My friends are used to seeing a lot of new cars in my driveway, from almost every manufacturer. They were especially intrigued by the new Kia 900. They admired the understated exterior styling, and the absolutely beautifully appointed interior. The next question was, “How Much?”
“Just under $61,000”, I replied. “Are you kidding???” came the response. “A $61,000 Kia?” “That’s just NUTS”.
I had to remind them that it was only two decades or so ago that they said the same thing when Toyota, Nissan, and Honda each came out with very expensive luxury cars. But today, nobody laughs at Lexus, Infinity, or Acura cars with price tags at or above the costs of some luxury condominiums. In fact, they sit proudly at the same table as American and German luxury automobiles.
“So is it worth the money?” they asked.
“No”, I replied . . .
“It’s worth even more.”
But, we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves, so let us back up a bit.
Kia and its close Korean cousin, Hyundai, are best known for smaller, less expensive cars and SUV’s with a lot of content, and value, compared with the competition. The 900 is easily Kia’s most expensive automobile, a full $15,000 more than their fully loaded Cadenza model. I’m sure that Kia doesn’t expect to sell thousands of 900’s, but they want it sitting in their showrooms to remind their customers who purchase their Soul’s, Optima’s and other offerings, that they also have an aspirational model, for when they’re ready to move up to the true luxury strata.
Since the car’s introduction in 2014, all 900’s came equipped with a 5-liter V-8 that makes 420 horsepower. This year, a new engine option is offered: a 3.8-liter, direct injection, V-6 that puts 311 horsepower and 293 ft. lbs. of torque to the pavement. The smaller engine enables Kia to price the base 900 Premium model at just under $50,000, and it’s well equipped with a panoramic sunroof, leather interior, and navigation system.
Our tester is the V-6 Luxury model that starts at $54,900, and adds Nappa leather, real wood trim, and a killer sound system. This car also the $5,000 VIP package, which includes Head-up display, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Detection, Lane Departure warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Radar Cruise Control, Surround View Monitor, Drivers Seat power cushion Extension and, Power headrests and Lumbar Support, Power reclining rear seats with Lumbar Support, and more. With destination, that brings us to the $60,850 price tag.
Now the 311 horsepower may not impress on paper, especially considering it has to motivate a rather heavy 4455 lb. car. But zero to 60 times comes in at just a bit north of 6-seconds, which is pretty quick, and is only 0.7 seconds slower than the V-8. That’s close to the Lexus LS 460 times. So the car has all the grunt it needs in real world driving. And it is mated to an 8-speed shift-by-wire automatic transmission which makes for silky smooth shifts, and has both paddle shifters and gear lever shift options, and three drive mode settings that affect shift points depending upon one’s mood. The engine is rated for 17 mpg City, and 26 Highway. We spent much more time on the highway, and got just over 28 mpg.
Apparently, the mission statement for the Kia 900 is to provide a comfortable compliant ride quality at the expense of any sporting drive notions. It still feels rock solid, and doesn’t wallow, but there is a fair amount of lean in turns, and the steering is somewhat slow and numb feeling. The brakes, however are excellent. So when the roads get challenging, it’s best that the driver just relax and enjoy the scenery. In fact the 900 will sell better in countries where the owner will sit in the very spacious back seat and enjoy the comforts of the reclining rear heated and cooled seats, raise the side and rear window shades to keep the hot sun out, and control the concert quality radio and media from the console between the seats.
Styling is understated, which is just a step or two above bland. The sedan shape is conventional, but with quad LED swept-back headlights. It bears a resemblance to other sedans in the Kia line. The chrome-ringed grill adds some style and distinction, and the rear wrap-around taillights and dual chrome exhaust tips look smart. The 18” wheels fill the wheels wells nicely. One negative feature is the chrome trimmed “ventiport” on each front fender that just looks like some cheesy aftermarket add-on, and cheapens the looks.
Overall, the 900 styling will neither excite, not offend.
No matter where you sit in the spacious cabin, it is an enjoyable experience. The first thing you notice is how quiet it is. Wind noise is non-existent, and outside construction machinery is so muffled you can whisper to the person next to you. The panoramic moonroof bathes the cabin in light, and even with the roof open, the wind rush is very well damped.
The soft Nappa leather heated and cooled memory seats are nicely bolstered, and all-day comfortable. The dash and center console are nicely laid out, and intuitive. The driver looks at two large round dials with an info screen between them, and everything is bright and easy to see, and the electric tilt/telescope leather wrapped heated steering wheel has all the controls to toggle between info screens, and control the phone, radio, radar cruise, etc. The heads up display, which I hope more cars will incorporate into their offerings, is excellent, and in addition to the cars speed, it also shows the blind spot monitor for both sides of the car (in addition to on each mirror), the speed limit of the road your traveling on, and the radar cruise operation.
Nice soft touch materials, and some real wood trim, piano black plastic, and a dash of brightwork give the interior an upscale look and feel. Seat controls are located on the door panels, a nod to Mercedes Benz, and even the headrests are electrically operated.
The center stack is logically laid out, and the ubiquitous analogue clock is present to prove its luxury intentions. There is a round control knob to operate the very large 9.2” hi-def nav screen, but thankfully, it is also a touch screen which is easier to operate that way. Voice recognition for inputting addresses is like most other ones in vehicles at any price range, meaning it seldom works right. But operating most of the other features can be done well by speaking commands. And knobs for the HVAC controls, and surrounding switches can also get you to easily access the items you want to control. There are plenty of 12-volt outlets and USB ports for multiple devices. Connectivity through Kia’s UVO application allows one to remotely lock/unlock the car, start the engine, and control the climate. Also included in the app is My Car Zone are parental control features which lets you monitor speed, and driver’s scoring, and even a curfew time, for parents who want to know how Junior is using the car.
A couple of little features I really liked were the controls on the side of the passenger seatback, facing the driver, that allows the driver to move that seat fore and aft, and the rake of the seatback, to accommodate more room for the rear passenger. And each front door pocket is hinged to tip out, and is lined with soft material so small items stored do not rattle around to disturb the cabin’s silence.
Because of the electrically reclining rear seats, they do not fold down to expand the trunk. However, that trunk is huge, and will gobble up multiple Louis Vuitton suitcases for extended trips.
So back to my remark to my friends about the value of this $61,000 Kia. While you will not get the driving excitement that you would with a large German luxury sedan, you also won’t be paying the premium price. To get similar luxury with those brands, you’d have to pay $12,000 to $15,000 or more. And most people who drive luxury cars aren’t really looking for driving excitement.
So if you don’t require that German logo to show off, you’ll get more than $61,000 worth of quiet, luxury, and value with the Kia 900.
Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman has been a motor journalist for over 30 years, reviewing automobile, as well as motorcycle ride reviews and accessory reviews.
His car articles have appeared in Robb Report Magazine, Autoguide.com, Car-Revs-Daily.com and other media. His work has also appeared in Road Bike Magazine, Motorcycle Tour and Cruiser, SpeedTV.com, MotorcycleUSA.com and others.
As motorcycle columnist for The Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, the paper became the only major circulation newspaper in the country to have a separate weekly section devoted to motorcycles. Later he wrote a weekly column for Cyclefocus Magazine.