What can you say about the car you’re currently driving? Does it drive like a dream, or leave you in the lurch? It is comfortable, or does it let you feel every bump and dip in the road? Does it make you cringe, or smile, as you walk up to it each day?
My car? It’s a 2015 Kia Optima. But before I describe it, let me mention a few other cars in my life.
I learned to drive in a 1967 Ford Country Squire station wagon. Seat belts were optional, so even if you could dig them out between the seats they’d be covered in sticky grime. So, free and unfettered, windows down, I drove round and round the cottages my parents owned. I learned how to turn the wheel, apply brake and gas, and not to crash.
By the time I got my first car, a green 1972 Chevelle, I knew how to drive. But not how to drive a stick. Luckily, a family friend had come along for the test drive, and instructed me on use of the ‘three on the tree’ stick shift. The car was boring and basic. My secret nickname for this beauty was “Box on Four Wheels.”
I totaled it on the way to school one snowy morning.
The cars that follow make a blurry parade in my mind. The muscle car, called Plymouth Roadrunner, was the opposite of the Box. It had four on the floor, but second gear was always a crap shoot.
The 1970 Volkswagen Bug was another swing of the pendulum. The engine compression was fair when I bought it, but I knew it’s days were numbered. After six months it left me stranded on the highway, never to run again.
Subaru was my car of choice for the next period. I owned a small wagon and a hatchback, both with four-wheel drive. I learned that four-wheel is great for snow and mud, but useless on ice.
Isuzu made a large SUV called the Trooper in the eighties. Ours was bright red. I would have driven it forever, except that it turned to rust and began to sound like a Model T. So much for Japanese quality.
We traded in the rust bucket, sadly, for a nicely kept Mercury Sable wagon. They don’t make Mercury any more but it was essentially a Ford, only slightly classier. The sound system, which played cassettes, was the best I’ve ever heard.
I discovered Kia on an expansive car lot in Manchester one summer day. The one I test drove was light blue, small but comfortable. It was called Spectra. There was an ink stain on the front seat, which I mentioned to the salesperson. He immediately took $1,000 off the price. Sold.
It was okay transportation for several years, but the Spectra lacked power and pizazz. While it was in the body shop, I tried out another Kia called Optima. This was a revelation. Bigger, good looking, powerful, just all-around better.
I knew I would get one someday.
Someday came in the fall of 2014. I had mostly driven used cars in my lifetime, but now was the time for something new. This car, the Optima, has class and style. It powers past other cars on the interstate. It’s comfortable and has a great stereo system. The Bluetooth sound quality almost matches that of my old friend, Sable.
It’s not a perfect beast. It’s low to the ground, so my knees are tested getting in and out. The gas pedal sticks. It lacks safety features like the rear view camera.
But it gets me around like my personal magic carpet. No rust, no noisy engine, no quality issues. The Koreans have really taken the lead on quality. Even American cars are copying them.
I love my Kia Optima. Car, if you’re listening: Thanks, and please don’t let me down.