Kia Cadenza test drive an eye-opener
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.