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Kia Cadenza goes upwardly mobile (pictures)

Kia pushes into a new market with its Cadenza, attempting to captures buyers interested in high-tech and premium quality.

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Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 15 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
Kia, which launched in the U.S. as an economy brand, has reshaped itself with new models over the past few years, bolstering its popularity and image through advanced technology. The Cadenza represents Kia's attempt to reach a premium segment by offering a full-size sedan with quality materials and even more advanced technology than offered in previous cars.
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Part of the Kia story has to do with attractive, new designs. The Cadenza follows the lines of the Optima model, but also shows some key differences. For example, the front end has been made more subtle, befitting a premium level car.
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Headlights, which point into a turn on the Tech trim, include a diffused LED parking strip over the top of the casing.
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The standard glass roof allows for a sunroof over the front seats and moonroof over the rear.
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The Cadenza uses front-wheel-drive architecture where most luxury cars in the U.S. have rear-wheel-drive. Kia is betting that distinction will make little difference to buyers.
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Kia makes the navigation system, Bluetooth phone system, digital audio, and an Infinity audio system standard in all trim levels of the Cadenza.
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The rear-seat legroom is exceptionally good, highlighting the large sedan format of the Cadenza. The rear seats are fixed, however, with only a pass-through to the trunk.
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The Cadenza uses electric power-steering boost, a means of helping fuel economy. An LCD serves as the platform for a virtual speedometer in both the Premium and Tech trim levels of the Cadenza.
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The Tech-trim Cadenza includes advanced driver-assistance features, such as adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and a blind-spot monitor.
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The standard navigation uses a touch-screen interface. The screen responds instantly to inputs, and although only top-view maps are available, the design is very nice.
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The destination entry screen includes shortcuts to some points-of-interest categories. Voice command also works very well for destination input, letting you say an entire address string rather than separate street name, number, and city.
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Traffic data incorporated into the navigation system is very extensive, covering many secondary roads.
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HD radio comes standard in the Cadenza, and includes an interface for listening to multicast stations.
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Audio sources include Bluetooth streaming, iOS integration, and USB drives plugged into the car's USB port.
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The Cadenza's stereo shows this music library interface for iOS devices, but offers only a file-and-folder view when playing music from a USB drive. Voice command does not let you request music by name.

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