Good Wheels: Kia Optima Hybrid Test Drive

Goodlifer: Good Wheels: KIA Optima Hybrid Test Drive
In this series on sustainable mobility, we will be looking at the full spectrum of cleaner, greener modes of personal transportation, from the latest electric vehicles to the best ideas for getting in and around cities.

The Takeaway: Goodlifer test drove the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid in New York City and surrounds. We enjoyed the comfort and extended gas mileage of this vehicle. Although it does use gas, we found it to be highly efficient, even when driving through congested parts of the city. The truth is, electric vehicles are not yet for everyone. Until the charging networks and range capacity are expanded, hybrids are a good alternative.

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Our test vehicle, parked at the ferry lot for Fire Island.

We drove the Kia Optima Hybrid for a weekend in New York City. The first day, we drove upstate, to visit a designer friend who lives in Woodridge, NY. The built-in GPS worked well and kept us on track as we cruised up the tree-lined Palisades Parkway.

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The dashboard GPS was easy to use and worked well.

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Real-time feedback on the hybrid drivetrain.

After spending the day surrounded by farm animals, homegrown produce, fluffy rabbits and great company, we reluctantly headed back into the city. Thankfully, the Kia Optima Hybrid was an equally easy-going drive in the dark. Upon returning, having to find parking on a weekend on the Upper West Side was the only thing that did not go quite as smoothly as hoped. Although parallel parking was made much easier by the backward-facing camera that shows you what’s behind the car and features indicators showing you how close is too close.

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The interior of the Kia Optima Hybrid feels luxurious and is quiet.

The next day was gorgeous and sunny, and we headed back out to catch the ferry to Fire Island and spend a day among the pines with friends. There are no cars allowed on Fire Island, so to get there you take the Long Island Expressway to the ferry landing, park in the lot and hop on the boat. The Kia Optima Hybrid was smooth, quiet and responsive in highway driving, giving you the feeling of being in a high performance luxury sedan.

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After a day so lovely we almost missed the last ferry back, it was nice to have such a comfortable ride waiting in the gravel parking lot. Also, the silver color of the car I drove looked quite nice bathed in golden afternoon sunlight.

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Driving back into the city, I realized that even though I had driven around most of the weekend (including an hour spent circling in search of parking), I had not even used up half a tank of gas.

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The Kia Optima Hybrid we tested is one of the first vehicles under a new eco-friendly brand called ‘Eco Dynamics’, which is guided by an index measuring performance and efficiency. Kia Motors has also spent over 20 years researching and developing electric vehicle (EV) and battery technology, and has plans to release a pure EV in 2013. Kia has also been doing extensive testing with Fuel Cell EV technology and have prototyped a SUV using hydrogen fuel technology with the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Kia has been dedicated to improving the overall environmental performance of both their company and cars and has been publishing an annual sustainability report tracking their progress since 2003 (you can download the current and past editions here.) We were impressed by their holistic approach to sustainability, covering every aspect from Design for Environment standards, Design for Recycling, monitoring of toxic chemicals, and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). You can learn more about KIA’s commitment to the environment here.

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
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