January 3rd, 2013

Car Review: Behind the Wheel of a Kia Optima Hybrid

Groovy Green Livin Kia Optima

On an icy cold day in December a sporty new car landed in my driveway. As the keys were handed over I was given my mission: test drive the car for a week and report back. Not a bad task at all.

The car was a Kia Optima Hybrid filled to the brim with all the bells and whistles.  At first glance I was mesmerized by the sheer newness of this car. I’m on my own quest for a new car and have been on and off looking for the past six months or so. It’s been challenging to find a car that meets all of my criteria: a car with some redeeming eco-friendly features that fits a family of five, one dog and lots of ski, soccer, karate and baseball gear.

This was my first experience driving a hybrid and a Kia so I knew I was in for an interesting ride. Over the course of the week the car was mainly used for transporting my boys from point A to point B. Rarely were all five of us in the car together. The car worked perfectly for this. The best was when I drove the car alone. The stereo speakers were incredible-hopefully you didn’t see (or hear) me singing at the top of my lungs.

Interior of the Kia Optima Hybrid

Groovy Green Livin car Kia hybrid

Overall the interior of this car was pretty plush. A favorite feature was the heating and cooling seat options for both the front and back seats. It took a while to get used to the low bucket seats in this car. I’m an average height, coming in at 5′ 4″ on a good day, and the bucket seat on the driver and passengers side felt very low. The car was easily able to fit my three tall boys in the spacious back seat. They were seated next to each other which probably wouldn’t be ideal for a long trip.

The touch screen stereo system was a nice feature and very intuitive. I was able to get my fix of satellite radio. The navigation system was also very simple to use and aesthetically added to the loaded interior of the car. If you have a newer iDevice you will have to get an adapter to plug in-the car is fitted with an older plug.

Another favorite feature was the rear-view camera display which clearly showed when I was about to back into something. My kids were all over this.

The smart key remote system was incredibly convenient. The key never had to come out of my bag to start or unlock the car.

Exterior of the Kia Optima Hybrid

Groovy Green Livin car snow

The car arrived all shiny and beautiful and left with snow and ice. The Kia Optima Hybrid is a sporty looking sedan with snazzy looking alloy wheels. The large sun and moon roofs allowed plenty of sunlight into the car. My one big complaint was the size of the windows. They felt extremely small and coupled with the low bucket seats they presented a bit of a challenge when checking my blind spots.

The true test was when it snowed and the roads were incredibly slippery. The Kia did very well with minimal slippage.

The car has heated side mirrors which were fantastic in the cold and snowy conditions.

Fuel efficiency and environmental performance

Groovy Green Livin Kia car

This car has great fuel efficiency. I was doing mainly city driving and it came in around 33 MPG. The expected range is about 34 MPG for city driving and 39 MPG for highway driving. Not bad.


The warranty on this car is fantastic. Kia offers a 10 year/100,000 mile limited warranty.


This was my first time driving a hybrid. It took a while to get used to the transition from hybrid to gas. I could actually feel the engine kicking over from one to the other. When the car was in hybrid mode it was extremely quiet. At various times I wasn’t sure whether or not the car was on. After driving the car a bit I began to figure out how it was operating.

Kia Optima Hybrid value

The MSRP of the Kia Optima Hybrid is $25,700. Add in the bells and whistles and your now up to $32,620. This car qualifies as a bit more than a commuter car. It’s a mid-sized sedan with a lot of perks.

Overall impression of the Kia Optima Hybrid

I could get used to driving a mid-sized sedan. The Kia grew on me as the week went by and I was sad to see it go. It’s not a practical everyday car for our large family, but it could easily work as a second family car. Overall the car was luxurious and comfortable. Tall family members had no problem with head or leg room. The fuel efficiency and other options made it a comfortable ride.

Disclaimer: The Kia Optima Hybrid was loaned to me from a 3rd party. I was not compensated or asked to write a favorable review. All  opinions are my very own.

