Kia’s full-size sedan aims to win over buyers looking for either a high-end midsized family car or a low-end midsized luxury car. As such, it mixes features of both types. Wrapped in pleasant, if not avant-garde, sheet metal, the Cadenza Limited packs plenty of luxury-car amenities, has room for five adults, and performs decently. The Kia Cadenza slots in between the family-car Optima and the upcoming rear drive K-900 luxury sedan in the Korean automaker’s lineup. Its styling represents a clear move upmarket while maintaining a look consistent with other Kia models. The headlights and grill, for instance, have the air of an Aston-Martin understudy, while the C-pillar and flank bear a definite family resemblance to those of the Optima.
At an as-tested price of $43,250, our top of the line Cadenza Limited definitively knocks on the door of the luxury market, presumably hoping to gain entry for the even-more-expensive K-900 and establish Kia as a legitimate competitor for Lexus, Mercedes Benz and other luxo-brands. As per Kia’s market strategy, the Cadenza aims to offer a longer list of standard equipment than rivals would at the same price point. Our “snow white” test car came with automatic dual-zone climate control, an Infinity surround sound audio system, heated seats, a rear camera with an 8″ display/ navigation screen, rain-sensing wipers and hydrophobic side-windows.
While no one will mistake the Cadenza for a sports car, it drives competently and is even quick, thanks to its free-revving direct injected V6. The ride is soft without being overly “floaty” and cornering balance is not terrible for a nose-heavy front driver. Stopping distances, however, are rather long with the stock all season tires, and the brake pedal can feel a little soft. We achieved just over 26 mpg on a long highway cruise, although a previously tested Kia Cadenza only managed 17.8 in mixed, mostly city driving.
As with many of the brand’s current cars, the Kia Cadenza manages to have some personality, while still feeling derivative in some areas. Take that analog clock in the center console: very much like an Infiniti, but then look at the shift knob: an almost-zany blob that looks like nothing else on the market.