Del Mar, Calif. — As a longtime Kia watcher, I am amazed by each generation or new model because each one is a major leap forward ? not simply an evolutionary remake or cookie-cutter variation. For example, look at the innovative designs and features brought forward with recent Kia releases of the new models like the Optima, Soul, Sportage and Forte. Each has a unique eye-catching design, powerful drivetrains and outstanding value.
The public has been quick to respond to these advances with sales skyrocketing the Kia brand into eighth place in the U.S. market after only 18 years in the market. In 2012, Kia sold more than 570,000 vehicles.
The latest Kia leap comes in the form of Cadenza ? new name, new look and new flagship for the brand. As an entry-luxury model, the Cadenza takes the place of the obscure Amanti, which was Kia?s top model from 2002 through 2010. An impressive value, the homely Amanti failed to excite the buyers, however.
Fitting into the EPA large car measurements the 2014 Kia Cadenza is also the largest car the brand has offered in North America. Cadenza has a few Kia family styling cues like the ?tiger tooth? grille, the line of the ?D? pillar, but it looks more elegant than the Optima. The Cadenza is exactly the same length as the Toyota Avalon and competes directly with other large sedans like the Avalon, Ford Taurus, Hyundai Azera and Chevrolet Impala.
A photo may be worth a thousand words, but like many new cars, a photo falls short with the Cadenza. In person, the Cadenza had elegant sculpted lines that brand it as a head turner in my eyes. The interior is equally impressive with clean simple lines, standard leather seating and an extensive list of available equipment.
Kia Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Michael Sprague, describes the new Cadenza as the ?most technologically advanced Kia ever.?
Developed from a stretched version of the highly regarded Kia Optima platform, Cadenza rides on MacPherson struts in the front and a multi-link rear suspension. By using 60 percent high-tensile strength steel, engineers were able to keep the weight down and create a more rigid platform. This results in very good handling characteristics and a solid feeling cabin.
?The Cadenza?s dynamic driving characteristics and advanced technology set our premium sedan apart from the competition,? said Michael Sprague. ?Combining our most powerful engine with a well-engineered chassis, a direct and communicative steering system and a capable multi-link rear suspension, the Cadenza promises to appeal to shoppers who want both comfort and performance from a premium-level sedan.?
The only available engine in the front-wheel drive Cadenza is a smooth 3.3-liter direct injection V-6 producing 293 horsepower. The transmission is Kia?s six-speed automatic with Sportmatic? manual shift mode complete with paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel. I was fascinated to hear about Kia?s durability testing which included running the engine for 300 continuous hours at the engine?s red line, and then taking it 10 percent above redline and running it for 20 hours more without any problems. The engine has an EPA fuel economy rating of 19 mpg highway and 28 mpg city.
The 2014 Kia Cadenza, which is on sale now, is offered in one exceptionally well-equipped Premium trim level, that sells for $35,900, including the destination charge. The list of standard features is very impressive for a car at this price point, including features like navigation (8-inch screen) with Sirius traffic, Kia?s UVO services, premium Infinity audio, smart key with push button start, rear camera and dozens of other premium convenience and safety features.
Options are limited to color and two option packages. The first is a $3,000 Luxury Package adding a panoramic sunroof, adaptive HID headlights, Nappa leather, rear heated (outboard) seats, heated steering wheel, power rear sunshade and several other convenience features. The other option package, which requires the Luxury Package, is the $3,000 Technology Package which includes19-inch alloy wheels, Smart Cruise Control, Blind Spot Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Hydrophobic glass and electronic parking brake. (The Hydrophobic glass in the front door windows has a Rain-X-like material embedded in the glass to help the windows repel water.)
Kia is offering a complimentary scheduled maintenance program for the 2014 Cadenza. It includes the first five factory scheduled service appointments and is applicable for 36 months or 37,500 miles, whichever comes first.
I?m anxious to spend more time in the 2014 Kia Cadenza. My first impressions were extremely positive. I like the way the car handles, the performance is very good and it is exceptionally quiet and comfortable. The new Kia flagship looks like a big winner to me.