October 18th, 2012

Review: Behind the Wheel of a Mazda3

Groovy Green Livin Mazda3

On a recent Tuesday afternoon a sky blue mica colored Mazda3 showed up in my driveway. After a quick tutorial the keys were handed over to me and the car was mine for a full week. Have I mentioned lately that I love my job?

At first glance this car appeared too small to serve as our main family car-we have three boys, a dog and tend to need space for our “stuff”.  Over the week I certainly learned the importance of test driving a car before ruling it out.

Throughout my life I’ve never really been much of a car enthusiast, but that has been changing over the past few years. The creature comforts in a car have become more important, perhaps because I spend a good chunk of time in my car chauffeuring little people from place to place.

The Mazda3 was a pleasant surprise in many ways. It definitely falls into the ‘greener’ car category because of its fuel efficiency. Overall the car grew on me and when the 7 days were up I have to admit I was sad to see it go.

The interior of the Mazda3 is bigger than it looks

Groovy Green Livin Mazda 3 front view

I’m pushing 5’4″  on a good day with heels, but my husband is 6’2″ so he put the Mazda3 to the test in terms of spaciousness.  When he got in the car to take it for a spin he noted that there was plenty of head and leg room for a tall driver. The Mazda3 is a 5 passenger vehicle and my kids were psyched to all sit together in the back seat. I’m thinking over time the excitement of brotherly love in the back seat could wear off and it could get ugly back there. Overall the car was very spacious for a seemingly small sedan.

The trunk was large enough to handle the weekly groceries for a hungry family of five.  I actually remembered my reusable bags.

Groovy Green Livin Mazda 3 trunk space

Fuel Efficiency

This car is equipped with something called a SKYACTIV engine. Mazda touts it as “a 2.0-liter marvel that produces 10% to 15% more low/mid-range torque, along with 15% lower fuel consumption and emissions than our previous 2.0-liter engine”.  Over the week I did mainly city driving and the car scored 26.2 mpg. Not bad at all.

Groovy Green Livin fuel efficiency

GPS and other interior features

This car falls into the “light frills” category. It comes with everything you need to make it a comfortable ride, but there weren’t many bells and whistles to WOW you. The GPS system is intuitive and not intrusive-located just above and to the right of the steering wheel. I used it quite a bit throughout the week. Satellite radio was a big hit with the kids.

Groovy Green Livin Mazda 3 dashboard

There were heating control options for the two front seats. The steering wheel had a lot of buttons. It was somewhat overwhelming and I’m wondering if they were all necessary. The car is also missing a dedicated iPod jack. In order to hook-up your iPod you will need to supply your own charger.

The sunroof was a nice feature -I’m a big fan of extra daylight in the car. The only downside was the omission of a single touch system to close the sunroof (the button has to be held down until the sunroof closes). One of our favorite features was the cool blue back light that lights up the drivers feet at night.

One of the “light frill” features of this car is the blind spot monitor located on the side mirror which beeps if another car is in your way when changing lanes. The technology is great, but for some reason I wasn’t able to allow myself to rely on this feature.

The car is extremely spacious for a small sedan. There were plenty of nooks and crannies for storage throughout. Cup holders were plentiful, which is a must for me. It was raining most of the week and the wipers did their job. The interior light turns on as soon as the car unlocks making it easy to navigate around the car at night.

Groovy Green Livin Mazda2 door buttons

How the Mazda3 handles

Groovy Green Livin Mazda3 and me

I had one sunny day with the car and the rest of the week was a rainy mess. The Mazda3 handled the rainy days quite well. Given the small size of the car it was simple to turn around and there weren’t many blind spots.

The brakes were a bit squirrely and sensitive to the touch. The car is front wheel drive and the suspension overall felt tight. I would be curious to know how this car handles a typical winter in the northeast.

Mazda3 Value

The MSRP of the Mazda3 is $22,300. Add in the bells and whistles and your now up to $24,970. Not a bad price.

Overall impression of the Mazda3

This car grew on me as the week went by. It’s not a practical everyday car for our large family, but it could work as a second family car  or a commuter car. Overall the car was fun to drive and the blue color got a lot of honks and waves.

