Kia walked away from the full-size segment in 2009, when it discontinued production of the Amanti sedan.
The late Amanti mirrored the then-current state of affairs at Kia. Its design was confused and derivative, ride and handling were soft and lazy. Still, build quality was sound and fit and finish first-rate. Even the base, $25,000 Amanti impressively showcased new technologies.
Now, just four years after the Amanti’s departure, Kia is back, knocking on the full-size door with a front-drive sedan called Cadenza (from $35,900, including destination).
The all-new Cadenza reflects Kia’s growth over the past half-dozen years. Like its predecessor, it’s nicely assembled and boasts excellent tech and that great warranty.
Unlike the Amanti, the Cadenza is sharply focused. Bearing a clear European imprint, its sweeping roofline caps a shape that manages to be both aggressive and mature. Interior design is contemporary, clean and bold.
Cadenza is powered by a 293-horsepower V-6 that drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. The EPA rates fuel efficiency at 19 city/28 highway/22 combined.
Acceleration is reasonably swift. Estimates place the 0-60 sprint at about 7 seconds. While most modern transmissions shift early in the power band for fuel economy benefits, Cadenza’s allows the engine to run up into its upper ranges for performance gains.
Kia tiptoes around the sport-sedan question, with vague allusions to the Autobahn and winding Swiss Alps roads. Despite its European influences, though, the Cadenza is cast in the mold of the original Lexus. Its suspension is nicely sorted, checking body lean in corners while swallowing road-surface irregularities, but the Cadenza won’t have you seeking out the curviest route home.
At highway speeds, the ride is composed and serene and cabin noise is minimal. Rear-seat legroom is excellent, but the couple-like roofline limits headroom.
Kia and its parent company Hyundai introduced tech-heavy interiors to the non-luxury classes. Their experience in sorting out the fine — and sometimes contradictory — demands of the human-machine interface pays off in the Cadenza. Kia piles on the tech goodies without forcing the novice to the indignity of the owners manual.
Every Cadenza comes equipped with a rearview camera, rear park assist, an 8-inch touchscreen display, Kia's Uvo voice command system, navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio and a 12-speaker Infinity sound system.
Kia supplements the touchscreen with assorted old-school buttons, preventing the user paralysis that overachieving systems can cause.
Emboldened by recent successes, Kia no longer sweetens the pot with bargain-basement pricing. The Cadenza is available in a single, well-equipped trim whose$35,900 (including destination) price tag sits at the upper end of the midsize spectrum.
A trio of options packages augments the single-trim strategy, which can create awkward combinations. If you desire the safety benefits of Xenon headlights and the comfort of ventilated seats, you must order the $3,000 Luxury Package. However, the panoramic sunroof it includes reduces headroom, a potential challenge for tall drivers.
Kia has managed to grow its sales even without being able to offer a credible full-size sedan. Now, the more-than-credible Cadenza gives buyers something entirely new to think about.
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2014 Kia Cadenza
Vehicle base price: $35,100
As tested: $41,900
Optional equipment: Our tester included the Technology ($3,000) and Luxury ($3,000) packages.
EPA ratings: 19 city/28 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified