By: Chris Olliff, Senior Editor
Ahhhh…Driving in America. The land of wide open spaces, Big Macs, Big states, and BIG CARS! Where else can you be a single male and drive a Chevrolet Suburban and be seen as a hero like you are saving the American Dream? Is this a dream…or a NIGHTMARE?
They are everywhere…these big, 6,000 pounds goliaths (and even mid-size SUVs), and the only thing worse is the fact that most don’t even need the space. Yes….you families with ranches and boats are off the hook here. Confront those drivers who are guilty of waste, and they will often say that “they like to sit high up” or “they like to haul things from time to time”. I must say, this is absolute RUBBISH, especially when you consider the trade-offs.
SUVs are styled like appliances, heavy and clumsy, bouncy, hard to get in and out of, hard to drive ‘round corners, hard to park, hard to maneuver, expensive, have poor resale value, and get poor fuel mileage. I can just hear it now…..the cries from all of the SUV owners this summer as fuel hits $3.00 a gallon……again!
In Europe, yes….there are a few SUVs, but people make do with vehicles that better suit their lifestyles while taking size, practicality, and economy in mind. Instead of driving a Ford Explorer which handles like a drunken Hippo, single people drive VW Golfs and Seat Ibizas. Yes, they still carry as much as we might on a weekend holiday, but they make better usage of the vehicles space. OK, to be fair, a European family may have to drive a Renault Modus or Grande Megane Scenic to get the space that an American family may use in an Explorer, but they will be getting at least 30% better fuel economy to boot!
I know….”fuel is more expensive there”, you say….”so they NEED to drive smaller cars”. This is true, but we could learn from our European neighbors to use vehicle space better and be more efficient. How can we do this? Here are some ideas…
- Don’t buy more car than you need. There are several hundred choices out there, so pick a vehicle that is “just right” for your needs. If you are single and carry stuff occasionally, try a small wagon or even a Prius and use a roof carrier. If you are a family of four and want space, try a Mazda 5 with three rows of seats and get 27mpg instead of 17.
- Go after vehicles that have better fuel economy and may have a better impact on the environment
- If you can, drive a vehicle with a manual transmission and you will get better fuel economy and performance
- Look for vehicles that use technology to save fuel like hybrids, diesels, direct injection, and cylinder deactivation
- Look for vehicles that use maximum efficiencies of interior packaging.
- Support car makers who are serious about their global footprint, their commitment to advanced technologies, and environmental outlook.
These are just a few ideas….please feel free to write in with others.
Lest you think I don’t ascribe to any of these myself, I do. My wife drives a Scion xB, which is a very efficient vehicle in terms of economy and space. The vehicle gets an average of 35mpg, and has 2 cubic feet less of total interior volume than a Ford Explorer. Me? I drive a 1998 BMW 323 ic which gets 33mpg as well, and is about the largest vehicle I will ever drive…
In the face of looming fuel hikes and environmental regulations here in America, we should do our part and buy vehicles that are more efficient for our needs. As I have just brushed across this subject one thing is clear: we could learn from our European neighbors….