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()In case you have read a lot of my writing, you then understand that I’m a passionate believer in what I predict that the energy of the narrative.) Human beings interact with reality we work with stories to translate what we’re currently viewing . It’s people will take food and the reason why we dread thunder.
()Few facets of our presence are story-driven because our interactions with an car. We would observe cars for attaining a job, as nothing but machines, make it a sail, a SCCA race, or a holiday — and we’d judge them solely. Trust me, even if we did this it’d be completely ruinous to its automaker profit margins on the market. Imagine picking on a car the way that you’d select a power supply, a dishwasher or, um. You focus on fitness for purpose and would forget about intangibles.
Over the last few decades, I’ve tried to shed my private addiction to the automotive narrative and learn how to “understand the thing for itself,” as Marcus Aurelius wrote. This may result in some surprising conclusions… and it looks like I’m not the only person who has acquired at least a tiny bit of this skill. Normally we wouldn’t do two Ask Jack columns in 1 week, but the fellow in this case says he’s going to make a choice this weekend, so let’s pull the trigger pronto and get right to the question.
I am in the market for a new secondary vehicle. About seven months ago I picked up a 2001 Honda insight as a second car — and something of a dream car for me, as odd as that may sound. I started do all my commuting and the majority of my short weekend trips with the Insight, enjoying every bit of that 64 miles per gallon on regular fuel. My other car was a 2008 BMW 535xi wagon with manual transmission which I had owned for about 60,000 miles and 2.5 decades. It was my main “do everything car” (long cruises, spirited driving, carry around my recreational equipment, etc.). On account of the high insurance and maintenance expenses, higher registration fees, the fear of a rapidly depreciating high-mileage (160k) BMW, and no true demand for a car as big of a 5 series (no family), it was time for it to go….
As much as I really like my Insight, there are things it isn’t great at — mainly carrying much of anything, driving for an protracted time period, or any mixture of the two. I am in the market for a vehicle, with the BMW sold. Ideally, one that’s cheap to keep and insure, is fine sitting and only being driven 1 out of 14 days, can carry a mountain bike or strap a kayak on top of, can be enjoyed during the occasional spirited drive/autox, and has the capability to comfortably carry enough stuff for week-long trips.
I have two major candidates picked out: a 2004 Civic Si with 154k miles, or a 2008 Scion xB with 95k miles. Both have manual transmissions and are listed for $4,500. I understand the Scion is the choice: fewer miles newer doors, and more cargo space. One of my college friends had this era of xB, I have driven it, been in it on road trips, experienced its reliability, and in addition to all that I really enjoy speedo and the center gauges. I understand I the powertrain is fun, it’s much less dull as one might think, to drive, and I know I could be pleased with it. Then we’ve got the card. Although I have never driven one, I have always loved the way these cars look (inside and out), the solid Honda reliability, and aftermarket support in case I get bored with the vehicle in stock form. On paper both cars have the exact same 0-60 times, but I feel like the Civic will be the more enjoyable car, and because of this I believe I would like it . What can I select: the auto or the auto?
let me begin with the obvious: I’m not sure which tests Mike is using to assign a roughly similar 0-60 to both an ’04 Civic Si and an ’08 Scion xB, but there’s no way in hell the Civic won’t whip the Scion’s ass in any contest of speed of which you might reasonably conceive. Or at least that’s what I thought until I actually looked at C/D‘s numbers, which actually provide the nod in both 0-60 and 0-100 to the Scion. Could that be right? Could the unloved successor to the real xB really have hustle to coincide with the British-built EP3 hatch?
It becomes worse. The more you look at both of these cars, the more similar they are. Weight, approximate dimensions, seating position… Just how is this case? In the event you’d asked me before this morning, then I’d have advised me the Civic Si hatch as well as the second-gen xB have been entirely distinct. Well, it turns out they’re not.
Let’s all take a little time to respect and admire Mike for seeing a similarity that has probably escaped 99 percent of the purchasing public. Then let’s slap his hand because of his choice to turn away from this singular insight (with a lower-case “I”) and even consider the Honda. Why? Let’s see. Each alike in dignity, two cars. Except one of them is newer four years, has two-thirds the mileage, and is built in Japan by Toyota instead of in Swindon, UK by Honda. You may say what you like about the xB, but they are and are as taxis everywhere it’s permissible to use them as such, which is an indicator of reliability that is no-excuses. It’s also far less likely to have been abused or “performance” modified during its lifetime.
Will it be less fun to drive? I’m fearful that reality and perception may be correlated here. Nonetheless, the EP3 hatch wasn’t known for being a brilliant steer when it was new — I hate to use the phrase “worst Civic Si” in a world where my mother’s 1983 stripe-and-upholstery package Civic 1500 “S” existed, but this ain’t no bright-blue coupe or Energy Green turbo stunna. With the perfect modifications, the British Civic hatch can be made to perform, but all that does is send the owner down a rabbit hole where they eventually realize they should have saved up for a 2009 Si coupe instead.
Mike, I’m gonna score this one for the Scion by an overwhelming, unanimous choice. It’s the best one for you, although it may be the uglier of the 2 breadboxes. And congratulations for looking into the metal’s truth and past the story. May we all learn to do the same.
[Image: Toyota Motor Corporation]