The Great Automobile Shuffle

We were a 2 car, 2 driver household.  A change to one driver’s health status made both of our cars not amenable to this life altering event.  Ease of entry and exit became a new requirement, as well as the need for easier access to manageable carry space for the extra things we now need to carry.

Our 2012 Camry was a joy to drive but getting things of substantial weight in and out of the trunk was not a simple task.  It was also not an easy car to get in and out of for someone with mobility issues.  The same problem existed on our other car, a 2013 Corolla S, with the added issue of a very hard ride due to the sport suspension and tires.

The Camry was sold to the Toyota dealer in town, and the Corolla was sold to CarMax.  With the purchase of the replacement vehicle we had decided to locate and buy, we came out financially ahead on the deal.

We had purchased a new 2005 Scion XB when they first became available in New England and we both loved that car, owning it for about 8 years.  My sister has driven it for the last 3 or 4 years.  They stopped selling new XBs in the US in 2015 or early 2016, so I hunted one down on CarMax, and found a very low mileage 2013 in Virginia.  I paid $300 to have it shipped to Hartford and within a week we were happily driving it home.

The car meets the requirements – easier accessibility and more, manageable carry space.  Lifting weight into the back is much easier due to the hatch back and it’s rear bumper-level sill, not requiring lifting the weight up and over to get it in the car.  With the rear seat backs folded down (forward), the extra space provided is ready for extended road trips requiring luggage and more.  In either scenario there are many hooks and loops on the inside body and rear seat backs to secure loads with bungee cords or rope.

The entry into the seating areas is a little lower to the ground than either of the 2 previous cars, making entry significantly easier.  We find the car is noticeably quieter and gives a nicer ride than the 2005 version.  The 16″ wheels (as opposed to the 15″ on the older version) and the slightly extended wheel base are the main reasons for the improved ride.

We need to wait until the honeymoon is over and more miles are put on the car to see what the actual miles per gallon will be, for both town and highway.  My initial feeling is that the newer XB may not be as comfortable at the highway speeds I used to drive the old one (70+ mph), and have been staying closer to 65 except to pass.

Time will tell if it will be as dependable and problem free as the 2005 model was, and still is for my sister, but for now we’re just enjoying the new ride.

My 2000 Mazda B2000 Pickup

I’ve owned or leased a lot of different vehicles over the last 40+ years and this 2000 Mazda B2000 pickup truck is in my top 5 favorites.  I now really wish I had bought it at the end of the 39 month lease, it was a fun ride.  It would still look as good as in the pic, which was taken just before I turned it in.

It was a “Gentleman’s Pickup”.  I did favors with it for relatives and friends but told them it doesn’t go to the dump, and doesn’t haul manure.  The reality was that even being only a 2 wheel drive, it was a gas guzzler, streets or highway.  Best I ever got was 15 mpg, in the summer, and winter gave me only 13 mpg.  So I had to let it go.

Click the pic to view it full size.

The New Ride…

ruc-iQ

Those who know me have heard this way too many times, so I’ll be brief. I first saw the Scion iQ at the 2009 New York City Car Show and it was “love at first sight”. I’ve always had a soft spot for very small cars which I believe is inherited from my Dad. I can remember riding with him in his tiny used Fiat 300 (600?) way back in the 60’s. My last small car was a ’94 Ford Festiva, which I only gave up because the Mrs. didn’t want our soon to be driving son’s first accident happen in that “tin can”.

It was a long wait for the iQ to be available in the states, let alone this part of the country. When it finally arrived, there was no question – as long as it passed the test drive it would be bought. It did, and it was. The two options I added were the sport wheels and a beefier sound system.

I’m just over 3,000 miles into it as of this post, so this is a first impression owner report.

Like my last car, a 2005 Scion XB, the inside is surprisingly spacious and comfortable compared to what would be expected seeing it from the outside. That said, the iQ has a ridiculous back seat which is useless unless you usually need to transport small children who unfortunately have no legs. I removed the headrests and keep the back “seats” folded down making for flat, relatively suitable storage space.

The driver’s seat is supportive and comfortable, and the passenger seat is even better due to extra legroom. The interior provides ample shoulder room, the car being wider than it’s competitors Fiat and SmartCar. There is no glove box (ugh) and the slide out plastic tray under the passenger seat is an annoying, lousy replacement. I fixed this with a small knapsack that lays flat behind the console, between the seats, and contains everything the glove box would, plus all my music CD’s. I think the glove box was nixed by the engineers to help make room for the nine airbags surrounding the cabin.

The sound system is incredible and was worth the purchase. I like loud music – which it delivers and then some. Clear as a bell and with all the little nuances often unheard with systems that only do “LOUD”. The system interface is well laid out and is feature rich on it’s touch screen.

My driving pattern is a daily work commute, 45 miles round trip. The ride to work happens at around 5:15 in the morning and I do that 22 miles on the interstate (only because the traffic is usually light – I hate driving highway no matter what I’m driving). On the ride home, no highway, a mix of secondary roads and back roads, but the same path every day. It includes quite a few ups and downs of long hills.

My driving style is mainly geared towards maximum MPGs – keeping that little green “ECO” light on the dash lit up helps with this as does monitoring the average MPG that resets on each fill up of the 8 gallon tank. The MPG average I’ve calculated over the 3,000 plus miles is 36.7 (car is rated at 37). I’m more than ok with that as the car is fun to drive, and zippy enough for me. It handles the highway well at about 65 MPH and the secondary road uphills with relative ease – keeping up with traffic minus any signs of strain.

Admittedly, you need to like small cars to own a Scion iQ.

Due to the short wheelbase, bumpy roads are bumpy! But not to the point of being unsafe. The engine noise is significant, not overbearing, and like the XB is remedied by the sound system. While I did take the XB back and forth to Baltimore and Boston quite a few times, it could handle 70 to 80 mph with ease and had plenty of luggage space – not so for the iQ on either point. It won’t be making those kind of trips unless I make them alone, mix secondary roads into the ride, and am not in a major hurry.

An item that makes most folks take a step back when I mention it is, NO SPARE TIRE. A combination air pump powered by the car’s electrical system and a can of goop to stop the leak is the replacement. I suspect my AAA card is the better replacement – as long as they come with a flat bed tow truck in case it needs to be toted off.

Overall? I am more than pleased. It’s more of a “car” than I thought it would be, feeling road worthy and handling well. I honestly don’t feel like I’m in a super-small car unless I look over my shoulder and am reminded that second half of it is missing. I find it fun to drive and am happy with the fuel efficiency.


UPDATE 2013-04-07: This car was traded in towards a new ride for the Mrs. (her turn) in October of last year. By about 6,000 miles, it had developed a very scary and annoying metal against metal noise under the hood which the dealer would not or could not address. This event, coupled with an interior smell of burning oil after the engine heated up (like it was dripping on the manifold) and new sounds coming from the suspension, made it clear it was time to bail out of this car. I did love driving it but not enough to risk the repair adventures I imagined inevitable. And no, I did not beat on this car – it was all about the MPGs, which it delivered on quite well.

I’m now driving the old woman’s hand-me-down 2005 Toyota Corolla, in good shape with about 60k miles on it. It should get me through the next 2 years or more without much grief.  Oops – did I just say that out loud?