2014 Kia Cadenza First Drive on Edmunds.com

2014 Kia Cadenza First Drive

2014 Kia Cadenza Sedan

(3.3L V6 6-speed Automatic)

Building a Better Lexus?

We're behind the wheel of the 2014 Kia Cadenza and it's crawling through Beverly Hills traffic like a seasoned pro. Adaptive cruise is set to 95 mph, but we're averaging something like 6. Her side of the dual-zone climate control is set to 80. Ours is set to 65.

The roughly idling bus next to us is muted by the Kia's acoustics. We're beeped by the lane departure warning system before merging. The streaming Bluetooth audio is tuning out everything else. If not for this whole steering thing, we'd just be along for the ride.

But then a crinkle brings us back into the real world. It's our Chinese takeout in the backseat and it's listing hard off the port bow. A delicate arm is stretched to its maximum, but the crinkle of plastic is getting louder. The smell of garlic is getting stronger. We're one brake application away from an order of Kung Pao carpet. A strained voice says, "I can't reach it. The backseat's too far away."

And with that one line, everything clicks and it dawns that the 2014 Cadenza is a different and altogether special full-size sedan...from Kia.

Prix Fixe
In contrast to the myriad trim, package and powertrain options available in other large, front-wheel-drive sedans, the 2014 Kia Cadenza is only available in one flavor, and with few available toppings.

The only powertrain is a 3.3-liter V6 bolted to a six-speed automatic. Armed with direct injection, this engine makes 293 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 255 pound-feet of torque at 5,200 rpm. Fuel economy numbers haven't been released, but we averaged 20.6 mpg with a best tank of 28.1 mpg in mixed driving.

As for trim levels, there's one. Kia's eschewed the tactic of offering a base car with few options and a seductive low price, for a fully loaded ride that pulls out nearly all the stops. Standard features on this Kia include a back-up camera, navigation system with high-res 8-inch touchscreen, 550-watt Infinity 12-speaker stereo, heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry with push-button start and Bluetooth audio and phone pairing. Standard. On this Kia.

But Wait, There's More!
Should you still feel that you're not thoroughly whooping the Joneses, Kia will happily sell you one, or both, of the available option packs (prices TBD). Our test car had both.

The Premium package adds a split panoramic sunroof, adaptive HID headlights, Napa leather seating surfaces, cooled driver seat, heated outboard rear seats, heated steering wheel, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, extendable thigh support and a 7-inch TFT LCD that replaces the traditional speedometer.

Go all big-dog on the Kia and step up to the Technology package (Premium pack required) and the 2014 Cadenza gets even more impressive and slightly autonomous. Adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, hydrophobic front door window glass (blame this water-repelling feature's absence on the windshield on the sloths at NHTSA) and an electronic parking brake. The 18-inch wheels are replaced by 19s as well.

And, finally, there's a White package that blanches the Napa leather and adds wood grain trim and premium textile to the headliner, pillar trim, rear parcel shelf and sun visors.

Our 2014 Kia Cadenza is an early production prototype and represents a slight amalgamation of the options listed above. We've got most of the White pack and most of the Technology pack, but we have 18-inch wheels instead of the 19s. Half of the trim here is wood, while half is a brushed metal look. Even if they don't visually match, the interior is immaculately prepared, with tight gaps and a quality feel to all of the buttons and actions.

While we'd prefer that the trim had matched, one "not production correct" feature of this tester we'd hate to give up is the 18-inch wheels.

Kia says that this prototype's suspension and steering are "95 percent production" with some minor tweaks to be done to combat some bump steer. We're advising them here and now, in the open, to be careful with any additional tweaks, as the Cadenza we drove is exemplary in the field.

Pavement seams are dispatched with a thunk-thunk that borders on Germanic. Bigger dips are damped away in a single stroke with none of the high-seas yachting often found in this class. Again, think German. Kia clearly did.

