Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Why Am I Drawn to Small Cars on Long Trips?

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage driving

Maybe it's my sense of adventure; maybe it's my love of small, simple cars. Maybe it's both. But the simpler and smaller the car, the more I dream of taking it on a long trip. Not just a trip to the coast; not just a trip over the mountain, but a legit road adventure.  

We just got out of the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage (review coming soon), and it's a pretty simple car at its core. Despite being equipped with niceties such as Bluetooth, automatic climate control, and cruise control, it's a very basic car underneath. It's got a three-cylinder engine that makes only 74 hp, and that's mated to a CVT. It's small, simple, slowish, and pretty rudimentary, at least for a new car. But for some reason, I fantasized about taking it on a road trip across the U.S. Maybe it's the fact that I love an underdog, but I love the idea of crossing the country (or farther) in a simple, small vehicle. 

I have the same fantasy about taking our Spartan '95 Suzuki Sidekick on an epic trip. Some dirt roads, some off road; some highway, some byway. Maybe up through Canada? Maybe across Europe? With only 95 hp on tap it wouldn't be a fast journey, that's for sure. However, I love the idea of taking it on a long-ass trip. It's been ultra reliable in the three years I've had it. However, if it broke down, it'd be pretty easy to fix. And while it's not as simple as, say, a VW Beetle (that's an old Beetle not a newer one), it is still basic compared to new cars these days. And while not as basic as our Sidekick, our 2007 Toyota Yaris is pretty simple, too. It's easy to work on, there aren't a megaton of doodads and geegaws. No, it isn't as simple as a carbureted car from the 1960s, but for a "newish" vehicle, its still pretty simple. There's something about being in our own personal travel pod, whirring across the countryside. I love it. 

Don't get me wrong, I adore our higher-tech, higher-performance Subaru WRX. With 265 hp, heated seats, cruise control, and of course, all-wheel drive. We've taken it down to California. We've taken it up to Canada. It's a fantastic vehicle. It's great for road trips and has plenty of space. Plus, it's pretty freakin' fast. But there's something about defying the odds in a smaller, more rudimentary vehicle that speaks to me. 

We've taken our Yaris on a few cool road trips, including down to California and all over Oregon and Washington. I drove my 2005 Scion xB from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Portland Oregon, which was over 2,000 miles. We did more than 4,200 miles in our 2009 Suzuki SX4 when we drove from Oregon to Wisconsin and back (via Yellowstone National Park). However, those same distances in more basic vehicles sound like a heck of an adventure. My dream is to ship one of my own cars to Europe and tour around. And yes, the idea of our WRX on the German Autobhan would be amazing. But equally, driving our Sidekick through the European countryside would be an amazing adventure.

Maybe someday we'll take our Sidekick—no air conditioning, no cruise control, no power windows or locks, no airbags or ABS, no frills—on a long journey. Hell, it doesn't even have a hard top. I'm sure it'd be an experience. I'm glad to see smaller, thinner vehicles, such as the new Mirage, the Chevrolet Spark, and Nissan Versa still around. They might make great rudimentary road trip cars. 


Ducati Scotty said...

I drove from New York City to San Diego, CA in my '97 Honda Civic. It's also been to Canada and Mexico, many other US states, and up and down the Pacific coast highway more times than I can count. I slept in it on many of those trips and it's still my daily driver. I've been from San Diego to Portland, OR on an 800cc air cooled Ducati and from Portland, OR to San Francisco, CA and back on my 500cc air cooled Royal Enfield. Little motors do make for epic road trips.

Steve "SailDesign" Baker said...

'Coz small cars are fun. End.