May 29th, 2013

Blanche prefers to hog my side of the bed...

Blanche prefers to hog my side of the bed…

Rio Thoughts: First Impressions of the New Ride

May 25th, 2013

For the past two years, I’ve been looking to replace an aging, second-hand Hyundai Elantra with something newer and more technologically-equipped. This quest has spanned all kinds of brands, and I ended up test driving a lineup of cars diverse enough to include the Kia Rio, the Volkswagen Jetta, and the BMW 325i. At the end of the day, though, the Kia Rio represented the best bargain for the price negotiated, and so I ended up financing the subcompact and making it my own. After nearly a week of driving both city and highway stretches, I thought I’d document my initial impressions of this new set of wheels.

Active ECO / Idle Stop & Go

The Rio comes with two key ways to boost fuel economy. The first is Active ECO mode, which “learns” how you drive and operates the engine smartly enough to save gas during both city and highway driving. The second is “Idle Stop & Go,” which actually turns the engine off when the car is stopped at a sign, light, or in a traffic jam. Combined, both modes help the Rio achieve between 36 and 40 miles per gallon. Idle Stop & Go freaks me out, but Active ECO has been a real benefit. So far, I like both.

UVO Infotainment

The UVO system is comparable to Ford Sync, and roughly as useful. I can command the car to read text messages, make and receive calls, find directions, and more. With integrated Bluetooth music streaming, my phone can become the epicenter of the car. The UVO system also features a USB port, an AUX port, and two charging ports, perfect for wired connections. AM/FM stereo and built-in Sirius make the system even more versatile, as does an included hard drive for MP3 storage.

On the Road: Not a Subcompact

The great thing about the Rio is that it feels nothing like what one imagines a subcompact to be. It accelerates quickly, rides smoothly, and rounds corners with ease. Included traction control and stability control enhance the ride, as does a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Elantra had a four-speed transmission and it was, let’s say, painful. Just painful.

Cabin Thoughts: Not a Kia

You buy a car like this expecting mediocre road performance and a bare-bones interior. This is not what Kia delivers with the 2013 Rio, though. The interior has a soft touch dashboard, comfortable bucket seats, a leather wrapped steering wheel, a large center console, and spacious back seats (for a subcompact). Of course, the Rio competes with the Fiesta, Accent, and Sonic, all three of which are considered stereotype-defying subcompact models. Maybe a new era in automobile design is finally upon us!

The Conclusion

I didn’t set out to buy a Kia. I’m notoriously snooty and I love luxury sedans. But something has changed within the Kia brand. A spunky engine, an attractive design inside and out, a great riding and driving experience, and a spacious interior, make this the smart choice. I’m as surprised as my friends are that I bought a Kia, but so far I certainly do not regret my decision.

May 23rd, 2013

Car!

Financing a car when you’re self-employed is a rather difficult task, or at least a bit more challenging than it would be if I had a job with a traditional employer. Even so, after two years of figuring out exactly how to go about the financing process, I finally ditched the old “shitmobile” for a bright, shiny red piece of happy. Presenting: Ruby Rio.

The car in question is a fully loaded 2013 Kia Rio, recently acquired to offset an aging, second-hand Hyundai Elantra. And while my original goal was to get a Jetta or a BMW 3 series, this will certainly do for now. I’ve recently become addicted to controlling my vehicle with voice commands, as well as to satellite radio and Bluetooth music streaming. Of course, now that my EZPass is transferred over and the car is ready to go, I look forward to many road trips into Philly, the Carolinas, central and eastern Pennsylvania, and beyond.

We Heard About That On CNN

May 17th, 2013

I’m a liberal, and that means that I have to vote for Democrats every two years if I want my votes to count for anything. Of course, I’m more than happy to oblige if it means that things like climate protection, gay rights, immigration reform, and the separation of church and state are furthered or protected. Barack Obama was my choice for president in both of the two prior presidential elections, and I genuinely think that he has real potential to be a decent president. A great leader? No. Missed opportunity, that one. But decent, certainly.

Which is why it confuses me so very much when a new scandal, or any type of bad event, happens to affect the administration. When asked about it by reporters, their answer reliably is “Well, we just heard about that on the news like you did! So we’re still trying to learn about it and we can’t offer you any details.”

How exactly does the government learn about what it’s doing, while it’s doing it, by simply turning on CNN? This absolute lack of accountability, and the urge to simply defer any and all critical questioning, is very Bush-like. It isn’t what I cast my vote for. Why is it too painful to simply say, “We’re aware of the problem and we’re looking into it so that we can provide you with more information.” That sounds astute. That sounds smart. It certainly sounds plausible. You just found out the IRS was doing something shady when you flipped the channel to CNN, despite the issue at hand being investigated thoroughly, repeatedly, by that agency over the past few years? Right.

Barack Obama will go down in history as the greatest medicore president we’ve had in the last ten years. Because he continues to act half-Bush, and half-unaware that he’s the president at all, I don’t think we can really ask more than that. Yes, it’s better than the alternative, but the lack of transparency and straightforward accountability is the same old story, and it’s one I’m quite frankly sick of hearing.

May 10th, 2013

Mmmm, I love spring.

Mmmm, I love spring.