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2014 Kia Cadenza road test

Kia Motors has established itself as being anything but the establishment. This Korean carmaker seeks the unexpected, turns gimmicks into game-changers and, generally, sets the standard for standard equipment, including long warranties.

The latest from this automotive rebel is a full-size sedan

, the 2014 Cadenza. While it has its elements of shock and awe, the Cadenza mission appears to be more buttoned-down with attractive but tame exterior styling and wood-trimmed interior with standard leather upholstery and a just about every current electronic enhancement – from voice-recognized infotainment to ventilated front seats.

All models use a 283-hp, 3.3-liter direct-injection V-6 and six-speed automatic.

The Cadenza is familiar as the slightly less pretty partner to the Hyundai Azera. Other mainstream, front-wheel drive competition comes from the Chevy Impala, Toyota Avalon and Nissan Maxima.

Starting prices range from $35,900, including the $800 freight charge from Korea, to about $42,000.

The Cadenza fits into "the emerging space between mainstream and luxury and will appeal to discerning shoppers in the market for an upscale sedan,” Kia says.

The test car was loaded with every factory option, which is just two packages: Technology, $3,000, adds smart cruise control, blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, electric parking brake, 19-inch wheels and hydrophobic front door windows, which like the name implies resists the adhesion of rainwater.

The Luxury package, also $3,000, includes a panoramic roof with power sunshade, HID headlights, Nappa leather, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, power tilt-telescopic steering wheel and power rear sunshade.

The engineering and foundation are solid and robust. The doors open wide for comfortable entry and exit. Headroom is tops at 40 inches and back seat is enjoyable with more than three feet of legroom and broad room to spread out. Trunk space is generous at nearly 16 cubic feet and expandable with a 60/40 folding back seat.
Interior design is contemporary but subdued. There is plenty of room to place controls in a logical configuration, with buttons or switches simply placed for audio volume, channel changing or adjusting temp and fan speed.

The driver need only use UVO (Your Voice), the information and entertainment system, for fun things or emergency procedures. It is an easy helpmate.

The cabin is quiet over all types of road surfaces. And braking is confident from 12.6-inch vented front discs and solid 11.2-inch sold rear discs. The turning circle of 36.5 feet makes this cruiser as nimble as a compact.

Ride quality is luxury class with responsive handling without sport-sedan toughness. The V-6 pours out rich and ready power with good pull in the upper rpm range. The six-speed Sportmatic doles out well-timed shifts, but flagship sedans are now debuting seven-, eight- and nine-speed transmissions. EPA fuel economy ratings are 19 mpg city, 28 highway and 22 combined, using regular unleaded. I was averaging 22 to 24 mpg in combined city/highway driving.

The exterior styling is a little bit Japanese, a little bit European and defined by the Kia grille. The paint colors are cold, not cool. Choose from black, white, bronze, smoky blue, dark gray and light gray. No dynamic reds? No azure blue or teal green? Interiors are beige or black with a Nappa white leather upgrade in the Luxury package.

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