It’s not hard to think of the 2014 Kia Cadenza as a fresh-faced new kid in the office, one with a firm handshake and a bright smile, who tries extra hard to ingratiate himself even though no one is quite sure why he’s there. Newly arrived in the Kia lineup for 2014, the Cadenza might be part of the brand’s over-eager attempt to push itself upmarket, but after living with one for 12 months and 20,650 miles, we found the car to be so well-executed and just downright pleasant that we couldn’t help but like it.

Upscale environs: Comfy and spacious, the Cadenza interior boasts a surfeit of electronics (some of them optional), which thankfully proved easy to use.

As always, it helps to be good-looking. (Yeah, we’re shallow.) Conservatively handsome, as per the corporate style under design boss Peter Schreyer, the 2014 Kia Cadenza avoids the pitfalls of flamboyant over-design. This isn’t a car that causes bystanders to stop and stare; it also isn’t likely to put off any buyers.

Wisely, the 2014 Kia Cadenza comes loaded with standard equipment, including such must-haves in this car’s class of near-luxury sedans as dual power seats with heated surfaces, leather upholstery, and navigation. This Four Seasons example arrived on our doorstep further primped with its two major option groups: the luxury package and the technology package. The former includes Nappa leather trim, a power cushion extender for the driver’s seat, a ventilated driver’s seat, heating for the rear seats and the steering wheel, a power Impala, Ford Taurus, and Toyota Avalon. And even at such a price, it’s clear you’re paying for what’s in the car rather than the badge on the trunk.

What is notable about the Cadenza, however, is not just the equipment. The execution of this car is a standout in its class.

“Wow, I’m impressed,” associate Web editor Joey Capparella said. “The Cadenza feels so graceful on the road. It’s hard to catch it fl at-footed, because its reactions to all inputs are smooth and linear. The interior feels genuinely premium, yet it’s surprisingly simple to use. This car also gets the details right, which contributes to the luxury vibe.”

Precious cargo: Back-seat passengers both large and small appreciated the expansive legroom.

Among these details: the way the puddle lights illuminate and the side mirrors extend when you walk up to the car even before you touch the door or take out the remote; the damped motion of the cupholder cover as it moves back and forth; and even the wood trim on the steering wheel.

New York bureau chief Jamie Kitman characterized the 2014 Kia Cadenza as “kind of a modern Buick,” noting, “the Koreans have that American feeling down, even more so than the Japanese and even earlier in their industry’s conscious attempt to emulate it.”

Any sedan that seeks to emulate a classically American comfy cruiser had better be, well, comfortable, and the 2014 Kia Cadenza is. The spacious, airy cabin feels even more so thanks to the large glass roof overhead, while the thin A-pillars aid forward visibility. The roomy back seat has a nearly fl at floor that makes it acceptable even for three. And the Cadenza’s large trunk welcomes a road trip’s worth of luggage, a feature we put to good use on excursions to Chicago, the Gulf CoastNashville, and the Catskill Mountains in New York.

""The Koreans have that American feeling down, even more so than the Japanese and even earlier in their industry’s conscious attempt to emulate it.""

On those long trips, or even around town, we found the Cadenza’s suite of technology very easy to use for the most part.

“I think this touchscreen is one of the simplest, most functional infotainment systems on offer (after Chrysler’s Uconnect),” said associate Web editor Jake Holmes. We did have some minor critiques, though. There are too many identical flat buttons for the HVAC system, and the stereo knobs are small and fussy to operate. We also found the lane-departure warning system overly sensitive, but the parking assist and the adaptive cruise control worked well.

That is, the adaptive cruise control did great until it simply quit working altogether. Turns out its sensor, which is located in a vulnerable position in the front fascia, had suffered damage—and the fix was more than $4,000. Otherwise, our only other issues with the Cadenza were related to wheels and tires. A winter harvest of potholes and other road hazards in the Midwest claimed several tires. Additionally, our 2014 Kia Cadenza was subject to a recall because a manufacturing defect could cause its 19-inch wheels to fracture. Dealer visits were otherwise uneventful, and scheduled service was pretty inexpensive as well.

We might have expected our car’s upsized wheels (19-inchers in place of the standard 18s as part of the technology package) to make for a harsh ride, but it wasn’t the case. Bump absorption is very good, and the well-damped ride motions are far different than the overly aggressive, boy-racer suspension calibration that has been Kia’s signature until recently. The Cadenza’s ride quality does deteriorate somewhat when the car is fully loaded, though. The electric-assist steering proffers appropriate effort levels, without being annoyingly overboosted or wildly variable. (The new-for-2015 Cadenza Limited comes with Kia’s FlexSteer technology, which lets drivers choose among three levels of steering effort.)

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