(San Diego, CA) The folks at Kia who have by the way been doing nothing but a bang up job at rolling out vehicles that give you bang for the buck, say that after the top of the line Optima sedan, their customers who want more have nowhere to go but another brand. That’s why the Cadenza was born.

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A little bigger and much more upscale, the Cadenza is Kia’s first attempt at keeping that customer who wants to move up from moving out of a Kia store and into somebody else’s entry level luxury sedan. So the first question is how did they do?

After spending a day rolling around the hills outside of San Diego, the short verdict is not bad.

Taking the Cadenza through it's paces. Photo Credit Greg Jarem

Taking the Cadenza through it’s paces. Photo Credit Greg Jarem

The Cadenza is a sharp looking car with the distinctive front grille and lamp treatment made a bit more distinctive on the Cadenza. A sharp profile with well placed lines and an athletic looking stance give way to a fairly Audi-esque looking rear complete with oval dual exhaust ports.

The Cadenza is Kia's largest and most powerful car. Photo Credit Vinnie Richichi

The Cadenza is Kia’s largest and most powerful car. Photo Credit Vinnie Richichi

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Inside, the Cadenza gets high marks on fit and finish as well as materials. A ten-way power driver’s seat with heating and cooling and six-way passenger seat with just heating come with the car. Rear seats are also heated. Leg room is more than ample especially in the rear when they put that extra two inches they stretched the platform. The dash is well laid out, logical and Kia’s UVO e-services system is among the best in the business. It takes connecting you to the car to a new level.  It also comes with a 10-year free subscription and smartphone app. The fully loaded Cadenza I spent the day in also included a spectacular Infinity sound system and panoramic sunroof.

Under the hood the Cadenza gets Kia’s 3.3-liter 6-cylinder that cranks out 293 horses. Married up to Kia’s 6-speed automatic, it moved the sedan through the hills quite briskly. Paddle shifters are included with every model and give you a bit more of the sports sedan feel. Jumping on to the freeway is done without laboring the engine and passing on a two-lane road when safe is done with confidence that the engine has more to give if you need it.

The ride is generally solid and confident due to a great set of suspension components although hitting a number of potholes can be a bit jarring. Steering is light, with minimal road feel , but the Cadenza never felt hincky on curves. Braking was solid and confident.

One of the great things about the Cadenza is that as I said you get bang for your buck especially when it comes to safety. Distronic cruise control, blind spot warning, lane departure control and a number of other safety systems usually found in cars costing more are in the Cadenza.

Kia starts the Cadenza at $35,100 pretty well loaded. Add Technology and Luxury packages and you get to $41,100-plus destination. It is without a doubt a lot of car for the money. Fuel mileage figures…19 city 28 highway.  In my day in the Kia with combined freeway and rural driving we averaged 22 mpg. The Cadenza uses regular unleaded gas.

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The Cadenza is an impressive effort by Kia. In 8 hours or so of driving it, I came away with almost the same thought I had when I drove its cousin the Hyundai Azera. A solid effort to create a better than you would expect car. One that should keep the Kia buyer that wants more, in a Kia showroom. How will it do against the Maximas, Avalons, Taurus’ and Impalas of the automotive jungle? Ah…that my friends is the $41,100 question!