When the Kia Cadenza was launched in Manila, they had tigers guarding the car in a glass case. The tigers were supposed to symbolize the power, aggression and the stately attitude of the car.
With 290 bhp at its mercy, the output of the Cadenza is what you would call raw rather than refined. Through 338 Nm of rich torque, the profligate throttle makes the power readily available in bursts rather than seamlessly delivered to a relatively smooth gearshift. With the peak power availability set as high as 6600 rpm, the Cadenza picks up well and feels even faster thanks to the accompanying roar.
The drive seems heavy and you feel secure for it, but during quick maneuvers, the seeming lag in weight shifting interferes with the feeling of stability. Braking is effective but it sure isn’t a silent sweep to a stop. As for the foot-well parking brake, remember to depress it deep when you pull up and lift off, because there aren’t any beeps to warn you about it.
The side mirrors work around blind spots with minimal aid from a glance back – appropriately so, because the B pillar, which is further behind the driver, would have made shoulder checks a pain in the neck.
The steel rimmed grille, with its stylish indents at the top and bottom, has evolved as Kia’s signature of the recent renaissance. It looks good to greet you, and your envious neighbor!
Let’s grant it to Kia. The brand (like its sibling Hyundai) has always looked up to only those who are worthy of it. The impressive LED lights warrant a second look as do those pomegranate red lights slicing into the boot lid like two eagles – both reminiscent of the Audi A4. But somehow, having no lip spoiler adds to the Cadenza’s individuality. The Europe-styled shark fin glass antenna would have scored more, only if the radio reception were better.
The resemblance to Audi wouldn’t be much of a surprise when you realise it was designed by Peter Schreyer, the same guy who designed the original TT. However, the blend of beige and glistening black on the door and dash trims stands out somewhat sore. The minimalistic console is offset by its black envelope, which feels all-too plasticky and would better suit a midi hi-fi display.
Comforts and controls
More than a hint of luxury: Ventilated, electric massaging seats and the extendable knee rest are a blessing on long drives while I found the flaccid headrest quite relaxing to press one’s neck against. The full version also comes with memory-programmed electric driver seats. The responsive rear blinds and side mirrors that go down as you shift to reverse, complement the rear view camera in easing out parking hurdles. Significantly, these are comforts that you normally sign up for with your Mont Blanc.
Storage: The dash comes clean with hardly any button but for the Air-Conditioning’s manual dual control knobs. Which means, a good part of the dash also has been converted into concealed storage space. There are thoughtful niches all around, for things big and small including space for a dozen CDs under the armrest. Good, coz the storage compartment in the dash can store nothing more than an empty wallet besides your car’s manual and service book.
Cabin lighting: If lighting can make a subject photogenic, it does a great favour for the Cadenza’s interiors. The control panel, otherwise unassuming in daylight, turns impressive with the hint of phosphorescent blue that lights up the dials. The questionable presence of aluminium panels below the dash and on the door is also redeemed by the underside glow of red that comes on with the lights. In emulating the luxury defined by the Lexus ES, Cadenza highlights its own interiors with soft red lighting on the handles, foot wells and doorsills.
Sound effects: Noise interferes with the luxury concept in the Kia Cadenza. While it’s irksome to hear the wind chatter above your own, the engine too isn’t one of those quieter ones. Though I should admit, in an adventurous mood, it is sometimes invigorating to hear the V6 roar, announcing the magnificent power like the two smoke-spitting parallelograms at the rear also do!
Despite the higher decibels of everything else, the AC works effectively and quietly – unlike its noisy counterparts in many other cars in the segment.
The panoramic sunroof split by a centre bar can add to the largeness of the cabin, while kids might be disappointed that only the front roof can actually open up. For picnics or airport pick-ups, 450 L of boot space is as much as you would expect of a large family sedan.
Baby boomers, take note. Avoid buying a slide-on ISOFIX seat because Kia doesn’t seem to have heard of those yet.
The 3.5 L V6 is ostensibly thirsty for today’s changing standards but in line with American and Korean cars generally. My Drive clocked a mixed fuel economy of approx. 8km/L (12.5 L per 100 km) while it could be significantly lower if you made the V6 roar too frequently. The 70 L tank would still be good enough for 560 km +.
Brand Value Vs Value Brand
Kia has been gaining brand respect, not just market share, in the recent years. The Korean ensign’s audacious attempt to position itself as an alternative to high-end luxury brands by drawing a parallel to them has paid off, urging to a halt those who are willing to settle down for a likeness of their ideal.
The confidence that buyers invest is generously backed by Kia’s unlimited 5year manufacturer warranty. At AED 86000 to 104000, Kia Cadenza asserts that a brand is all about the value it offers.
The last word
The Cadenza sure makes you feel big by itself and complacent about the good size of luxury you amassed for the little you spent. But on careful scrutiny, it fails to hold them together with the stamp of class and refinement, which are still an extra mile ahead of the curb that Kia aspires to negotiate more smoothly than it does now.
Upside: Upgrade a couple of rungs in luxury without paying for it. Enough power to create a stir. Legroom of a large premium saloon. Overall good looks warrant a second glance. Unlimited 5-year warranty.
Flipside: Lacks originality in some areas. Drive and handling doesn’t feel premium despite the power. A few ill-coordinated elements in cabin design.
Drive Courtesy: KIA UAE
Picture Courtesy: KIA UAE, Sudeep Koshy