As the flagship of Kia’s Canadian lineup, the Cadenza is a rolling showcase of refinement, design, quality and technology. It's Kia shouting from the rooftops, “look what we can do!”
Even a minute in this car serves to remove any lingering doubts as to this company’s ability to play in the big leagues.
Kia has one of the most loyal owner bodies in the industry. This large number of satisfied customers has a habit of trading up – from Accent to Forte to Optima etc. The Cadenza is the new top rung on that ladder.
The Cadenza’s level of refinement, ride and interior roominess make it an instant contender in the full-size car sweepstakes, normally the territory of the big “American” car. The $42,000 price, performance and fuel economy put it smack in the middle of that group as well.
But where it really excels is in the level of standard equipment and the quality of materials and construction.
Compared to the Optima, which until now had been the largest Kia, the Cadenza is 132-mm longer, 17-mm wider and rides on a wheelbase stretched 50-mm.
Comfort and convenience to the fore
The Cadenza makes no effort to appease those looking for a big sporty sedan, one to put a smile on the face of driving enthusiasts as they tackle some favorite twisty back roads on a weekend romp.
Instead, it will put a smile on the face of the majority of people who want a big car like this because of its comfort, convenience features and effortless ability to gobble up the distance.
If you are of an older generation think of it as the modern day big Buick or Oldsmobile. Younger folks might compare it to the Toyota Avalon.
The styling is conservative yet unique, from the Kia family grille to the chromed tailpipes nicely integrated into the rear valance rather than hanging below like an afterthought.
The clean lines and sparse use of “bling” are the first signs this car is intended to attract buyers who have moved up in life to the point they want a luxury car.
The Cadenza has you thinking “luxury” and ”special” from the time you draw near. It starts as you approach the car with the mirrors automatically moving back into position from their folded rest.
The doors unlock automatically and a chime welcomes you aboard when you step in. Kia and Hyundai seem to be locked into some kind of elaborate welcome chime death match and this one was raises the ante.
Entry and exit are easy through big doors that open nice and wide. Visibility is good thanks to relatively narrow pillars. The front seat are big and well bolstered and the rear seat has plenty of head and legroom for full-sized adults – three of them.
The trunk is large and well-finished with a flat floor, but the rear seat backs don't fold down for extra space. There is only a pass through for long items.
The interior is tasteful yet plush. Once again the design team has avoided any obvious ploys to draw attention, instead ensuring the whole package does so in a united way.
Well thought-out controls
As you push the start button the instruments come to life “stretching” to their full illumination as the indicators sweep the full span of their range.
The instrument panel contains a large round speedometer with the tachometer to the left and fuel and temperature gauges to the right, in a three-dimensional like array. All with crystal clear fonts and lighting.
The steering wheel has controls for a variety of functions at the nine and three positions with more on a pair of rungs at the bottom.
The centre stack consists of a rather small screen at the top, between a pair of vents with the HVAC and audio controls positioned horizontally below. There are big buttons and clear labels for major and minor controls.
The standard touchscreen and related functions are easier to decipher and use than most. The instrument panel is exceptionally legible thanks to the use of LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) and TFT (Thin Film Transister) technologies.
The fonts used on the UVO infotainment system match those on the controls and instruments, a touch that most manufacturers fail to notice.
Surfaces are covered in soft touch materials and fit and finish are first rate, but the carefully-crafted dark wood and aluminum trim do little to brighten the otherwise dark ambiance.
Two trim levels
The Cadenza comes in two trim levels with identical drivetrains. Standard equipment on all includes: power folding heated mirrors, dual zone automatic climate control, power windows and locks, keyless remote and start, Infiniti 12-speaker audio system, navigation system, tilt/telescope steering wheel and a rear view camera with parking sensors.
The Premium model gains a full-length sunroof, xenon HID headlights,” hydrophobic” glass, premium Nappa leather, heated rear seats, cooled driver’s seat with memory function (includes mirrors and steering column), heated steering wheel, TFT instrument cluster, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, front parking sensors and smart cruise control which maintains a driver-adjustable distance behind the vehicle in front and can bring the Cadenza to a complete stop if necessary.
On the road
As indicated above the ride is plush and well composed absorbing major road blemishes with ease without being too soft.
Pushed hard the Cadenza plows heavily, but this car will rarely be pushed that hard. Good thing because the steering lacks the communication necessary to make such driving enjoyable.
The aluminum 3.3-litre V-6 engine is silky smooth and all but silent and the six-speed automatic is well matched with almost seamless shifts.
During recent instrumented testing at AJAC’s Canadian Car Of The Year event the Cadenza recorded a 0-100 km/h time of 7.3 seconds and a 80-120 km/h passing time of 5.0 seconds, both very respectable numbers.
The Cadenza is a wake-up call for the competition in the full-size class, proof that this fledgling company really is something to be reckoned with.