the mill and nothing noticeably negative or positive was experienced during our test.

A fully digital yet analog-styled speedometer is a first to be seen at Test Drive, which allowed us to customize what information flows through the center of the dashboard in a more detailed manner.

In the past, I’ve recommended Kia Optima as a great entry level sedan for those looking to buy new and not spend a fortune. The 10-year/100,000 mile warranty offered on all Kia vehicles is a huge selling point for consumers looking for protection on their investment.

Cadenza does what Optima did for entry level sedans; give consumers a low-cost offering with the safety that only a high mileage warranty provides. Although new and unproven, Cadenza’s warranty is sure to bring new eyes to Kia’s dip into the luxury market.

Likewise, if you are searching for a low cost way to step into a luxury vehicle, Cadenza shows promise and deserves a test drive.

While Kia’s game plan is changing and beginning to focus on a new market, the Kia way of attacking the market is still the same in marketing theory: Offer the same features at a cheaper price.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 112 inches, 5.4 inch ground clearance, 18.5 gallon fuel tank, 3,668 lb. curb weight and 15.9 cu. ft. of cargo space.

Likes: Interior, ride, features, exterior, safety, standard features.
Dislikes: Expensive options may not be divisible, depreciation.

Next week: The sporty 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

(Greg and Tim Zyla write weekly for BestRide.com)

Greg Zyla

Greg Zyla

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