Test Drive-palooza with the DiscoverKia event!

Head to a dealership and you can test drive a car or two, but it’ll probably take you hours to go through the process. Instead, car companies are starting to bring the vehicle inventory to us, the driver, and that’s a nice change. Kia Motors USA has always been great at outreach (I’ve enjoyed Kia test drives at the Dad 2.0 Summit, for example) and so when the company added Lakewood, Colorado to its touring DiscoverKia event, I added it to my calendar and on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, headed down to Colorado Mills to learn more about the Kia lineup.

Turns out that without me paying really close attention the company has greatly expanded its vehicle lineup, ranging from the entry level Kia Rio to the luxury K900 sedan that’s surprisingly comparable in fit and finish to considerably more expensive cars from Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Yes, when fully outfitted, the K900 is a $75,000 Kia. But I’ll get back to that!

Since it’s likely you’ve never been to a car test drive event, here’s what you see when you walk up to their cordoned off area in the parking lot:

DiscoverKia tent area

The team working in the Sunday heat were quite chipper and I ended up working with Marcos (the guy in the red shirt), who was quite knowledgeable about the Kia line and full of stories about the different vehicles, dancing hamsters (they’re coming back later in 2016 for a new Kia Soul ad campaign) and the company’s current K900 campaign with NBA legend LeBron James (who wasn’t at the DiscoverKia event, unfortunately).

We started out modest, with the entry-level 2016 Kia Rio, and I was quite impressed with what they’ve pulled together as a entry-level car that’s perfect for college-bound children and anyone who wants a highly affordable second vehicle:

2016 kia rio exterior silver

You can see the cool vehicle transport trailer behind the Rio too. Have a close look: they’ve definitely covered their bets with all possible combinations of family members and ethnicities. But that is their demographic, and even as I explored the Kia lineup I was impressed to see a wide variety of different families check things out too, including a Hispanic family with a giggling little boy and a black family where it sure looked like Mom was leading the research!

Next car in the lineup was the 2017 Kia Sportage, which I’ve had the opportunity to test drive before (see my writeup: Solving the Luggage Puzzle With the Kia Sportage). Well, my test drive was of the 2016 Kia Sportage. There are some visible differences to the exterior of the vehicle.

A very nice SUV, nicely outfitted:

2016 kia sportage, exterior, red

I drive an SUV every day, my trusty Toyota Highlander Hybrid, so I seem to gravitate to SUV style cars. But the Highlander’s feeling a bit big nowadays when I so frequently drive solo, so I’ve had my eye out for a smaller SUV option.

That’s why when I bumped into this funky little Kia vehicle, I thought “hey, I just test drove a Toyota RAV4, let’s see how this compares”:

2016 Kia Soul, exterior, white

It’s the Kia Soul and it’s been redesigned for 2016. Gone is the weird asymmetric back, replaced by a very attractive mini-SUV as you can see in the photo above. Marcos said that Kia doesn’t compare the Soul with the RAV4 or the Ford Escape (etc) because they doesn’t consider it a compact SUV, but once I got inside, well, I would certainly put them in the same class.

Lots of room, tons of headroom, back seats the fold down (a 60/40 split back seat) and a dashboard that quite possibly features more buttons than NASA’s Apollo 9 control board:

2016 kia soul, dashboard interior

In fact, I was really impressed. We took the Soul out for a test drive around the Colorado Mills parking lot and it felt like a young person’s car (as suggested by the dancing hamster campaign) with its tight suspension and steering, but it was much nicer and more well appointed than I expected. I’ve always imagined the Soul as somewhat of a budget Compact SUV (aka a “CUV”) but with the top package, it’s a darn nice little car.

Price tag for the particular configuration Kia had at the DiscoverKia event was about $28K, which isn’t bad for a fully decked out vehicle with premium Infinity sound system (yes, we turned it up to “test” it), nav system, optional lighting, and lots of other bells and whistles. It gets 24/31 so your average mileage will inevitably be somewhere in the middle, and 27mpg isn’t too bad at all.

Not enough? Kia has an EV version of the Soul that has fairly limited range (about 100mi) between charges, but if you just putter around town and only drive 10-20 miles/day, it’s quite an interesting alternative option.

And finally, I got to LeBron James’ car, the $75,000 fully decked out Kia K900 sedan:

2016 kia k900 sedan, white, exterior

A darn nice job with the design and I learned a secret about the K900 too: You can tell whether it’s the regular or “VIP” model (LeBron drives a VIP model, natch) by looking at the wheels: The VIP models have more spokes than the regular wheels. Ironically, I never got a chance to drive the car as it was unquestionably the hottest wheels on the test lot, barely having the engine stop turning over before the next people were out taking it for a drive.

Kia recognizes that it’s a bit tricky to convince consumers who would purchase a high-end vehicle to consider Kia, so one of the things it has is a test drive program where someone from the dealership will drive a K900 to you and then you and the Kia person can tool around town, hop on the highway or head down the beach for an hour’s driving experience. “For those who are qualified to buy this price car”, as Marcos explained to me. The other thing Kia’s doing is offering a more upscale medallion for the front hood, as you can see here:

new kia medallion badge logo car hood symbol

I think that’s brilliant thinking on Kia’s part, actually, and the fact that the new logo looks kinda/sorta like a Lexus badge? Well, no harm in luxury car buyers making that mistake!

Finally, I’d chatted with Marcos and the rest of the DiscoverKia team enough, had my test drive and learned about the entire Kia lineup, while watching families with kids check out the Sorrento van and those without gravitate towards the K900, and I bid adieu, just to have them give me a $10 Target gift card as a thank you for my time. Not a bad deal, though next time the keys to one of the vehicles would be more appreciated. Nonetheless, time well spent, and a chance to learn a lot more about the 2016 Kia Motors USA lineup. Good stuff.

Disclosure: Kia Motors paid me to participate and write about the DiscoverKia event and not in Target gift cards. My opinions and reactions to the vehicles is all my own, however.

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