Kia Cadenza test drive an eye-opener

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - AUTOS - By Robert K. Rooney

CAL­GARY — It isn’t easy get­ting a brand es­tab­lished, es­pe­cially in the au­to­mo­bile busi­ness. Go­ing up against names that have been part of the in­dus­try for a century or more is a daunt­ing task. An au­to­mo­bile is a ma­jor pur­chase for most people, so they tend to go with what they know.

Per­haps the big­gest suc­cess story in the in­dus­try in re­cent years has been the rise of the South Korean man­u­fac­tur­ers Hyundai and Kia to promi­nence. Their path to suc­cess was one blazed by com­pa­nies such as Toy­ota and Honda sev­eral decades ago — sell cus­tomers their first car be­cause of price, and have value bring them back when they’re ready to buy again.

There comes a time when dom­i­nat­ing the en­try-level seg­ment isn’t enough, when even your most loyal cus­tomer starts as­pir­ing to a bet­ter car with more fea­tures and pres­tige. There is also more profit mar­gin in an ex­pen­sive car than in an in­ex­pen­sive one.

Kia has de­cided to ad­dress this sit­u­a­tion by adding a new pre­mium line called the Cadenza. Larger and more plush and of­fer­ing more fea­tures than any Kia in his­tory, the Cadenza is a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment for the com­pany and cer­tainly a bold step in terms of its tra­di­tional brand im­age.

When Dave De­Boer from Cal­gary learned he was to be the People’s Test Driver for the 2014 Cadenza, he had an open mind.

“I’d never heard of the car,” he ad­mits. “I’d never driven, or sat in, a Kia.”

At 43 years old and “a car guy to some ex­tent,” De­Boer’s tastes do run to im­ports. Af­ter learn­ing to drive on his mother’s 1979 Oldsmo­bile Cut­lass, he be­gan buy­ing a suc­ces­sion of Ja­panese im­ports. In the De­Boer drive­way right now are a Nis­san Ar­mada for his wife Ch­eryl and the fam­ily, and De­Boer’s com­muter car, an Audi A4.

When he bought the Audi, De­Boer ex­plains, he was look­ing for a mid­sized car with all-wheel drive that was fun to drive.

“I’m look­ing for the best value,” he says.

The Cadenza made an im­pres­sion on De­Boer im­me­di­ately.

“I was pretty im­pressed with it at first glance,” he says. “I liked the ag­gres­sive styling of it.”

The up­scale Kia’s in­te­rior worked for him, too. De­Boer says he found a com­fort­able driv­ing po­si­tion with one ad­just­ment of the power seat, and the lay­out of the con­trols and in­stru­ments was def­i­nitely to his lik­ing, in­clud­ing a num­ber of new fea­tures he hadn’t pre­vi­ously ex­pe­ri­enced. The rear-view mir­ror seemed a bit in­tru­sive ini­tially, De­Boer notes, but he soon got used to it.

De­Boer re­ports Ch­eryl found the pas­sen­ger seat “com­fort­able and roomy” and the cou­ple’s two teenage chil­dren ap­proved of the room, es­pe­cially the legroom, in the back seat. The Cadenza has a big trunk, De­Boer says.

“We had a full-sized hockey bag in there. It gob­bled it up and there was still lots of room.”

Us­ing the new Kia in a mix­ture of city and high­way driv­ing, De­Boer found it excels in the lat­ter en­vi­ron­ment.

“I thought it was out­stand­ing — very com­fort­able and re­ally quiet. The GPS works ex­cel­lently,” he says. “Even though it is a big ve­hi­cle, you could get up to speed with­out any is­sue. Pass­ing on the high­way was no prob­lem. It has lots of power — more than you need. I liked the ad­vanced drive­abil­ity fea­tures — the Smart cruise con­trol and the lane-de­par­ture warn­ing sys­tem.

“One of my ab­so­lute favourite fea­tures was the blind-spot de­tec­tion sys­tem. It gave you a high level of con­fi­dence.”

In town, De­Boer found the Kia a bit large, but points out, “It has a lot of nice crea­ture com­forts — heated steer­ing wheel, heated and cooled driver’s seat and a good sound sys­tem. It’s a great car to be stuck in stop-andgo traf­fic in.

“It’s kind of the com­plete pack­age. There are no ma­jor faults with it,” De­Boer states when asked what he thinks could be im­proved. “The sus­pen­sion was a lit­tle softer than is my pref­er­ence; I like a lit­tle stiffer sus­pen­sion. It han­dles fine, but I wouldn’t say han­dling is one of its strengths. I think it caters more to the lux­ury crowd — maybe a lit­tle older driver who wants a softer ride.”

When asked if he would buy a Cadenza, De­Boer has reser­va­tions — based partly on its size and partly on con­cerns about re­sale value.

“I think Kia, even though they’re get­ting a good rep­u­ta­tion for re­li­a­bil­ity and qual­ity, in terms of be­ing a high-end brand isn’t there yet. The Kia name is as­so­ci­ated with econ­omy,” he says. “I think they’ll have to change the name­plate on it. I think it would be more suc­cess­ful with a pres­tige name­plate. People who are go­ing to spend that kind of money on a ve­hi­cle, half of what they’re buy­ing is the brand.

“Un­equiv­o­cally, I liked this car,” De­Boer in­sists. “I thought it might be a lower-end ve­hi­cle dressed up, but it re­ally is a lux­ury ve­hi­cle. I’ve driven some nice ve­hi­cles and this ranks pretty high up there. It ex­ceeded my ex­pec­ta­tions. I was sad to see it go.”

The 2014 Kia Cadenza test-driven by Dave De­Boer in Cal­gary.

De­Boer found the lay­out of the Kia’s con­trols and in­stru­ments to his lik­ing.

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