Review: 2014 KIA Cadenza – What Makes a Flagship?

2014 kia cadenza grill flagship

The luxurious new 2014 Kia Cadenza has arrived as Kia’s most powerful and technologically advanced vehicle.

The Cadenza looks slick, with broad shoulders, a contoured hood, 18- or19-inch wheels, a wide stance and sporty looking twin oval tailpipes. But a high beltline (where the body meets the lower side windows) causes even 6-footers to feel a bit buried. The backseat area seems almost limo-sized, but rear doorways are a little too narrow.

The Cadenza’s interior is posh, and the 195.5-inch-long car is loaded with features. With a $35,100 list price, this South Korean sedan follows the old Toyota philosophy of offering a feature-paced car for a reasonable price.

The Cadenza is sold in only one trim level: Premium. Standard are leather seat trim with heated front power seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry with push-button start, navigation system, high-resolution 8-inch touch screen and premium 550-watt Infinity 12-speaker sound system with rear-surround speakers.  Also standard are a rear-camera display and a back-up warning system.

2014 kia cadenza dash steering wheel

Cadenzas with the $3,000 Luxury Package have a full-length panoramic sunroof with power retractable sunshade, 7-inch TFT LCD instrument cluster, premium Nappa leather seats, ventilated driver’s seat with a seat cushion extension, heated steering wheel with a power tilt/telescoping column, rear outboard heated seats and a power rear sunshade.

The ultimate Cadenza goes for $41,100 with the Technology Package. It has 19-inch (versus18-inch) alloy wheels, advanced Smart Cruise Control that maintains a set distance to the vehicle ahead and can stop the car if necessary at lower speeds. It also has a radar-based Blind Spot Detection System with Lane Change Assist and Kia’s first Lane Departure Warning System for drivers who unintentionally drift into another lane.

As a bonus, the Cadenza with Luxury and Technology packages offers a White Interior Package at no extra cost. It features White Nappa leather trim, wood-grain accent window switch surround and a premium headliner material that extends to the pillar trim, rear parcel shelf and sun visors.

My test Cadenza had all those packages and a quiet interior, thanks partly to triple door seals, although I heard some wind noise when driving on highways during a windy day.

Safety features include air bags and side curtains, anti-lock brakes and traction and electronic stability control systems, with a Vehicle Stability Management system.

2014 kia cadenza engine gdi

The Cadenza makes short work out of 65-80 mph passing, thanks to a smooth, quiet aluminum 293-horsepower 3.3-liter V-6 with 255 pound-feet of torque. The engine is from Hyundai’s Azera and has a sky-high 12.0:1 compression ratio, direct fuel injection, dual continuously variable valve timing for better fuel economy and performance, maintenance-free timing chain and a three-step variable induction system for enhanced torque.

Kia says the V-6 has been run during long-term durability testing for 300 continuous hours at redline under full load. At 65 m.p.h., the engine is loafing at 2,000 r.p.m.

Such an engine needs premium fuel, right? Wrong. It’s designed to run on only regular-grade gasoline. Estimated fuel economy is 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on highways.

Power is shot though a responsive six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift  feature via easily used paddle shifters or the console shift lever.

But this isn’t a sports sedan. For one thing, it has front-wheel drive, instead of the usual rear-drive setup used by top performance sedans. Also, the quick electric power steering needs more road feel, and some may feel it’s overly light. The steering wheel, though, is handsome and easily gripped.The supple all-independent suspension smooths out most roads, although the ride sometimes feels soft and unexpected dips in some roads caused my test car to briefly shake—despite its stiff structure.

Still, despite the emphasis on a comfortable ride, handling is good even during moderately hard driving. The brakes feel strong, controlled by a light, easily modulated pedal.

The interior is quiet, thanks partly to triple door seals. It’s posh in there, with soft leather upholstery and wood and chrome accents. An elegant analog clock lends a classic look. Front seats are especially large and supportive, and there’s a large front armrest. There’s also a center rear armrest containing cupholders.

2014 kia cadenza rear tail

Gauges can be quickly read, even in bright sunlight. Climate and sound controls are rather small, but nicely marked and easy to use. The big windshield’s thick pillars partially block visibility during turns, but large heated power folding mirrors with turn signal indicators help rear visibility.

The glove compartment is tiny, but doors have adequately sized cargo and beverage pockets, and the large front console contains a deep covered bin and easily reached cupholders. Rear windows lower all the way.

The large trunk has a wide, but rather high, liftover. Its lid has enclosed manual hinges instead of hydraulic struts, but a large interior handle helps close it.

The hood opens quietly on twin hydraulic struts. Too bad that a huge plastic cover hides the V-6. Such an advanced engine with a compression ratio that tops those of 1960s muscle cars should be easily viewed.
On the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy it!
  • Lease it!
  • Rent it!
  • … or Forget it!

I give the 2014 KIA Cadenza a Buy It! 


Dan Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times–far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.’s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008. For more of Dan’s thoughtful and insightful reviews please visit his web site HERE.