Like many people nowadays, I try and live a green and eco lifestyle. I recycle everything that’s recyclable to the point I’m that annoying one the bin collectors launch a flurry of tuts and eye rolls at as they wheel my bin towards their lorry with old loo rolls and dog food tins scattering across the road.
So, it’s clear my household recycling is up to scratch, the bin collectors can vouch for that, but perhaps one area I do lack green credentials might be my car, or to be specific, cars. My wife and I have a car each, which immediately screams of 'unnecessary' I suppose. Fair point, but with varying work commitments plus kids and dogs to taxi around, we probably do need two. That said, perhaps my car could do with a little environmental review. It’s a 4x4 which weighs as much as a small moon and gets through fuel faster than my kids get through a packet of raisins. It's petrol which is rare for a 4x4 so at least any hole I’m burning in the ozone might not be as big as a diesel driver’s, but I’m certainly always ready to listen to alternatives.
So, when Kia challenged me to live a #EcoWeekend with my family I was more than up it. The premise of the weekend was to drive Kia’s new PHEV Optima Sportswagon to Brighton, a city known for its green credentials and explore the family activities on offer such as shopping, eating locally sourced organic food and just have a general mooch, whilst at the same time ensuring the car and its plug-in hybrid solution kept us moving when we needed to.
The car arrived on Friday allowing me a few hours to familiarise myself with the gadgets and controls it came loaded with. Whilst I appreciated the in-built satnav and media player, for the purposes of the Eco Weekend, I was more interested (or dare I say ‘confused/worried’) to know how the car would make the switch from electrical energy to petrol - would I end up on the hard shoulder of the M23 if I ran out of electricity? Thankfully, no, all my concerns were easily put to rest once I knew the car switched to petrol naturally or at the press of a button – phew!
The car itself was smart and roomy. The boot was a great size; more than enough for a family of 4-5 to use for weekends away. The kids had plenty of space in the back, but rather than enjoy the calmness that such space might bring, kids being kids, they obviously filled it with a plethora of soft toys, diggers and even the kitchen sink.
The drive down to Brighton on the Saturday morning was comfortable, fuss free, and incredibly smooth. I’ve never really driven automatics before, except on holiday, and my previous experiences haven’t been that great – often a little too jerky between the lower automatically selected gears or it would select first gear pulling away from a junction when second or even third would have been a smoother choice. No such issues with the Kia as we breezed down the M23 with Brighton and it's green offerings in our sights.
Once in Brighton we stayed at the Jurys Inn on the seafront. Having been to Brighton on numerous occasions, I’ve seen the hotel before but have never been in. I was immediately impressed by its huge atrium area which served as it’s lounge, dining and bar area. The room was ok, a little tight as we required a travel cot for our son, but to be honest, the sea air wiped out both children, so the room simply became a nice place to rest our heads.
Out and about in Brighton we parked in the NCP where charging points were available for the car, and then leisurely strolled around the North Laines and lanes areas taking in some organic coffee and juices and perusing numerous fair-trade shops such as FAIR on Queen’s Road.
As evening fell we had an early supper at Riddle and Finns which was located under the arches on the seafront. A lovely laid back, yet very stylish restaurant serving fresh fish and a fine selection of wines. Whilst the restaurant might have appeared from first glance to cater mainly for adults, we were pleased to find they provided a kids’ menus which went down very well with our two.
With the day behind us it was time for early bed, ready for one final adventure in the morning before heading home back up the M23, this time with no fears of finding myself parked up on the hard shoulder if the electricity ran out.
Sunday morning started with a lovely buffet breakfast in the hotel, our backdrop illuminated by the low winter sun reflecting off the sea – a fantastic sight to wake up to. Kids and parents fuelled with pastries and fruit, it was time to head back home but taking in one final experience en route.
We stopped off at Stanmer Park to enjoy a nice walk in the beautiful park land – a reminder that not all family activities need to cost anything, nor do they require much planning. A simple and detoxing walk on a nice day is sometimes more than enough to keep little ones (and big ones) happy, whilst also being good for our health and obviously having pretty much no impact on our eco credentials – ok, so the drive to the parkland clearly had an impact, but knowing I was driving the Kia with its hybrid engine, meant any impact, as with everything else we did over the weekend was green and minimal.
A fantastic weekend which I must thank Kia Motors UK for.