One area where Kia was thinking American (and maybe just a hint of Chinese) was the backseat. Not only is there a phenomenal amount of shoulder and legroom (56.3 and 36.8 inches, respectively) but the outboard seats are heated and there's audio controls located in the rear center armrest. The actual measurement numbers are only on par with the 2013 Toyota Avalon (55/40), but the Cadenza feels airier and the seat comfort is great. For all of this rear-seat comfort, you give up the ability to fold the seats. Thankfully, there's a ski pass-through and plenty of space in the trunk. Still, if an Ikea trip is on the menu, the Cadenza won't be the first pick.

Kissing Cousins
The 2014 Kia Cadenza is closely related to the current Hyundai Azera, which we've had on our shores since 2012. But it doesn't take a professionally trained butt to notice the differences straight away. The Hyundai is tuned to win over the Buick/Toyota crowd. It's soft and isolated and coddling. The Cadenza's ride and steering, however, give the driver a sense of communication and occasion more in line with Acura and Infiniti.

If you needed proof that Kia and Hyundai are separate organizations doing separate things, look no further than the Cadenza. The platform is the same, but the missions are worlds apart.

Kia's new president, Peter Schreyer may have had his way with the way the car looks ("classy" and "expensive" come to mind) and how it drives, but he didn't have much say in the way it goes. The 3.3-liter V6 is the same one found in the Azera and we'd expect it to do the same 0-60 time of 6.7 seconds and about the same 15.0 seconds at 94.8-mph quarter-mile time.

The Price Debate
Despite going on sale in April, official pricing for the 2014 Kia Cadenza has not been announced. That said, we think we can take a fair guess. The 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited starts at $39,650, while the 2013 Hyundai Azera starts at $33,145. While this fully loaded tester will likely tickle $40,000, a base price of $35,000 feels right.

Ultimately, the greatest threat to the Kia Cadenza's success won't be from outside forces. Unlike Lexus, Acura and Infiniti before it, Kia has decided that its budget name and reputation will not be a hindrance to selling a car for luxury level money.

The 2014 Kia Cadenza surprised us with an elegant combination of driving dynamics, build quality and easy-to-use tech features. But it won't do that for anyone who can't see beyond the badge.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.



  • elie_j elie_j Posts:

    What a great early review! I am literally biting my nails as I count down to see how well the cadenza will do in the markets. I would love to purchase a k7 this year if and only if the pros outweigh the cons. So far I am all go for KIA!

  • dfelix70 dfelix70 Posts:

    This car does absolutely nothing for me. For this price, I'd easily head to the Acura dealer for a base TL. The Acura may not be as roomy, but it is better looking both inside and out, and probably drives better. This Kia is just a disappointment. I truly love the Optima's relatively original design, both interior and exterior, and was even more hopeful for that to be taken up a notch with the Cadenza. Oddly, the opposite occurred. The Cadenza's exterior design is trying too hard to be a 5 Series and A6, so it immediately screams "derivative". And the interior, while handsome, would put me to sleep, almost like an "interior-by-numbers" design.

  • hank39 hank39 Posts:

    When I first clicked on the link, I thought it was the redesigned Optima. The rear looks similar. The front end doesn't really scream excitement or sporty like the Optima.

  • jeffinoh jeffinoh Posts:

    Attractive, luxurious, and startlingly conservative. Every other premium FWD sedan I can think of is loaded up with polarizing tech features and swoopy styling. Kia seems to have created a curmudgeon's dream car. Unique strategy.

  • throwback throwback Posts:

    I would need to drive them to really decide, however I would be hard pressed to take the Kia over a loaded Toyota Avalon. If I were in this market I would probably go with a lightly optioned Lexus ES350.

  • cobryson cobryson Posts:

    Just wanted to compliment you on some great writing in this piece. Nice work, Mike.

  • s197gt s197gt Posts:

    the brand name is an issue. the model name is worse. major fail. makes me think of credenza. nothing exciting about that. good luck, kia.

  • 330i_zhp 330i_zhp Posts:

    I agree with the others saying this is an attractive car, both inside and out. It also has a very nice slew of standard equipment. However, I'd be hard-pressed to buy a Kia if I'm spending over 30k (let alone 40k for a fully-loaded model). AWD would certainly be a great way to attract buyers in this segment, IMO.

