The Environment Called. It Wants You to Drive this Car.

Kia Niro

kia niroThis post is sponsored by Kia.

I don’t know the difference between a carburetor and a camshaft. Quite frankly, I have no intention of curing this ignorance. Still, for the last two years I’ve giddily anticipated covering the Chicago Auto Show. There’s something about all that vintage style combined with shine and speed that hooks me. It reels me in like a moth to a flame; if that moth isn’t really a huge fan of light but more an aficionado of antique sconces.

There is one exception to my inclination toward the old gaudy and overpriced. I own a Kia. I drive a Kia. And I like my Kia. For that reason, I stay on top of what Kia is cooking. When I was invited to attend a panel hosted by the car maker this year I felt, dare I say it, genuinely excited.

The car show is generally divided between good ole American models and flashy beauties from places like Germany, Italy, and Japan. On the foreign playground sits Korean gem Kia. They’re the kid everyone teased in grade school that grew up to be exceedingly attractive and more successful than most of their peers. The bulk of that success can be attributed to their forward thinking culture, which is reflected on their drawing boards and in the minds of their clientele. For the most part, a Kia owner isn’t concerned with legacy so much as carbon dependency, global warming, and lessoning harmful emissions. I’m included myself in that lot. It was mentioned during the panel that this generation of Kia drivers grew up with recycling programs in their homes and real discussions about environmental responsibility on their campus. I find that philosophy intriguing.

How is the car maker keeping up?

kia sportage

It’s Not That Hard Being Green

Even with low gas prices as of late, zero emission automobiles is the end game, according to Orth Hedrick, the Vice President of Product Planning for Kia, and Steve Kosowski, the National Manager of Kia’s Long Range Strategy. With that in mind, Kia introduced the Niro — a cool looking kind-of-a-car and kind-of-an-SUV hybrid utility vehicle. It’s been called the “un-Prius”, purposely intended to look better and ride smoother than the Toyota staple. Alongside Niro were introduced two new green companions, both Optima hybrids. One includes plug-in capability.

The three newbies mark the end of environmentally conscious cool cars for the 1%. Many buyers will find the Kia Niro to be affordable, gorgeous, and practical with its 50 miles to the gallon average.

In addition to weaning off of carbon, Kia, like everyone else it seems, has plans for a fully autonomous vehicle down the road. The company’s Drive Wise program will trickle in features from the car of the future (like autonomous braking) into its available line until the world is ready to make Minority Report look like Back to the Future, probably sometime around 2030.

You have until the 21st to check out the new Kia Niro and the Optima hybrids at the Chicago Auto Show.