I’ve told you about our family car situation before, so it’s no surprise I’ve got alternate forms of transportation on my mind these days. Your mother and I got some test driving in this weekend due to a last-minute cancellation, and I’m pleased to report we’ve got a contender.
The test drive process is pretty interesting. I kind of figured the salesguy would ride along and yammer in our ears, but they just made a copy of our license, handed us a key, and pointed us at a $16,000 toy. We checked out the Fit first, and it was a hard act to follow. They gave us a red one, which was pretty spiffy, and we both took turns wringing it out (or, as much as one can wring out a 1.5 liter engine) on I-70. When compared to the Jeep, and even the Saturn, it’s not as powerful a ride, but it still has zip. The interior is completely misleading—it looks like it would be tiny from the outside but it’s cavernous inside. The controls are easy to use, and the wheel, steering, and brakes are all tight as a drum. And when the salesman showed us how the big half of the rear seat folds down to a flat cargo deck (without touching the smaller half, where you’d be strapped in), I was sold. Strollers, christmas presents, livestock, shipping containers—I could fit anything in there.
The Civic sedan was less than impressive. The interior felt alternately cramped in some places and huge in other places, and the wheel felt like it belonged on a go-kart. They could only give us an automatic for a test drive, so we didn’t get to feel out the engine, but everything about the car was adequate enough. Quibbles: the speedometer is placed waaaaay up on the front of the dash and the tach is right under the steering wheel. The seats were comfortable and the controls were pretty easy to use. Overall, for the money, I’m not as impressed as I should have been.
Finally, we tried out a Matrix up at the Toyota dealer. They’re already showing the 2009 models, which have been redesigned into ugly streamlined blobs, and again all we could get was an automatic to play with. The inside of the car is uglier than the outside. It feels like the dashboard was shoved up under the windshield by a snowplow, and the gearshift sits almost vertical on the center console like an old Alfa Romeo. The gauges are clear, but when I pushed the seat back to get my legs comfortable with the pedals I felt like I had to lean way forward to touch the wheel. The rest of the cabin is functional but uncomfortable. The car itself has more power than the Fit, but gets lousier gas mileage. The back seat feels smaller than the Fit, and the rear deck isn’t as spacious. Overall, it’s just not as well-designed inside, and the base model is $4K more than a tricked-out Fit. Sorry, Toyota.
In other news, your mother took us on a Sunday field trip: there’s a pretty pick-your-own farm out west of here with rows and rows of ripe blueberries, raspberries, and cherries she’s been dying to visit for years. We got an early start out of the house and were in the fields, bag in hand, by 10:30, and after an hour or so had collected over 5 lbs. of delicious ripe blueberries. A half hour later, we were standing under cherry trees bending under the weight of the fruit on their boughs. I noticed an interesting phenomena out there too: we picked alongside families with everything from bundled newborns to bored teenagers, and after a few initial minutes of inaction or complaint, everyone seemed to get in on the fun together, which made me look forward to the day we can take you picking with us.