Dear Kia: Sit down. We need to talk.
Something shocking happened the other day. Something I never thought would happen, and still can’t believe happened.
I’m not quite sure how it all went down, but it started innocently enough. A dinner with my girlfriend’s parents. A few drinks. And then the conversation turned to cars. Which it often does, considering I write about them, test driving popular models for a week at a time.
My girlfriend’s mom, a longtime driver of a certain popular Japanese mid-size sedan that she’s logged over 120,000 miles behind the wheel of, turned to me and said, “So, I’m finally thinking about getting a new car. What do you think I should get?”
Before you could say “European import,” these words were coming out of my mouth: “You have to try the Kia Optima. You’re going to love it.” And then I proceeded to gush like a 14-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert about the Optima Hybrid I had test driven a couple of months earlier. About the sleek, wind-slicing styling of the exterior, the nearly imperceptible switch between gas and electric power, the more-comfortable-and-upscale-than-its-price-range interior, and that mesmerizing dashboard graphic of the leaves and flowers that lets you know how “eco” you’re driving. Not to mention the tree-huggable 40 mpg.
I know, I know… I couldn’t believe it either. I had actually just recommended one of your cars. And not just recommended, but HIGHLY recommended. This was never supposed to happen. You were supposed to be the next Yugo: A small car company from a country that wasn’t known for making cars, making cheap vehicles no one wanted to drive. I figured after a few years, and more than a few snide jokes from car writers like me, you’d just fade away.
But you didn’t. You just kept making better and better vehicles. And somewhere along the way, after driving that Optima Hybrid, along with the Soul + (that is way more fun to drive than it should be), and the roomy Sportage—not to mention your commercials featuring NBA dunkmeister Blake Griffin, aging rockers Motley Crue, and supermodel, Adriana Lima—I fell in love with you. And I hate myself for it.
I hate that as a grown man I loved that your Soul +, a sub-$20K car, could come with a top-end infotainment system complete with a rear backup cam, remote entry, heated side mirrors, alloy wheels, and, of all things, pulsing mood lighting around the door speakers. Add in the relatively large cargo space in such a compact car, and I didn’t stand a chance.
I hate that I spent a week in a fully loaded Sportage SX with all the toys and the 2.0-L, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine, and took it across Alligator Alley from Fort Lauderdale to Naples and back in comfort that belies it’s crossover platform. I could have done another dozen trips in it. Hauled all my luggage and gear, too. Including a navi with premium audio, backup cam, cooled and heated seat with full leather, push-button start and gigantic front-to-rear panoramic roof, all for around $31,000, just isn’t playing fair.
I hate that your Optima Hybrid doesn’t look like an armadillo on wheels and actually makes me consider buying a hybrid myself. And I’m a muscle car guy. A muscle car guy who got hooked on watching little flowers bloom if I didn’t drive like I was being chased by Jason Bourne, like I usually do. Damn you. (And had you offered the Turbo with a 6-speed manual, I might had popped the question already.)
I mean I found myself stalking your Facebook page recently. Looking at your latest pics and models. This has gone too far. Maybe we need a little space. You know, take a break for a while, so I can get over it. I should go look at a few domestics. Maybe a German sport coupe or two. What’s that? The 2013s are coming soon? I’m going to hate myself in the morning…
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