Kia Goes Upscale with Cadenza

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors America

2014 Kia Cadenza.

You may have seen Kia’s pretty clever television commercial for the 2014 Cadenza. A sleek black example of the car arrives at a hotel or restaurant of some sort, and out steps a rather striking woman in a coordinating sleek black cocktail dress. She then confidently strides past a sign that reads, “Welcome – Class of 1993.”

The gist of the commercial is that you never noticed this woman twenty years ago in high school, but she’s become quite the looker and today really turns heads. Ditto for the car she arrived in. Many years ago, hardly anyone would give a Kia a second look.

But the Korean brand has evolved, with solid offerings in many categories, including crossover SUVs and family sedans. The Optima, in particular, has really hit its stride in both looks and sales numbers.

If a satisfied Optima owner feels like moving up to a little more luxury, he or she now doesn’t have to jump ship to another brand. For the 2014 model year, Kia has introduced the Cadenza, a larger, more luxurious sedan than the Optima.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Kia would be headed in that direction. As the brand has grown, it has sought out new niches in the auto market. Oh, and its sister company Hyundai has the Azera. The Cadenza is the Azera’s fraternal twin.

Like the Optima and many of Kia’s other current models, the Cadenza wears a great exterior design. Not fussy or over-the-top, but elegant and stylish. It also looks like a shape that will wear well over time. The car’s not huge, but it’s just big enough to appear to be at the larger end of the mid-size sedan classification.

Inside, more style and gobs of features. As with its other models, Kia has decided that the Cadenza will impress potential buyers with standard features that can sometimes be extra-cost items on other cars. Navigation, heated leather seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, and the list goes on and on. There’s essentially one trim level of the car, and Kia calls it Premium.

On top of what comes standard, you can opt for two additional packages that further load the Cadenza with luxury amenities. The Technology Package ($3000) adds an intelligent cruise control system, blind spot detection, and lane departure warning, all of which are typically only found on more expensive luxury cars.

And the Luxury Package (also $3000) upgrades the car a bit more, with ventilation for the driver’s seat, heating for the rear seats and steering wheel, a rear sunshade, a panoramic glass sunroof, and adaptive HID headlights.

The example I sampled had both those optional packages, but I imagine that even without them the car is very pleasant and knocks on the door of the lower levels of automotive luxury. The ride is comfortable, as are the seats. The standard Infinity audio system sounds amazing, and the 3.3 liter V6 is as smooth as any other on the road.

And, Kia had chosen a rather striking color combination for the car sent to me. Metallic Bronze on the outside, and white Nappa leather for the interior. (Though I can’t imagine trying to keep those seats clean in everyday use.) Add the gorgeous 19” wheels that come with the Technology Package, and that was one handsome ride.

For a base price of $35,100, you get a pretty nice car in the Cadenza. Even if you choose both those $3,000 packages and load the car to the gills, you’re still not much over $40,000. Cross-shop it with other cars, and see what else you’d have to pay for something with that many features.

The thing Kia will have to overcome is the perception that it’s still a “cheap” brand for people who can’t afford anything else. Just like that former wallflower of a woman strutting into the class reunion, this new Kia is definitely worth a second look.

I’ll see you down the road.

Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ Twitter: @dave_kunz, Facebook: ABC7Dave

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