Making the grade

David Yochum

KSU students test drive, judge new automobiles

Student reviewers examine the Chevrolet Cobalt before taking it for a test drive on the streets of Ravenna. Students reviewed 12 new vehicles under $16,000 to find the best car for their buck. GAVIN JACKSON | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Nothing brings college students together like minivan-road trips and free food.

Searching Northeast Ohio for the best new car under $16,000, the Daily Kent Stater chose four students to test drive and evaluate 12 new vehicles that wouldn’t blow college budgets. We then drove the students to 10 dealerships in Kent, Ravenna, Tallmadge and Cuyahoga Falls, letting students decide what new cars deserved to wear the crown of “best college value.”

Dealerships showcased each of the vehicles in The $16,000 Challenge, allowing students to grade their cars on six categories: exterior, interior, comfort, acceleration, braking and handling.

Using letter grades “A” through “F” to judge the vehicles, student scores were then combined utilizing Kent State’s GPA calculator to determine final overall car-point-averages on a 4.0 academic scale. The 4.0 scale is based on Kent State’s plus/minus grading system, which does not allow any vehicle to receive a grade of “A+.”

Subjecting themselves to two days of long drives, hungry car salesmen and each other, the test drivers revealed the true personality of each vehicle during testing. While dealers provided explanations of car features and benefits, students provided their own verbal feedback – good and bad – about every car in The $16,000 Challenge. However, this road trip was more than just cars.

Throughout testing, the student drivers bonded over music, cosmetics, fast food, cold weather and close quarters. Of course, driving opinions and dream cars also worked their way into conversation, making for one of the most original college experiences any have ever had.