2014 Kia Cadenza, aspiring to more: Motoramic Drives
Let’s say you’re ready to buy a new car. And let’s say that the last few years had been good to you, financially, and you have somewhere between $35,000 and $40,000 to spend. Would the first thing that comes to mind be: I’m going to get myself a Kia? No. It wouldn’t. But with their new 2014 Kia Cadenza “premium” sedan, Kia is angling to change your mind.
The word Kia loosely translates as “rising out of Asia,” and Kia has definitely risen. From humble World War II-era beginnings, when the company manufactured steel tubing and bicycle parts by hand, and an equally humble middle period, where it existed mainly to make Mazda-derived vehicles sold as cheap Ford nameplates, suddenly Kia is the 8th-largest car brand in the United States by volume, outselling such household names as Volkswagen, BMW, Mazda, and Chrysler with 557,000 new vehicles sold here last year.
Kia’s current rise can mostly be pegged to 2006, when it began to shift its focus from making dime-cars, hiring Peter Schreyer away from Audi as Chief Design Officer, declaring design its “core future growth engine.” Soon after, Schreyer debuted Kia’s “tiger nose” grille, establishing it as the car’s calling card. Kia relaunched the Sorento CUV in 2009, the youth-oriented, brilliantly-marketed, and extremely recognizable Kia Soul in 2010, and a sleekly redesigned Optima sedan in 2011. It sold 152,000 Optimas in 2012 alone, to customers it believed would eventually be able to take the leap up from affordable mid-sized cars. Slowly, the company was trying to persuade consumers that Kia could be an aspirational brand.
Enter the Cadenza, an all-new car which Kia calls its entry in the “emerging premium space between mainstream and luxury.” It’s questionable whether or not that space actually exists outside of marketing land, but in Kia’s mind, they’re straddling the line between stalwarts like the Toyota Avalon, the Nissan Maxima, the Ford Taurus and the Chevy Impala, and entry-level luxury cars like the Lexus ES and Acura TL. Kia wants the Cadenza to play with the big boys in the segment. So that’s how it’ll be judged.
The company claims that the Cadenza’s exterior design has a “distinctive sport sedan form, as if the car would be equally comfortable on the Autobahn or carving through the Swiss Alps.” We drove the Cadenza in San Francisco and environs, so it’s impossible to speak to its Alpine capability, but it does look and feel something like a sports sedan. The exterior design isn’t going to blow any minds, but it also doesn’t have any significant flaws, with an elegant silhouette, chrome accents, twin tailpipes, and, on the highest trim package, 19-inch alloy wheels that give it strong shoulders.