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2014 Kia Cadenza review:

The Cadenza proves Kia can do luxury

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The Good With an LCD speedometer, a responsive user interface, and many driver-assistance features, the 2014 Kia Cadenza is a tech juggernaut. Solid dynamics and luxury cabin appointments make the Cadenza a pleasure to drive.

The Bad Although Uvo eServices gives it some telematics features, there is no integration with popular apps. There is no perspective view for the navigation system.

The Bottom Line The large, premium 2014 Kia Cadenza sedan might seem pricey by Kia standards but compares well feature-by-feature with other premium makes.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.7 Overall
  • Cabin tech 8.0
  • Performance tech 7.0
  • Design 8.0

Update: Kia released pricing and new details about trim levels on April 19, 2013. The Cadenza wil be available for a base price of $35,100. The Luxury package, referred to in this review as Premium, raises the price to $38,100. Kia set the price of the Technology package Cadenza at $41,100.

Driving the 2014 Kia Cadenza, I contemplated the older-model Mercedes-Benz E320 sitting in front of me, and realized that the Kia had a much better cabin.

The thought of comparing Kia favorably with Mercedes-Benz was unheard of 10 years ago.

Issues of used versus new aside, this Cadenza's leather-wrapped steering wheel felt excellent in my hands, while wood trim around the cabin had the substantial look of furniture. And I don't usually like glossy wood trim. Soft-touch materials covered the dashboard, and the plastic parts had a nice finish that was decidedly un-plasticky.

If you thought Kia was punching above its weight with the new Optima, the Cadenza takes the brand into an even higher class.

The Cadenza has actually been sold in Korea for a couple of years as the K7, but it will take the Cadenza name in most other markets. With its design and cabin appointments and technology, the Cadenza fits into the premium market, going up against brands such as Volvo and Lexus. Its front-wheel-drive architecture is the only thing holding it back from full-blown competition against the German luxury class.

Standard tech
Although the Cadenza will come in three trims -- a base level, Premium, and Tech -- all make navigation, Bluetooth, and an Infinity audio system standard. The seats, covered in leather as standard, feature power adjustment both for driver and passenger. The preproduction Tech trim car I was driving had heated seats, but Kia says it will also include a cooling function.

Making the Tech-trim Cadenza more of a CNET-style car were an electronic parking brake, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and a blind-spot monitor. The Cadenza included a back-up camera, but it had only distance lines, with no trajectory guide.

2014 Kia Cadenza

The speedometer looks analog but is really virtual.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Both the Premium and Tech trim Cadenzas come with one of my favorite features, an LCD speedometer. The graphics of the speedometer needle look so realistic that it took me a moment to figure out that it was all virtual. And while the startup animation for the speedometer looks cool, the real functionality comes in the graphical flexibility. The center of the speedometer can show trip data, audio, phone, or turn-by-turn route guidance -- driver's choice.

The LCD speedometer includes graphics for some of the driver-assistance functions as well. With adaptive cruise control active, a yellow line wraps around the speedometer dial to show the car's set speed. A small graphic in the upper right indicates the Cadenza's set following distance, and whether its radar is locked on another car ahead.

The speedometer display includes loads of functionality and also looks really good.

Kia also includes its new Uvo eServices feature in the Cadenza, at all trim levels. Uvo eServices came out earlier this year in the new Sorento and Forte models. This new telematics feature integrates a smartphone app with the car, and includes automated emergency assistance, roadside assistance, car diagnostics and service scheduling, and remote destination programming for the navigation system. Kia Chief Technology Strategist Henry Bzeih demonstrated some of Uvo eServices for me.

On a PC, Bzeih loaded up Google maps, found a destination, then chose Google's Send to Car function. The destination appeared in the smartphone app's points-of-interest list. Taking the phone to the car, Bzeih wirelessly ported the POI list to the navigation system. The app, which runs on iOS or Android, also includes a feature for finding destinations. However, there is no option to look up a location on the phone's Google Maps app and port it to the Uvo eServices app, a fault Bzeih attributed to the way Google programmed its mobile Maps app.

Bzeih also made the car generate a diagnostics report using the head unit, then sent it to the phone. Because Uvo eServices does not rely on a call center, automating most of its functions, there is no monthly fee for users.

Graphic guidance
Although the standard navigation system lacks perspective-view maps, I still came away very impressed. The map design looks good and proved easy to read. In downtown San Francisco, it even showed some landmark buildings as small graphical renderings.

2014 Kia Cadenza

The Cadenza's maps only show in this flat view, but look much better than most.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET

When it came to route guidance, this system really shone. Graphics for upcoming turns were vibrant and on freeways showed a good representation of junctions and off-ramps. The system showed lane guidance whenever it was needed, and asked me if I wanted to reroute when traffic problems arose on the route. Traffic coverage was also much more extensive than I had seen previously, thanks to broader coverage from Sirius/XM, which beams the data to the car.

A few of the destination entry screens could have been streamlined, as I was forced to push more buttons than should really have been needed.

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