It might not be AS pretty as the Germans and Japanese, but it's getting close.

2014 Kia Cadenza

Value. Sweet, luxurious value.

By: Andrew Krok

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: January 31st, 2014

The 2014 Kia Cadenza does not like potholes, not one bit. As I made my way to Detroit for the North American International Auto Show, the Kia's front right tire hit a pothole hidden by a snowy on-ramp, which caused rapid deflation and an unannounced visit to the shoulder.

Since the front wheel was the flat one, I had to swap the space-saver donut onto the rear wheel, then move the inflated rear wheel to the front (pro tip: never put a donut on a driven wheel). During that time, I realized where much of the Kia's luxurious driving feel comes from - incredible amounts of unsprung mass. The optional 19-inch wheels (part of the Technology package) felt like they were made out of some combination of iron and lead.

Unsprung mass (meaning everything on the vehicle not supported by the springs, including wheels and drivetrain components) is typically a bad thing in lighter cars where driving dynamics are important. In luxury cars, however, unsprung mass contributes to a softer, cushier ride at the expense of handling. Seeing as how this is a front-wheel-drive porker of a car, race-car handling is not a priority.

During this tire change, while verbally admonishing Kia for putting low-profile tires on a car destined to be driven through a Midwestern winter, I discovered that accessing the donut requires several unnecessary steps, including removing a wholly useless and difficult-to-remove tie-down that secures the trunk's floor to the sheet metal beneath. Because if there's one thing you want when you're changing two tires on a tiny shoulder at the beginning of the morning rush hour, it's a process that requires several unnecessary steps.

Even with the donut on for the remainder of the drive to Detroit, the Kia performed swimmingly (albeit with the cruise control set to 5 mph under the speed limit). I also made sure to avoid potholes like the plague for the remainder of my trip - not exactly an easy task on the streets of downtown Detroit.

  • Interior

    Wow. For a hair over 40 large (including both the Luxury and Technology packages), you've got a high-quality interior that rivals anything in the same price range from competitors both Japanese and German. Everything looks and feels quality, and there aren't handfuls of blank buttons all over that remind you that you cheaped out when ticking the package boxes. The seats are quite comfortable, and everything is laid out in an easy and intuitive manner - that extends to the UVO infotainment system, which is one of the better setups on new cars today. If it weren't for the Kia badge on the steering wheel, you'd think you're in a car that's far more expensive than it actually is.

  • Exterior

    Take a look at a new BMW 7-Series, then a new BMW 5-Series, then the Kia Cadenza. They all look similar, don't they? Whether or not Kia intentionally "borrowed" from BMW's headlight design and the Audi A6's triangular tail light design, the combination of upscale touches gives the Kia a look of affluence that its predecessor, the Amanti, lacked. With the low-profile 19-inch tires, the car looks good just sitting in the office parking lot. The LED eyelids on the headlights add yet another bit of upscale charm, as well.

  • On the Road

    Thankfully, we drove the Kia plenty of miles without the donut attached, so this review won't be as crippled as the Kia itself was for that short span of time. The ride is definitely on the supple side (again, thanks to the unsprung mass), but the lack of precision and handling that results makes it just a little too soft for our preferences. The steering is on the overboosted side, but that's to be expected in a luxury car without sporting pretensions. A bit of wind noise comes through the cabin at highway speeds, but it's nothing that two more ticks on the volume knob can't solve.

    The 3.3-liter, direct-injected V-6 engine provides a little under 300 horsepower, more than enough to get this puppy moving faster from any speed, slow or fast. However, the transmission isn't as ready as the motor is, so expect some shifting lag and slower response times than in equally-priced competitor vehicles. The gas mileage isn't bad for a V-6 without turbos or a hybrid-electric system; you didn't hear us tell you this, but it gets about 25-27 mpg at a sustained 80 mph. Not too shabby at all, considering most gas-mileage estimates stray far away from the EPA estimates at those speeds.

  • Final Thoughts

    Lots of journalists have made the comment that Kia loves to stuff ten pounds of features into a five-pound bag. As overused as that sentiment may be, it's absolutely true. For the same price, you can get a Lexus with a piecemeal feature system (heated seats aren't even standard on most Lexus models) that will undoubtedly ramp up the cost well above the Kia's. At this price, you get features that you can't find on equally-priced competitor models. But it's not just features; you get good mileage, a comfortable ride, and an attractive interior. It's one hell of a value, but if you live in the Midwest, we suggest finding higher-profile tires to use in the winter.

  • Specs & Price

    Engine: 3.3-liter naturally-aspirated, direct-injected V-6

    Transmission: Six-speed automatic

    Power Output: 293 hp / 255 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy: 19 city / 28 highway

    Base Price: $35,100

    As Tested: $41,900 (incl. $800 destination)

    Optional Features: Technology Package (adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, electronic parking brake, hydrophobic front-door windows, 19-inch alloy wheels), Luxury Package (Nappa leather seats and trim, turn-adaptive HID headlights, panoramic roof and power sunshades, ventilated driver's seat, heated outboard rear seats, seven-inch gauge-cluster LCD screen, power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, integrated seat memory, power rear-window sunshade)

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