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2014 International Car of the Year - 2014 Kia Cadenza

Celebrating its 25th Anniversary
Road & Travel Magazine Names

2014 KIA Cadenza

2014 International Car of the Year

Range Rover Evoque Named 2012 International Truck of the Year - Road & Travel Magazine

sponsored by

Bridgestone Tire Sponsors 2013 International Car of the Year Awards - Presented by Road & Travel Magazine

Review by Martha Hindes | Press Release

For someone searching for the optimal new luxurious sedan, with must-have amenities, a tuxedo-crisp interior, handsome and shapely exterior with just the right touch of pizazz, a soft touch in how it treats the driver, but unrelenting compliance in its road manners, is there more than one stop to make? Not if the first stop was for the all-new 2014 Kia Cadenza.

And if finding all that in one-stop shopping wasn't enough, consider the realization this crème de la crème offering didn't bring truffle pricing as part of the deal. Would you consider that hitting the High C in the most resplendent of grand opera arias? At Road & Travel Magazine we do.

The Cadenza is Kia's new, full-sized flagship sedan meant to carry the mantel of emerging luxury for the brand. And somehow the company has learned in a short time what on occasion has taken some contenders decades to understand, whether solely U.S.-based or from faraway places: Consumers want upscale, but they aren't necessarily willing to hock the house to get it. The Cadenza gives orchestra seating style and quality at second balcony pricing.

The Cadenza, for Kia, could be considered a watershed model designed to put a crowning touch on the widely diversified offering of vehicles from the energetic South Korean company. With deliberation and determination those have evolved in a short time from barely noticeable bargain hunters' entries on the auto scene when it first hit American shores to a full-fledged stable of prime specimens.

The appearance of the Cadenza on 2014 shopping lists of luxury-conscious consumers confirms its claim it finally has filled the lineup's vacant "want it all" entry upmarket slot with notable success. And the car that has done it is appealing to a wide spectrum of style and quality-conscious drivers, rather than being limited to a narrow band of gear-head or specialty-car enthusiasts. This is an auto a discerning vehicle owner can embrace with pride.

And those are just some of the reasons the Kia Cadenza has earned top honors as RTM’s 2014 International Car of the Year.

"The Kia Cadenza wins in this category for a variety of reasons, including Kia's remarkable effort to emerge in the entry-lux category," said RTM editor, Courtney Caldwell. "Overall, the car is beautiful and affordable, making upscale style and performance attainable by mid-America. We applaud Kia's rapid rise from underdog to unbelievable!"

On its 25th anniversary, Road & Travel Magazine editors were proud to announce that the Kia Cadenza won its 2014 International Car of the Year Award. “Kia, now celebrating its 20th anniversary in the U.S. market, is among the first to clearly market their products across gender lines in a way that is appealing to both sexes with marketing campaigns that reflect consumer lifestyles of today, not as they were in the 50s,” said Caldwell.

Michael Sprague, EVP Communications, Kia Motors America, accepts award for 2014 International Car of the Year for the Kia Cadenza
Presenting the trophy to Michael Sprague are Mike Martini, President Bridgestone America OE
& ICOTY sponsor; Courtney Caldwell, editor in chief, Road & Travel Magazine (RTM); and Shannon Caldwell-Roche, Social Media Manager, RTM.

Accepting the trophy for the 2014 International Car of the Year Award was Michael Sprague, executive vice president of marketing & communications, KMA. “This year marks Kia’s 20th anniversary in the U.S. market and since our humble beginnings we have been known for taking bold steps. The 2014 Cadenza is another leap forward for the brand and has brought new and affluent customers into our retailers,” said Sprague. “To win the prestigious ICOTY award two years running is a clear indication that our products continue to offer the perfect balance of design, amenities and value for today’s discerning car buyers.”

Just the Cadenza name elicits a certain panache for the upwardly mobile, reflecting an auto that opens the door of uncompromising attitude for the discerning. That's a feeling underscored by Kia's all-important advertising presentation that sets the tone for months to come.

Caldwell, who founded the International Car of the Year Awards a quarter century ago, said the awards have always been based on the "emotional connection" automakers make with consumers through marketing and advertising as well as the product itself. “The mission was and always has been to guide marketers into the direction that it's possible to market cars with women in the driver's seat without turning male drivers off,” she said. "There is a balance that appeals to both genders."

She gave an example of a reason the Cadenza has come across as so appealing to such a diversity of drivers: Kia's (equalizer) commercial called "Impossible to Ignore" with a David Bowie sound track. "It not only puts a woman in the driver's seat but does it in a way that is respectful and dignified to women consumers yet keeps the car appealing to men. Equality marketing serves both genders (and sales) each of whom contribute to the breadwinner role and decision making," she said. "This commercial, along with Cadenza's good looks, moved us deeply. And if it moved us it will move consumers therefore accomplishing the goal of making a strong emotional connection!"

Beyond the Cadenza name – synonymous with the brilliant, florid virtuoso display in the final measures of a great musical composition – what does the auto bring to the luxury-minded vehicle owner?

First, there are two trim levels, Premium and Limited. Our handsome, muted "Smokey Blue" Premium test model with HID headlamps with adaptive lighting system (Luxury Package) and standard fog lights gave us a good assessment of what a Cadenza buyer would get. With a $35,100 base price ($41,900 as tested), and touched inside with premium wood and chrome accents, it was loaded with the kinds of "ahhhh" amenities a luxury driver would appreciate. And with the kinds of pluses one undoubtedly would pay dearly for in a widely-acclaimed competitive luxury vehicle staple.

