Reviews

2014 Kia Cadenza Walk Around

The Kia Cadenza looks better in person than in photos. At first glance, one might mistake the Cadenza for an Audi. Lines are clean and elegant, without the overabundance of swoops and creases found on sister company Hyundai's cars.

Up front, the Cadenza uses a variation of Kia's signature tiger nose grille. Distinctly shaped, the grille communicates right away that this is a Kia. It's more sophisticated looking than others in the Kia lineup, surrounded by bright chrome trim. It gives the car an approachable and friendly grin. Quad headlights are housed in lenses that gently wrap around the front fascia. Foglights sit in separate housings below.

From the side, there's a subtle character line that begins in the front door, arcing up sharply and running straight through both sets of door handles. A straight, sculpted rocker panel keeps the Cadenza looking firm and planted. On cars equipped with the top-of-the-line Technology Package, 19-inch wheels give the Cadenza a show-car quality.

In the rear, tail lamps perhaps most closely evoke Audi design, with angled edges that flare out wider as they wrap around the rear quarter panels. Attractive, oval-shaped dual exhaust pipes are integrated into lower rear bumper.

Interior

Cadenza's simple, sophisticated design continues inside the cabin. It's modern, without looking like some marketing committee was trying too hard. It feels spacious but not cavernous. Doors are slightly concave, allowing for more elbow room, but not overly so like in some newer sedans. Materials are soft and are pleasing to the eye, with a mix of plastics and wood trim.

On cars equipped with the Luxury and Technology packages, the instrument panel uses an electronic TFT display (we didn't get to see a base model with its standard gauge cluster). It's contemporary and easy to read, without looking too quasi-futuristic.

The buttons and dials in the center stack are numerous, but are arranged attractively and intuitively so it doesn't seem overwhelming. Up top is the color touch screen, powered by Kia's UVO infotainment system. The screen is easy to read in nearly all types of light, resists glare and does not show fingerprints. It's flanked by two air vents, all of which are made of thick plastic and feel quite sturdy.

Dead-center is an analog clock, perhaps deliberately evoking those found in high-priced luxury sedans like Infiniti. On either side are rows of buttons that operate the climate control, rear defroster, hazard lights and airbag sensor indicator. Below that is a single in-dash CD player for the standard Infinity premium audio system. Another bank of controls underneath operate audio, phone and navigation systems.

Front seats are comfortable, although more so for the driver on cars with the Luxury or Technology packages because they upgrade to a 12-way adjustable power driver's seat with lumbar and ventilation. The 10-way adjustable passenger seat was fine for shorter distances, but those who prefer more back support may get weary after a few hours.

Most will find the Cadenza plentiful on head and legroom. Cars equipped with the Luxury and Technology packages get a panoramic sunroof, which eats two inches of headroom in front, for 38 total inches, compared to 40 inches without it. In back, the sunroof only reduces headroom by about a half inch.

Rear legroom in the Cadenza measures 36.8 inches. While this is plenty for most shapes and sizes, other large sedans offer slightly more space. The Chevrolet Impala, for example, measures 39.8 inches, the Ford Taurus has 38.1 inches and the Toyota Avalon has 40 inches. The Nissan Maxima has the least amount of space out of these, with 34.6 inches.

Cargo space in the Cadenza is moderate for the class, measuring 15.9 cubic feet. That's on par with Toyota Avalon's 16 cubic feet, but short of the Chevrolet Impala's 18.8 cubic feet and the Ford Taurus's cavernous 20.1 cubes. But the Cadenza bests the Nissan Maxima's relatively meager 14.2 cubes.

We found the Cadenza's UVO easier to use than some other carmakers' systems, like Ford's Sync or Buick's IntelliLink. Originally launched as a voice recognition system, the UVO name now comprises the entire user interface, controlled from the color touch screen and a few basic buttons located lower on the center stack. UVO has many features that are now common on most manufacturers' user interfaces, like Pandora streaming Internet radio and Zagat restaurant guides. Complimentary software updates can be downloaded by the user and uploaded to the car by SD card. We especially liked the road sign updates, which displayed the speed limit real-time on the nav screen as we traversed a variety of freeways and city streets.

A telematics system (similar to GM's OnStar and Hyundai's Blue Link) also comes standard with UVO, with features like automated 911 notification, scheduled vehicle maintenance alerts, on-demand car diagnostics, pre-loaded directions via Google send-to-car, and more. But unlike most manufacturers that charge a subscription fee for these services, Cadenza owners get emergency services free for the life of the car, and everything else free for the first ten years. Users can access vehicle information remotely via a free companion smartphone app for Apple and Android operating systems.

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