  • bonzjr bonzjr Posts:

    Inflation is what it is and this is an exceptionally well-equipped and thoroughly modern car. But I still struggle with the notion of paying $40K for front-wheel drive large family-ish car. The struggle turns into full recoil when I see that it's equipped with a Kia badge. I guess I'm in that weird middle ground. I'm not old enough to appreciate the value of a car geared toward this particular narrow market segment (large, FWD, family/near-lux) and I'm not young enough be blissfully unaware that the Kia badge used to carry so much negative association. I would pony up $40-large for a RWD Genesis from the sister brand though. Go figure.

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    " We're one brake application away from an order of Kung Pao carpet." PRICELESS!! jeffinoh "Kia seems to have created a curmudgeon's dream car. Unique strategy." It may be the secret to their success. Too many car makers are trying too hard with their interiors. I passed on the XF and the Mercedes C-class for that very reason. I found both hateful for different reasons. One thing I did catch in the review was the suggestion that HIDs only came with a sunroof. That's a fail for me with the way many cars are optioned.

  • ctizzle ctizzle Posts:

    Hey "What's Hot" folks....good to see you STILL lather up REEEEEL Guhd even W/O the 'Inside Line' moniker for Hyundai/Kia cars! Nice car, but nice way to make sure you convinced how Kia and Hyundai aren't participating in "Platform Sharing" in the traditional sense, when that's EXACTLY what it is! I hope you're as nice to the new Impala...good OR bad! If its good or bad, TELL us its good/bad, but don't go giving reasoning for folks to look at this car COMPLETELY different than an Azera! Does Krafcik write the Kia reviews TOO....geez!

  • tbone85 tbone85 Posts:

    Gotta agree that some companies get a complete pass on platform sharing/badge engineering while others are crucified. I also get a real chuckle from the underlying belief that I should find the Avalon more attractive based on brand. When was the last time that Toyota made the best sedan in it's category? This kind of brand whore-ism is as out of touch now as it was for Detroit brands 20 years ago. I buy based on current achievements, not past glories.

  • greg128 greg128 Posts:

    Looks like an uglier Optima. The crooked grill is getting old, and to me is stylistically uninspiring almost like the designer tried to outdo the Optima but failed. I'm not impressed with the dash either.

  • eric_l eric_l Posts:

    It would have been easy for any reviewer to write the same generic review for any of the large FWD upscale sedans - nice interior, competitive powertrains, safe handling, but snoozeville because we car enthusiasts must have RWD (despite the fact that in the real world with speed limits and traffic, 99.99% of the time it doesn't matter if you have RWD or FWD)! Kudos to Edmunds/IL/What's hot (whatever it is called now - why can't we just have Inside Line - it has brand recognition!) for writing a balanced if not unexpectedly glowing review of the Kadenza. It isn't a terribly exciting car but it does show that this category of vehicles has become extremely competent and competitive. I think Kia could have the styling more aggressive, but then the Germans seem to do fine by just making the next higher up series of vehicles look like larger versions of the smaller ones (a key example is the Audi A4, 6, 8 and Kia doesn't hide behind the illusion that its styling department isn't run by the guy who formerly worked at Audi.

  • bassracerx bassracerx Posts:

    idk i think just reality is finally sinking in that new cars are just super expensive. i remember when 35 grand was a ton of money for even a bmw 3 series not too long ago. now its hard to find even a sub-compact with little options for less then 20k i guess 35k is a bargain for all of this. i used to like the maxima as a go-to fwd sport sedan but with the CVT only i think this car is great. it looks sharp!

  • bobad bobad Posts:

    Honestly, I love the exterior styling. I can't form an opinon on the interior styling without sitting in the car, and neither can anyone else. For those who dislike the car, it's because Kia did their job. They didn't design this car for everyone, so it's no surprise that not everyone likes it.

  • bobad bobad Posts:

    Honestly, I love the exterior styling. I can't form an opinon on the interior styling without sitting in the car, and neither can anyone else. For those who dislike the car, it's because Kia did their job. They didn't design this car for everyone, so it's no surprise that not everyone likes it.

