November 12th, 2012 by Charis Michelsen
Hi, I’m Charis Michelsen. I write about cars (among other important things). I’ve got a Kia Optima hybrid (there’s a giant robot joke in here somewhere, I’m sure) lurking in my parking spot this week. I will be playing with it to see what it does and does not do.
Technicalities about the car, if you’re curious, are in yesterday’s post.
Day Two, 8:14am
At this point I notice that the thing I signed when the Kia Optima hybrid was handed over specifically forbids me from racing the car. I don’t remember that being stated outright the last time I did this.
Day Two, 11:54am
Thunderstorm! It’s time to go test the car in the pouring rain!
The brakes are in fact a bit more abrupt than usual; I think I like that. The wheels seem fairly grippy, but again, the truck in front of me is insisting on driving so slowly on the freeway ramp.
As an aside, my stepsister is really, really, really satisfied with the heated seats. I think she’s already trying to figure out how to get someone to buy her one (she’s young yet, she’ll buy her own cars eventually). She – and I – also like that the mirror cover on the sun visor slides back and forth instead of flipping up and down. It’s nice and neat and contained and won’t fall at inopportune moments. This is another example of Kia’s attention to detail, and I appreciate attention to detail.
Day Two, 12:05pm
This is what the road looks like:
At this point, I realize that I have just about overshot my exit, which means I get to swerve across three lanes of traffic and that little paint divider bit (you know, the triangle of pavement before the dirt starts) in order to get to my destination. The Kia is definitely nicely grippy in the wet. That felt perfectly safe.
Also – and this is why I missed the exit – my stepsister (despite initial protests of “But I don’t know how it works!”) has been fiddling with the radio and making things go. Full points to Kia for a fully intuitive and user friendly experience.
Of course, at this point I have no idea how anything works, because I’ve been, you know, driving.
Day Two, 12:49pm
There’s an Eco button on the dash. Pushing it gives you all sorts of fun stuff; you get a graphic of green leaves swirling around the Optima (that’s the “car” button below, and it’s pretty, but useless), and some screens letting you know how your driving is.
The fuel economy button lets you know how many miles per gallon you’re getting, with adorable little leaves as the bar graph. I have absolutely no idea what I was doing that made my mpg gauge go up and down, but apparently those ten minutes of city driving had an average of 40mpg. I’m okay with that.
I think these are here for the entertainment of your passengers. The energy flow button shows you the power flowing between the battery, electric motor, and ICE – when the car is sitting still (at a stop light, say), or if you’re coasting to decelerate, or if you’re maintaining a constant speed, the gas engine will just switch off and put the car into EV mode. This is pretty awesome for fuel economy. Also I like it when the car is in EV mode, because I absolutely love the total silence of electric cars.
Speaking of fuel economy, I’m now 80 miles into the fuel tank, and one – count it, one – of the 12 digital bars indicating fill level has blinked off. I am very pleased by this, until I start wondering if the digital indicator is weighted the same way as the needle in my ancient Ford (which is to say that it reads high when full, and yes, that’s actually built into your fuel gauge). We’ll see when I go to put gas in the car. Which is not yet.
Day Two, 4:49pm
At this point, I am poking at the touchscreen and figuring out how it works (of course I haven’t read the manual) while I sit in traffic. The GPS did warn me about traffic congestion (and then asked if I wanted to reroute), but this seems like a good time to play with the toys. While I’m sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, not moving. I cannot possibly crash if I’m not moving.
Also it is telling me that it’s 59°F outside, which is ridiculously warm for mid-November in Chicago.
Day Two, 5:18pm
The Kia Optima hybrid will synch with a smartphone – I’ve got a Droid something, so that works – via bluetooth. Hands-free communication through the car!
Except that something weird just happened; when I tried to dial using the car’s touchscreen, it inexplicably added 011 to the front of the phone number I was trying to reach and 000475 to the tail end of it. At which point my carrier informed me that international phone calls are not part of my service plan. WTF.
Dialing through the phone worked fine, though, and you can go back and forth between other functions (like the GPS!) without dropping the call (although the radio and voice guidance do shut off). The call doesn’t get dropped when you turn off the car, either, it just goes back to the speakers in the phone.
Day Two, 6:34pm
I have made it home, and given my reservations about the length of the car yesterday, now seems like a good time to mention the backup camera:
It says “Warning! Check your surroundings!” I completely forgot that was there at first, but the camera is super super helpful. I particularly like the green-yellow-red lines there to aid the driver in the quest to not dent the car. I am now comfortable with the length of the car.
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