Road test: 2017 Kia Cadenza

The first Kia I ever reviewed was the Credos, a medium-large saloon. The year was 1998, and although Kia had then already been around for more than 50 years, it was still a fledgling brand on the world stage. It showed.

There wasn’t anything drastically wrong, but it was hardly class of the field, having sourced core mechanicals from an old-generation Mazda. It was dependable, but lagged behind competitors in build quality, refinement and on-road composure.

It goes to show how much can be achieved in less than two decades, because the all-new ­Cadenza feels in no way related to the Credos. Unlike its utilitarian ancestor, the full-spec Cadenza is pitched against the Toyota Avalon and Nissan Maxima, but could also conceivably pinch a few sales from the likes of Lexus, ­Infiniti and Cadillac. Prices begin at Dh85,000, but if you want all the bells and whistles, you will need to fork out more than 130,000, which is still a lot less than you would pay for any of the opposition when similarly kitted out.

I expect a thin veneer of ­“premium” quality in the trying-­hard norm of wannabe luxury cars formerly churned out by South Korean brands, but the cabin ambience is actually hospitable. There’s excellent use of soft-touch materials, piano-­black inlays, contrasting trim elements and sumptuous leather trim. There’s a real sense of flair and artistry in the way it’s all laid out.

The seats are comfortable, and even rear occupants have vast amounts of space, as well as their own air-conditioning and audio controls. The full-fat model I’m testing comes with an excellent 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, head-up display, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, panoramic sunroof, satnav with 8-inch display and loads more.

The illusion isn’t shattered once on the move. The 3.3L V6 is creamy smooth – albeit not neck-straining in its potency – and the eight-speed auto is similarly silky. The chassis plays its part by isolating the occupants from speed humps and road-surface irregularities. The flip side of the soft suspension is that you encounter body roll and under­steer if you start hustling through corners. But that’s not really what this car is about – it’s an opulent cruiser. Driven as such, it’s suitably poised and cocoon-like.

Although slightly larger than a BMW 5 Series or Mercedes E-Class, the Cadenza tips the scales at a relatively lithe 1,651kg – thanks to its lighter, stiffer new platform – boosting efficiency.

Peter Schreyer, Kia’s design chief, formerly served at Audi, penning iterations of the TT, A4, A6 and other models. Some styling influences have carried over, but the Cadenza’s design language is fresh and contemporary.

Should you buy the Cadenza if you’re in the market for an affordable luxury saloon? If you favour a slightly sporty drive experience, opt for the Maxima or an entry-level prestige German saloon, but if your emphasis is on comfort and features, the Kia shapes up as a strong contender.

motoring@thenational.ae

Published: September 22, 2016 04:00 AM

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