First things first. I spent the entire week with this car in my possession trying desperately not to call it a Credenza. No, Kia’s new full-size sedan can’t very well be compared to office furniture. That wouldn’t be fair.
|1. The Cadenza uses a 3.3-liter V6 with 293-hp and 255 lb-ft of torque.
2. Fuel economy is rated at 19 MPG in the city and 28 MPG on the highway.
3. The Cadenza starts at $35,900 and includes navigation, back-up camera, heated leather seats and dual-zone climate control.
4. Our tester cost $43,200 and came with adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot assist and Nappa leather upholstery.
What is fair to say is that the Cadenza is an impressive attempt by Kia to play in the world of near-lux full-sizers. That’s a hard place to compete given established and recently improved leaders like the Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon, not to mention others like the Ford Taurus, Chrysler 300, and Nissan Maxima. Oh, and Hyundai’s Azera too.
Chuckle all you want about the Korean twins, but like any other siblings, they consider the competition across the hall to be more dangerous than one from another part of the world and aren’t above a little heated rivalry. So even though they share the same greasy bits, if you parked them next to each other, you’d find it near-impossible to identify that they come from the same mothership.
The Cadenza design sprung from style-chief Peter Schreyer’s studio is one that’s well proportioned, sharing cues with the head-turning Optima and new-gen Forte. The front has angular headlights framing the revised Kia corporate grille, but it’s more mature to better suit its audience. There’s more than a little BMW in the side profile. The rear is identified by near triangular LED taillights, little chrome and twin oval tailpipes integrated smartly into the rear bumper.
Like most new Kia products, the Cadenza feels like a much more expensive machine than its price tag warrants. The cabin quality is premium, as is the use of materials. Supportive, comfortable seats are just-right for long drives, the dash and controls are laid out in a logical manner and the UVO infotainment system is easier to use than the ones from Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota.
LUXURY AND TECH
Pricing starts at $35,900 including delivery and brings a long list of standard features like a touch-screen navigation system, back-up camera, a 12-speaker audio system, heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control, and Bluetooth phone pairing. A “Luxury” package raises the price to $38,900 and brings a bevy of features including a heated steering wheel, adaptive front headlights, heated rear seats and many others.
The “Limited” model costs $43,200 and brings LED fog lights, a wider variety of Nappa leather upholstery, 19-inch wheels, blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control and a lane-departure warning system to name a few. My tester was a fully-loaded model with all the toys. Who would have thought 10 years ago that a Kia could be had with radar-based active cruise control? And it works as advertised.
ON THE ROAD
There’s only one engine available: a 3.3-liter V6 with 293 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque that’s shared with the Sorento SUV, and a six-speed automatic transmission. With its curb weight just under 3,800 lbs, the Cadenza is rated for 19 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway, which does seem a little thirsty given the engine’s direct injection.
The engine is powerful enough, sure. It doesn’t snap your neck – 60 mph comes up in about seven seconds from a stop, about average in the class – and the way it goes about its business is reasonably smooth. But the 3.8 from the Genesis would make this a more entertaining ride. It doesn’t need to hit the 333-horse level of the rear-drive Hyundai, but the extra displacement would also provide more torque, something the Cadenza could use. The rear-drive Genesis-based Kia K900 flagship that’s coming next year will use it, so perhaps Kia’s keen not to have the Cadenza competing with its own products.
After a few years of making products that are nice to look at and own, Kia’s finally making them good to drive. The Cadenza doesn’t exhibit the stiffly-sprung, underdamped behavior of previous efforts, instead it’s a nicely-tuned ride that doesn’t run away screaming if the road gets challenging.
Overall, the Cadenza doesn’t have any bad habits that would make a potential buyer avoid it at all costs. In fact, its Euro-tinged styling and upscale appointments mean it should be on any big-car test-drive list and will appeal to those who find Toyotas too boring and would never consider a bowtie-branded sedan.