2014 Kia Cadenza
2014 Kia Cadenza
2014 Kia Cadenza. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Kia’s new flagship sedan went on sale earlier this year and it’s already raising some eyebrows. Consumer Reports recently ranked the 2014 Kia Cadenza one of its top three large sedans. The rankings, released August 20th, placed the all-new 2014 Chevrolet Impala in first place, followed by the Kia Cadenza, and the Toyota Avalon in third.

“The Cadenza banishes any lingering thoughts that Kia is just a manufacturer of cheap, unrefined cars. This modern, large sedan is well-rounded and thoroughly likeable,” said the CR judges. That’s high praise from a leading consumer publication that’s not afraid to pull punches in its vehicle evaluations.

But does the Cadenza live up to this lofty billing?

Let’s start with the facts: the Cadenza is a large, front-wheel drive, V6-powered sedan based on the recently redesigned Hyundai Azera/Grandeur platform. You may remember that the Hyundai Azera was sold in Canada from 2006 through 2009 but was discontinued when the rear-drive Genesis sedan was introduced. The new Azera is still sold in the U.S.

Essentially, the Cadenza replaces the largely forgotten Kia Amanti, a front-wheel-drive luxury sedan based on the (previous-generation) Hyundai Azera with a headlight design that looked suspiciously like the (then) Mercedes-Benz E 320. It was sold in Canada from 2004 to 2009.

As we reported in our Preview of the Cadenza, the word “Cadenza” is derived from an Italian musical term for “an elaborate, ornamental flourish for a concerto or aria.” That fits in with some of Kia’s other Latin-sounding car names like Sorento, Forte, Rondo, Optima, Sedona, and Rio. Personally, I think it’s a smart move to give this luxury sedan a name that rolls off the tongue easily rather than a boring numerical moniker like ES 350, 535i, E 350, A6, etc. (apologies to Lexus, BMW, Mercedes and Audi…).

Ranging in price from $37,795 to $44,495, the 2014 Kia Cadenza competes with other V6-powered front-wheel-drive sedans like the Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, Ford Taurus, and Chevrolet Impala; and also with V6-powered luxury cars like the Acura TL, Buick LaCrosse, and Lincoln MKZ. Its starting price is less than the Buick LaCrosse, Acura TL and Lincoln MKZ, about the same as the Maxima, but about $1,000 more than the Avalon XLE ($36,800), and significantly more than the Impala 2LT V6 ($32,945) and Taurus SE V6 ($28,999). And when you compare the top-trim Cadenza Premium with a comparably equipped Avalon Limited Premium Package ($41,850), the Cadenza is over $2,500 more. We think Kia is being a bit overconfident pricing the Cadenza above well-known competitors with established reputations – but time will tell.

2014 Kia Cadenza2014 Kia Cadenza
2014 Kia Cadenza. Click image to enlarge

While the market for luxury sedans sold by non-luxury brands is limited, cars like the Avalon, Maxima and Impala have proven there is a niche of customers who are comfortable with large luxury sedans that don’t have the prestige, high profile, and higher price of a luxury nameplate. For these buyers, a luxury brand badge just adds to the price, not the value.

Size-wise, the Cadenza is about the same length as the Toyota Avalon but has a longer wheelbase and is slightly wider and taller. It’s also a much sleeker design that looks similar to its mid-sized relative, the Optima. For me, the only thing that spoils the Cadenza’s flowing shape is its long front and rear overhangs.

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