By Mary Lowry
It was 18 years ago that Kia Motors entered the U.S. marketplace. After a shaky start, the company turned itself around and is now the eighth-largest brand in the country. It is one of only three brands whose U.S. sales have increased for each of the past four years.
Continuing the momentum, Kia has seven all-new or significantly redesigned vehicles making their debut this year. One of them, the 2014 Cadenza five-passenger sedan, was introduced to members of the automotive media last week in Del Mar, Calif.
Cadenza is Kia’s new flagship vehicle. Dressed in equipment associated more with upscale brands, it’s designed to give Kia a nudge into the mid-luxury market.
In the Cadenza press kit, Kia steers away from “luxury” to define the car, opting instead for “premium-level.” Cadenza’s intended niche is described as “the emerging market between mainstream and luxury.”
At the media program, Orth Hedrick, director of product planning at Kia, described Cadenza’s target customers as looking for standard premium appointments, advanced technology, a dynamic ride, luxury-car craftsmanship, and Euro-inspired styling without the European price tag. He said Cadenza offers best-in-class interior volume and front legroom.
Among the vehicles Kia named as Cadenza’s competitors are the Buick LaCrosse, Toyota Avalon, Acura TL and Lincoln MKZ.
The Cadenza is sport-tuned, has front-wheel drive configuration and is put forth in one trim level, the Premium. Its engine is Kia’s most powerful to date: a 3.3-liter GDI (gasoline direct injected) V6 generating 293 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a six-speed automatic with Sportmatic manual shift ability, and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are standard. It comes with 18-inch wheels; 19-inchers are optional.
Fuel economy ratings are 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and regular unleaded gasoline is recommended.
Standard features include fog lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, 10-way power adjustable (including lumbar) driver’s seat, four-way power front passenger seat, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone climate control with rear-seat vents, smart key keyless entry, navigation system with 8-inch display screen, Sirius Traffic, Bluetooth, rear-view camera, a 550-watt CD/MP3 Infinity audio system with 12 speakers and satellite radio, and Kia’s UVO eServices telematics system.
Seats are leather, with premium Nappa leather available as an option. Classy highlights in the cabin include wood and chrome accents and soft touch points.
Among the other available options are a panoramic sunroof with power-operated shade, ventilated driver’s seat, power rear sunshade, power-adjustable steering wheel column, and a heated steering wheel. A lane departure warning system and a blind spot detection system are also available, and Cadenza is the first Kia to offer advanced smart cruise control, which automatically maintains a set distance from the car in front of it.
Optional features are clustered into two packages: Luxury and Technology.
Base pricing, including destination charge, starts at $35,900. Add the Luxury Package and the total is $38,900. A fully loaded version including both the Luxury and Technology packages is $41,900.
Cadenza is the first Kia to come with a complimentary scheduled maintenance program. It’s built in South Korea and is arriving now at local dealerships.