We drove this model shortly after a spin in the ethereal Mercedes S550, so you can imagine we were already somewhat spoiled when we slid behind the Kia's wheel. The Cadenza, inside and out, looks and feels like a car worth more than its under-$35,000 base sticker. On smooth roads, power delivery from the 293-horsepower six was ample and satiny, with the shifts from the six-speed automatic barely noticeable . . . as if the car possessed a CVT. The ride was rock-solid, stable and very refined, almost European in nature. "Audi-esque," we would call it.
But when we hit the back roads and twisties, this was no Audi. Wind buffeting from the awkward sunroof was quite high. There was considerable jiggle from the rear, a case where stiffness was a liability. It's clear that Kia engineers are still trying to figure out the best balance between performance handling and high comfort, something the Germans learned years ago. (Although it must be said that the Cadenza isn't sold as a performance sedan.)
Still, if you want a softer luxo-highway tourer on a relatively modest budget, this may be the car for you. (It's little surprise that Motor Trend named the Cadenza best full-sized sedan for 2014.) For top-notch ride and comfort, and an overall feeling of quality at well under $40K, skip the A3 or CLA250 or Avalon or LaCrosse and head right down to your Kia dealer.
BY THE NUMBERS
0-60: 6.3 secs (Motor Trend, 2014)
Curb weight: 3,670 lbs
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