THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Large, near luxury sedan at a non-premium price.
- What’s Worst: No fold-down rear seat to carry larger objects
- What’s Interesting: Kia has been upping its game, with Cadenza looking more expensive than its sticker price
A colleague once declared Cadenza as Kia’s best-kept secret – a point I won’t argue, having had only the occasional sighting.
It may also have an identity crisis.
Cadenza is positioned between the reasonably large, mid-sized Optima and even larger K900 flagship.
I’m not sure there’s a well-defined slot here, but it’s closest corporate relation would be the Hyundai Azera, still sold in the U.S., but dropped in Canada seven years ago.
RELATED: 2015 Mazda 3 GS Sedan Review
Like Optima, Cadenza is classified as ‘mid-sized’ within Kia’s lineup, but when you climb in – particularly in rear where there’s limo-like legroom – it is clearly a large car.
In fact, AutoPacific’s 2015 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards named it a segment winner in the ‘large car’ category.
It’s also a premium product, wearing the usual trappings of this segment: big alloy wheels, leather upholstery, woodgrain accents, abundant luxo amenities and driver tech. But it’s not quite on par with the K900, which starts at $50K – a $12K price bump over the base Cadenza.
So it’s a large, mid-size, near-luxury sedan at a slightly less than premium price.
Not to mention being a Korean product that looks European, thanks to chief design officer, and now Kia president as well, Peter Schreyer – the guy behind Audi TT and the VW New Beetle.
Cadenza has clean sides with a high and rising beltline, enhanced by broad shoulders and a wide stance. The contoured hood begins with Kia’s signature tiger-nose grille, flanked by quad projector headlamps that pull back into the prominent front wheel arches.
The rear windscreen is steeply raked, and flows into a relatively short rear deck. High-mounted LED taillights, ovoid twin tailpipes and big 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels emphasize the Cadenza’s wide and athletic stance.
Aggressive styling, at least at this price point, demands a reasonably capable engine. On that note, Cadenza does not disappoint.
Powering each of its trim levels – base ($37,995), Premium ($41,995) and Tech ($45,595) – is a DOHC 24-valve 3.3-litre V6 with gasoline direct injection, delivering 293 hp and 255 lb/ft of torque. It is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift.
At around 1,700 kg, Cadenza is no lightweight, but performance is lively enough with zero to 100 km/h in the seven second range.
More impressive is Cadenza’s ride.
Keeping in mind the older demographic who would buy this kind of car, its “sport-tuned” damping is still soft enough to absorb most road imperfections.
Yet the independent suspension (Mac struts in front and multi-link in rear) isn’t mushy. You do sense the bulk of this car going hard into a corner, but body roll isn’t excessive.
You also sense its rigidity, with 60 percent of the body composed of high tensile steel. Add to this hydraulic transmission mounts, triple door seals, and finned wheels to reduce wind noise, and the result is a noticeably quiet cabin.
Here, driver and passenger are treated to premium materials like leather upholstery, wood and satin chrome accents, and no shortage of amenities. Even at the base level.
The entry model includes dual-zone climate control, power heated front seats, smart key with pushbutton start, 12-speaker Infinity premium audio, navigation, rearview camera and a list too long for this space.
Ditto for Premium and Tech models, which add heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, power rear sunshade, heated seats in rear, heated/cooled in front with memory for the driver, and even a covered compartment with USB charger and 12-volt powerpoint in the rear armrest (Tech). This also drops down to reveal a pass-through for carrying skis or a few sticks of lumber.
Opt for Tech trim, as tested, and you also get driver aids like blind spot detection and lane departure warning. I find the latter annoying, but can appreciate the former with the current trend towards high beltlines and small rear windows impacting visibility.
Also handy is adaptive cruise control, a feature that was once the domain of pricier rides.
It maintains a pre-set speed, automatically accelerating and decelerating according to the vehicle ahead. Not everyone is comfortable with this, but I find it relaxing on long road trips. Especially when a small error in judgement can mean a hefty fine and spike in your insurance.
Infotainment systems, depending on automaker, can be fiddly or intuitive, with Cadenza’s eight-inch touchscreen being the latter. As you’d expect, it manages audio, navigation and vehicle settings, but leaves climate control and audio volume/tuning to old-school buttons and knobs on the centre stack.
As it should.
Indeed, Cadenza checks all the right boxes for the near-luxury buyer who wants a spacious and comfortable vehicle – with premium content – at a non-premium price.
It may lack the sharp handling of its European rivals, but not everybody is looking for an autobahn burner, preferring instead something a little more relaxed.
Kia Cadenza 2016
BODY STYLE: Entry-level luxury sedan
DRIVE METHOD: Front-drive with six-speed automatic transmission (with sequential manual shift)
ENGINE: 3.3-litre V6 with gasoline direct injection (293 hp, 255 lb/ft of torque)
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular) 12.7/8.4L/100 km (city/hwy)
CARGO: 451 litres
TOW RATING: Not recommended
PRICING: Cadenza, $37,995, Premium, $41,995; tech, $45,595 not including freight and taxes