Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Do I have Big Car Guilt?

Small Car Guilt?

I'll admit it. As the owner of Subcompact Culture, sometimes I feel guilty looking at bigger vehicles and considering purchasing one. I mean, this is "The Small Car Blog," right? I've always had smallish cars; the largest car we've ever owned was a 2012 Subaru Forester—not exactly a land yacht.

Sometimes I feel like I shouldn't ever consider buying anything larger than a Honda Fit. As much as I love the smallest of the small cars, I admit to having a thing for vehicles that are a bit bigger. This includes the likes of the extremely off-road capable Jeep Wrangler; the powerful Ford Mustang (although technically still a subcompact); the mid-sized Toyota Tacoma, and the super-versatile Mazda5. Honestly, I'd own any of these vehicles despite the fact none of them is a "small car." Then again, none of them are enormous, either. In fact, they're all still pretty small compared to some of the other vehicles in their respective classes. 

Sometimes you have to consider what you're doing with a vehicle and if it fits your needs. For example, while the Teal Terror pictured above is fine for venturing out into the woods or putt-putting around the urban Porland landscape, traveling 800 miles at Interstate speeds in a lifted Suzuki Sidekick isn't exactly the most comfortable. With only about 70 horespower to the wheels, a range of about 140 miles when pulling our trailer, and wind noise levels that makes it feel like you're driving a tent down the freeway while in a typhoon. There are times I long for something more powerful and comfortable, such as the Jeep Wrangler, Toyota Tacoma, or even a V6-powered Suzuki Grand Vitara. Shit, even a 1999+ Suzuki Vitara or Chevy Tracker with the 127 horsepower 2.0-liter mill would be a vast improvement over my Sidekick's anemic 1.6-liter hamster wheel. Even a modern Jeep Wrangler feels luxurious compared to the old Sidekick, especially with its 285 horsepower Pentastar V-6. The Sidekick roars at 70 MPH and spins about 3,800 RPM, all while the soft top flaps in the breeze. A hill? Downshift to third gear and floor it; hopefully that semi truck doesn't creep up on my bumper too much. Speeding, however, isn't usually an issue. Finding a gas station in the middle of nowhere with only 140 iles per tank can be. 

So perhaps a Suzuki Sidekick isn't the optimal Interstate cruiser, but it still does get decent mileage, is super maneuverable, and plenty of fun at slower speeds (really, it does great at about 60 MPH). So what about a daily driver?

Sometimes my big car guilt even makes me feel like a compact car is too big. I should be driving a subcompact! I don't have kids. I don't have a dog. I don't haul people around a lot. Hell, there's a good chance that I could get by every single day with a Scion iQ. So do I really need a "big" Subaru WRX? Of course I don't! Does anyone really need a 265 horespower, all-wheel drive car? No way. But the WRX is heaps of fun. It's fast, it's practical, it comes in a manual transmission, and it's capable in foul weather. If we all drove exactly what we needed, we'd likely be on motor scooters most of the time. (Although we love scooters.)

When it comes down to my automotive passion, I suppose it's not limited to a one-size-fits-all thing. I love hot rods, muscle cars, trucks, sports cars, and can respect any gearhead's passion—no matter what size, shape, year, or style. I'd be the last person on earth telling someone they should be driving a Smart car because they don't need a big car, or that they should buy a small EV for environmental purposes. Drive what you love, love what you drive, and respect every enthusiast's passion.

Maybe it's time to give up the big car guilt. If I want something a bit bigger, that's fine. But even my "big" would likely be pretty small. After all, sometimes it's not the size that matters. (Sorry, it had to be said.)


Avonni said...

Amazing coincidence, because immediately before I saw this post, I was wondering if I miss the feel of a bigger car with a V8 which I had years ago. The answer is yes I do sometimes, but not enough to want to live with one as an only car - when I think of all the advantages I'm getting everyday with my Mazda2. Besides the obvious reduced costs, I can zip around curves and turns where other cars have to slow down. Can maneuver easier in parking lots. And can get parking spots where other cars would have none.

One recent example was a few days ago, I was taking my girlfriend's mom to the airport and needed to park the car. Well I was driving for 15 minutes around the garage level after level and no spots. Was getting really annoyed because I received a ticket with a timestamp before i entered the garage, so was paying for this time driving around instead of being parked. Finally I noticed in a corner there was a crack opening with lettering on the ground that said "compact car only". Only thing is, even a compact wouldn't have been able to get in there because the car that was parked next to it at a 45-degree angle was positioned blatantly forward and toward the spot, apparently to discourage anyone from using it, and getting too close to their car. But not being discouraged at all- but rather more inspired, I folded the outside mirrors on my lean green machine and slipped in.

So much for small cars being something you "settle for".
Besides...I would just get in trouble with the Dodge Challenger anyway.

Lee Seelig said...

What kind of gas mileage are you getting? I know those bigger tires, the winch, the trailer and the other mods you've made would lower the number. But over the life of my stock 1989 Geo Tracker (I drove it nearly 150,000 miles from new) I averaged just over 27mpg. As I recall, the tank held 10.5 US gallons. So you're getting, what, 15mpg?

Andy Lilienthal said...


With all the add-ons, I routinely get 22-23 MPG (mostly city driving). Pulling the trailer with tent and gear at 65-70 MPH, I was getting 17-18 MPG.