  • bassracerx bassracerx Posts:

    after reading this article a 2nd time i get what the author was trying to say although very subtiley. this car is a very nice place to be in. and is very roomy. " i can't reach the backseat" "the idling truck next to us" you are aware of your surroundings but you are not "IN" your surroundings! (compared to my honda fit you are practically standing in traffic with the amount of outside noise is let in unless you have the radio blaring) driving my honda fit i really miss that quality about my old lexus just having a car that is just a great place to spend time in. but then i see the advertisement for the mitsubishi lancer on the bottom of this page and i think "hmm"

  • I actually like both the Azera and now this Credenza, stylistically speaking. But after hearing reviews of the Azera being more of the luxo cruiser, I'd probably be more inclined to take the sportier Credenza. I get the feeling from this review that the driver and passenger are coddled in a luxo sporty kind of way. And that's right down my alley. Compared to an Acura TL and even the new Lexus, this is simply a beautiful car to look at. The other two have gotten too tacked on with beaks, gaping Predator grilles, and side skirts....which have gotten too out of hand. There's a reason why Kia put Peter Schreyer as the Chief Design Officer, he just makes beautifully understated cars and put Kia in the right direction.

  • mlowery85 mlowery85 Posts:

    Uhhh.. that looks way more like an Optima than a Avalon looks like a Camry.

  • lions208487 lions208487 Posts:

    A nice sporty alternative to the Maxima and Avalon's of the freeway world. I can also appreciate the fact that Hyundai went for Harman's Infinity system, rather than the industry standard Bose system in this Azera fraternal twin. I hope to test drive one soon.

  • I have been saving money to purchase a new car this year with eyes on Audi, Infiniti, and Acura. I recently visited the auto show in Washington DC, and was absolutely surprised by KIA’s DISPLAY of the KIA Cadenza. If you are trying to judge the absolute beauty and fit of this car through reviews, photos, and video you are not doing yourself fair judgment. In order to purchase a car with all of these amenities, you will have to pay over $55,000.00. My good friend who is an Acura dealer was presenting the Acura RLX at the show, and could not believe the anticipated under $40K for the Cadenza. I drilled the Internet for information on this car, and found overwhelming positive reviews (including first drive tests). This car is new to the US, but has been around for a few years in Korea. Tested and ready to go. I cannot afford to pay $15K more for a high profile name, when I can have the same if not better with a Cadenza for greater value. This is not about if I will buy the car, it is all about interior and exterior color selection. Deposit is in the bank, and can’t wait.

  • If Kia or Hyundai want to follow in the success of Toyota/Lexus, Nissan/Infiniti, and Honda/Acura, it has to generate a fresh luxury nameplate for above $30K vehicles. Otherwise you are mixing potentially great vehicles with unrefined Kia's and Hyundai's of the past. There is also the Hyundai distant past of reliability concerns that the big three Japanese didn't have to hurdle (at the same level). So what will it be .. Kia/Saja (Lion), Hyundai/Yeou (Fox)?

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    @reformeddaddy I think the snobbery over badge has faded somewhat over the last few years in the US. I feel that many Americans have rumbled that a lot of the "premium" imports are not worth the money charged for them. Having looked at a lot of

  • wesedmunds wesedmunds Posts:

    Just drove this car today. REALLY nice. Comfortable, quiet, nice pickup, nice options. Great technology but the Nav seemed a little finicky and the old school gas cap seemed out of place. The interior is trying a little TOO hard to be BMW and the grill is a hair pig nosed to my taste. The interior is uncommonly spacious (better than a Chrysler 300 I'm also looking at, though the back seats could use more support in the Cadenza IMO) but the fact that the SEATS DO NOT FOLD DOWN IS A DEALBREAKER! It's too bad, it was a serious contender until that point. Overall, I liked the car very much. Is it $40k good? I'd say yes seeing that's the new "normal" for this class of car. With exception of the seats not folding down, I felt it was very competitive.

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The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2014 Kia Cadenza in VA is:

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