KIA Cadenza
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Overall

Big four-door family car has luxury leanings and oh-so-pleasing styling; shares Hyundai Azera architecture

Drivetrain

293-horsepower 3.3-liter V6 and a six-speed automatic transmission

The Cadenza’s introduction is a significant one for this Hyundai subsidiary. The brand that once sold mainly small and inexpensive cars has gradually expanded its lineup to include a variety of smartly styled vehicles that look nothing like their Hyundai counterparts. The Cadenza is a prime example of this philosophy. It’s similar in size and shares the same stretched architecture as the Hyundai Azera. Rock-star stylist Peter Schreyer’s efforts have yielded a subtle-looking sedan that conveys a greater sense of class and polish than the Azera’s trendier looks. Clearly the Cadenza is Kia’s attempt to gain favor with more mature buyers who place pampering content atop their must-have criteria. The interior design work is equally low-key, but is right in step with most luxury-oriented models. The hardware and trim are first-rate, the big and round gauges are easy to read and the steering wheel is comfortably thick. There’s no shortage of dashboard and steering wheel switches and buttons to fiddle with, but at least they’re clearly marked. The start button controls a 3.3-liter V6 with 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. Initially, the Azera-based engine balks at being pushed too hard, likely in the interests of maintaining its 19-mpg city and 28-mpg highway rating (using regular-grade gasoline). Pushed hard enough, it will gather itself up and push you back into your seat. Connected to the V6 is a six-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Although seemingly tailored for older buyers, the car’s “sport-tuned” suspension is somewhat firmer than that of some competitors. Content-wise, the Cadenza certainly has its luxury game going on. Base models pile on the goodies with a leather-fitted interior, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control with front- and rear-seat ventilation, navigation system with eight-inch touch-screen display, rear camera with backup warning and a 550-watt Infinity-brand sound system. To that you can add Luxury and/or Technology packages, the latter including 19-inch wheels (18-inchers are standard) plus a feature that Kia calls hydrophobic front side windows that will repel water, such as during a rainstorm. You can check it out on Youtube.com and see it in action.

Base price (incl. destination): $35,900
Type: Full-size, four-door sedan
Base engine (hp): 3.3-liter DOHC V6 (293)
Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
MPG (city/hwy): 19/28
Safety: Front airbags; front/rear side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
Weight (lb.): 3,470