Interested in more information on the Mazda3 or want to find a dealer near you – click on the link below. Let me know what you find!

Disclaimer: The Mazda 3 was loaned to me from a 3rd party. I was not compensated or asked to write a favorable review. All  opinions are my very own.

September 10th, 2010

My Quest for a Green Car

I am not feeling so groovy or green right now.

I was in a little, itty, bitty car accident a few weeks ago.  Everyone was fine, but my minivan took a beating. Today my van went into the shop for an overhaul-compliments of the sweet- 17 year old-newbie-driver’s insurance company.

My HUGE rental car

Needing a temporary replacement- I was able to “choose” from a slim selection of rental cars. Having 3 children, car seats, a dog, lots of sports gear and needing extra space for extra kids, I was looking for a car that could hold more than 5.  There was only one option-a HUGE, 8 passenger SUV, looking lonely and waiting for little ol’ me to take it home.

My everyday ride is a minivan-filled to the brim with all the conveniences any car driver could ask for.  Before entering parenthood I took a vow that many of us took-I would never, ever drive a minivan.  If I caved I knew it would symbolize my surrender to domestic, suburban tedium-relinquishing every last shred of hip and coolness that was o-so-evident in my pre-parenting years. When child number 3 was on his way the vow fell by the wayside and I got myself my very own van.

As I pulled out of the rental lot in this enormous SUV I caught a glimpse of myself in the glass window.  A thought immediately went through my head: I am in this colossal rental SUV, I own and drive a minivan and both are not very green!

Minivans and SUVs-Not So Green

Our automotive choices have a massive impact on the environment. Both SUVs and minivans guzzle petroleum, get relatively poor gas mileage and rely solely on gasoline for power.  Gasoline fumes are toxic and carcinogenic, causing smog and pollution.

All gas fueled vehicles create large amounts of  greenhouse gases which are the gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect – the warming of the Earth’s climate due to the major buildup of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and other gases in the atmosphere.

What’s a suburbanite with a green conscience to do?

Is it possible to find a car that is cool, hip and ecologically friendly?

My van is logging in somewhere close to the 100,000 mile marker.  Still in great shape,  I am beginning to contemplate what ride is next in line.

Greener Car Options

Alternative fueled vehicles are powered by fuels that are derived from resources other than petroleum. Some of these fuels are produced domestically, reducing our dependence on imported oil, and some are derived from renewable resources.  Often, these fuels produce less pollution than gasoline or diesel.

Here are a few examples of alternative vehicles:

  • Hybrids are much more ecologically friendly than their petroleum guzzling counterparts, and in general the emissions of Hybrid cars are  at or below the level set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Hybrids use  electric motor and battery storage to maximize the fuel economy from standard gasoline-burning engines.
  • Diesel cars and trucks deliver great fuel economy, 20 to 30 percent better than comparable vehicles with gasoline engines. You’ll use less fuel as you drive and fill up your tank less often. They produce 20-30 percent less carbon dioxide, the major automotive emission classified as a greenhouse gas. Long gone are the diesel cars that were smelly and noisy-they are now quiet and clean.
  • Plug-in electric cars let you drive gas-free and without tailpipe emissions. These cars have to be plugged in to charge and the distance they will travel depends upon how much charge there is. No gas is required, making these cars one of the greenest options.
  • Flexible fuel vehicles can  run on a fuel mixture up to 85 percent ethanol and just 15 percent gasoline.

With all these great green options there are still not many choices for my family of 5- plus dog.  Most of the cars available are too small.

Come on car companies-get it together and show us a green hip, cool car that can hold larger families. The demand is there but there is not much available to meet the consumer’s needs.

For now I am staying put in my not-so-groovy green, but convenient, gas guzzling minivan until I find something that will provide better gas mileage and lower emissions.

Do you have a car that fits the bill-hip, cool and ecologically friendly? Must be ready, willing and able to hold three children, a dog and lots of other stuff.


A Student’s Guide to Alternative Fueled Vehicles

What is a Hybrid Vehicle

Green Car Buying Guide


About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

Click HERE to contact Lori

Lori on ABC World News

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