I’m not much of a car person. I literally can’t wait for self-driving cars to become a thing so I can spend my journeys staring at my phone or having a nap instead of hassling with any actual driving. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the thrill of slamming the accelerator pedal as much as the next guy, but we don’t really get the opportunity to do that in Malta. With our jam-packed traffic and hilly terrain, our experience of driving is more like something out of Black Swan: complicated ballerina footwork that results only in physical pain, self-doubt and paranoia.
So when our friends at Motors Inc suggested I test drive the Kia Niro, it wasn’t the thought of driving that got me excited. It was the tech. Blind-spot detection, a lane-departure warning system and an 8-inch screen to help you park: this sounded like a dream come true. The closest thing to a self-driving car I could imagine.
And yet, when I sat in the car and realised it was automatic, I broke into a cold sweat. I had never driven an automatic before, so I was scared I wouldn’t know what to do. Thankfully, after a few quick instructions, I plucked up the courage and took off. Here’s what I learned after a weekend of driving.
1. I am definitely a crossover kind of guy
Let’s start with the most basic. Kia Niro is a crossover, which means its somewhere in between a normal mid-sized car and a larger SUV. In other words, it gives you the comfort and confidence of an SUV without also resulting in any bad looks from the more envious car drivers out there who equate SUV-drivers with white supremacist slavers. This is definitely the type of middle ground I can live with.
2. I spend way too much money on petrol
The Kia Niro is a hybrid, which means it combines fuel combustion with electric energy to achieve optimum fuel-efficiency. In three days I used up one bar of fuel out of the 16 bars of a full tank. That seems crazily efficient to me. And the feeling of saving money while also doing right by the environment is as rewarding as it sounds. It’s also pretty cool to be kept informed of which type of energy you’re using.
3. I’m an “aggressive” driver
This is what the LED panel actually told me. The other options were “economical” and “normal”, so I wasn’t too surprised by the outcome. But this tiny bit of information improved my driving significantly as soon as I noticed it. All cars should come with this sort of unsolicited advice disguised as information.
4. I am ready to give up a clutch and a gearbox forever
We can all pretend to enjoy balancing the clutch and brake when we’re climbing Saqqajja Hill in traffic, but it’s a blatant lie. And driving the Kia Niro helped me mythbust this untruth to myself. I now confess, that I would drive automatic over manual any day of the week. Choosing manual is like choosing a Blackberry from the noughties over the iPhone 7. You’re only doing it to be a dick.
5. I take an unhealthy amount of pleasure in seeing my car unlock (and car mirrors unfurl) just with my presence
It’s the ultimate power trip for people who wield very little power in their actual lives. The Kia Niro unlocks as soon as you walk by it, as long as you have the key in your pocket. The mirrors unfurl as your hand reaches the door handle. It really is magical to watch.
6. I can’t park to save my life, even with an 8-inch screen to help me
Seriously, parking cars is just not a function I was born to fulfil. Despite a massive display screen showing everything that’s behind me as well as colourful lines to guide my car, I was still unable to park with any sort of grace. At least the screen helped me fix my parking with slightly more efficiency because I didn’t have to walk out of the car to see exactly how badly I’ve parked.
BONUS: I would buy a car just because of phone functionality
Some people love their children or their pets enough to make them the centre of their car-buying decisions. To me, it’s all about my phone. So if you’re offering full connectivity to the point that you can voice command your Spotify to start playing, I’m going to be throwing my money at you.