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I Now Understand Commuting in an SUV

  • December 1, 2005
  • Commuting
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Up until two weeks ago I made my daily commute in a very economical Honda CR-X 2-door hatchback. 4-cylinder engine, less than 100HP, no wasted seats since it was just for getting to work, 30+ miles per gallon and no maintenance whatsoever. It makes perfect sense on paper. The CR-X is exactly what you want for commuting, right? Well, if everyone else drove a small car it would be just fine. But it’s not much fun on California freeways with large SUVs and cellphone conversations providing a nice combination. Not to mention the big trucks. An 18-wheeler beside a CR-X provides a great opportunity for the study of lug nuts.
91 crx.jpg

It turns out, safety is more important than gas mileage to me. Small cars built today have a much higher level of safety equipment than was available more than a decade ago for my Honda – and I would have no problem driving a small or mid-size car in California traffic as long as the safety features were there.
So the Honda left my family fleet when we bought a used Minivan. The Honda really needed replacing and our other vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee was quickly becoming too small for growing kids. I now drive the Cherokee on a regular basis, which includes commuting.
I never understood commuting in an SUV until I starting doing it myself, but now I completely understand this phenomenon of driving an impractical vehicle just for commuting. It comes back to the SUV intangibles we’ve known in the auto business for years now – sitting up high, visibility both for me as driver and for others seeing me, basically several safety issues. And most Americans are impractical about a lot of things. This Cherokee was already in our household and just a hand-me-down from my wife. If I was buying a new vehicle today I would not need a 4-door SUV.
Sure I will miss the gas mileage and the low maintenance costs that were benefits of driving a CR-X, but I am very happy with the tradeoff at the moment. If my commute was 35 miles one way instead of 11, it would be a different story also. But for now it works. I fold down the rear seats since I am usually by myself, and it makes for a nice permanent inside storage space for my mountain bike also. Works better than being worried about theft of a bike on a rack.
So as long as my commute doesn’t get any longer I’m happy with commuting in a vehicle that doesn’t make much sense for just commuting. But it does make sense that we now have two vehicles that the whole family can fit in – it comes down to perceived safety and flexibility.

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