As we unlocked the car, the power side mirrors with turn indicators that had been neatly folded inward to prevent damage while parked (very European) opened up. We noticed the power-front passenger seat with power lumbar support, push button start, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter and leather seat trim -- all standard -- as soon as we got inside. With winter cold firmly entrenched, we didn't have an opportunity to test the automatic rain-sensing wipers, but would appreciate their presence during a summer rainstorm. White Nappa leather seat trim gave the interior a formal, yet classic appearance. Our classy concert attire would have blended in nicely.

A backup warning system and rear camera display kept us alert to dangers behind us as we proceeded to back out. And our standard advanced navigation system, with EVO eServices for connectivity and techy needs, had a wide 8-inch screen and easy-to-follow mapping devoid of the kind of excessive and distracting icons that are annoying on some high-end vehicles.

The front-drive Cadenza is powered by a standard, direct-injected 3.3-liter V6 engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It features "Sportmatic" function for those times one feels like emulating stick shift driving. Steering wheel mounted paddle shifters are there to accommodate. The power train churns out 293 horsepower and 255 lb.-ft. of torque, and its responsive steering and suspension treatment gave it a sporty character we enjoyed in addition to its luxury leanings.

Fuel economy isn't the premium accomplishment of this powerplant that was rated for our test model at a combined 22 miles-per-gallon (19 city/28 highway). Since most of our driving was city, we didn't achieve the higher fuel economy rating during our drive, but consider it acceptably good compared with some other high-end vehicle types that require premium fuel instead of the Cadenza's regular.

A happy Michael Sprague proudly displays Kia's 2nd year-running International Car of the Year Award
Michael Sprague, EVP of marketing & communications, KMA, displays the 2014 International Car of the Year award for the Kia Cadenza. 2014 marks Kia's 20th anniversary in the U.S. market.

On the options side, despite the additional $3K for each, we appreciated two of three available packages added to enhance the luxury experience. The Luxury Package, with heated steering wheel, made driving feel delicious on a gloomy, frigid day. Its panoramic roof with power sunshade was a vista-expanding touch. The power driver's seat cushion extension would accommodate a lanky driver in comfort. And heated outboard rear seating would keep rear passengers comfortably cozy. The available Technology Package with blind spot detection and lane departure warning system kept us feeling secure, as government safety ratings (reflecting, full-system advanced airbags, traction and stability control, anti-lock braking and vehicle stability management) are pending. So did the Advanced Smart Cruise Control we could set to keep us a specified distance from the car in front, and stop us if necessary. Front side windows are designed to be water repellant, a package plus called “hydrophobic.” And we couldn't help feeling a tad smug with the appearance of the package's 19-inch alloy wheels. The White Interior leather package was listed as "no charge."

For those with international driving intentions, the Cadenza provides a bonus for traveling beyond U.S. borders. For a trip into Canada, for example, where distance is measured in kilometers rather than in miles, a nifty, small gauge in the upper right of the display gives simultaneous kilometer readout while driving so one can keep speed-conscious Mounties at bay.

Our assessment? We think "Bravo" is an appropriate exclamation point to add to our considerable applause for this flawlessly performed Cadenza. Without a doubt, Kia’s instrumental contribution to the concerto is the perfect crescendo to a twenty-five-year symphony of ‘hear me roar’ harmonies. Well done, Kia!


Bridgestone, longtime sponsor of the ICOTY Awards, recognizes the consumer-product relationship as critical to vehicle success.

“Bridgestone is proud to support the ICOTY awards, and applauds the Bridgestone Tire Sponsors 2013 International Car of the Year Awards - Presented by Road & Travel Magazineefforts of these automakers that like our company demonstrate a strong commitment to innovative technology,” said Michael Martini, president, Consumer OE, Bridgestone Americas. “Through the combined efforts of everyone in the auto industry, and led by automakers like those being recognized today, we will continue to meet and exceed the demands of the motoring public.”

"We would like to thank Bridgestone Tire for sponsoring the International Car of the Year Awards," said Caldwell. Their continued support has allowed us to honor automakers for vehicles that not only relate to consumer lifestyles and connect on an emotional level, but has also provided RTM with the opportunity to elevate awareness on how people feel about their cars, and thus help revolutionize, the way agencies now market and advertise cars to women and men as well as diverse markets.


"Celebrating its 18th year, the ICOTY awards are not about power and performance but rather about the emotional connection between car and consumer and how well they reflect lifestyle, status, and personality for both men and women."

In 1996, the ICOTY Awards pioneered the 'emotional connection' (theme) as it related to cars and consumers to help raise awareness that people have strong feelings about their vehicles throughout the purchasing process and ownership. It's not, nor has ever been, just about camshafts and chrome. It's about how cars reflect our personalities and status in life. That said, consideration for contenders includes product styling, handling, diversity marketing and advertising and how well automakers make that emotional connection with consumers. A vehicle has to move us not only for transportation but also move us emotionally. We also consider public reaction and opinion during the testing process, both of which are influence factors in the final decision.


For more information on the Kia vehicles, click here.

2014 Car & Truck of the Year Winners | Press Releases

2014 International Car & Truck of the Year

2014 Kia Cadenza

2014 Chevy Silverado


2014 Earth, Wind & Power Car & Truck of the Year