Sep 242012
 
2006 Civic

Editor’s note: Not all car lovers are nuts-and-bolts people. Many don’t understand how most critical systems work. People for whom cars hold a sentimental or emotional value (“sentimentalists,” if you will), though, are an integral part of the automotive community. Far too many see the car as an expensive appliance and fail to appreciate the impact they have on our lives.  Sentimentalists provide that middle ground between car nerds (like, say, me) and the automotive philistines that carmakers seem to slowly be pandering to more and more. Here is one person’s story – an excellent example of why you don’t have to be a level-5 gearhead to love cars. –Chris

Full disclosure: this will not be a “car guy” post like you have seen before on this site, primarily for the following reasons:

#1: I’m not going to talk about things like tire size, horsepower, torque, steering, chassis, engines, or specs. Those posts are great, but I’ll leave those to the real experts.

#2: I’m not a guy.

I do, however, have a keen appreciation for and odd sentimental attachment to cars.

First, there’s something you have to understand about me. For my entire life, I’ve been developing these profoundly sentimental attachments. I blame this on all the hours I spent with my dad listening to music as a child. I’ve been heavily influenced by Cetera-era Chicago, Gilbert O’Sullivan, and countless other “mellow” soft rock artists. This was reinforced by my elementary school music teacher who made us sing the greatest hits from Chicago, The Carpenters, and, later, Ace of Base.

The music inspired not only a fierce sense of sentimentality, but a flair for the dramatic, as well. When I was seven my mom told me she was throwing my favorite stuffed animals (and best friends!) away because I didn’t clean my room. I “borrowed” her camera and spent a whole afternoon sobbing while carefully posing and photographing my stuffed animals so I could remember them forever.

She never threw them away. I still have them. It’s not weird. But I digress.

In 1986 my parents purchased a brand-spanking-new, red, shiny, luxurious, enviable… Chevy Astro. It was not even to be the boxiest of vehicles we would own. The van was great. So much cooler than my dad’s old Cutlass Ciera (don’t get jealous) or the Pontiac LeMans that would later replace it.

I loved that van, not for the piece of machinery that it was or any features it had (the only feature I was aware of, by the way, was one that I later learned was not even native to the vehicle: America’s History album on cassette, playing over and over and over again). I loved that car because of what it represented to me: childhood. It was family vacations to Ocean City, days spent at my grandma’s swimming pool with my cousins, and even bringing my newborn brother home from the hospital.

So in 1995 when my dad announced that we were trading in ye olde Astro for a brand-spanking-new model, a white, shiny, luxurious, enviable Ford Windstar (what-what?) … I threw a fit. I was twelve, and therefore probably just a tiny bit on the incredibly freakin’ dramatic side, but seriously. He was trying to destroy all of my happy childhood memories and I would never accept that Windstar as a new era for me.

For the first half of my teenage years, my bedroom walls were 100% covered, floor-to-ceiling, with pictures of Jonathan Taylor Thomas that had been carefully removed from Tiger Beat, Teen Beat, and Bop! magazines. The outside of my bedroom door, on the other hand, was adorned with a picture of a Ford Windstar that I had cut out of one of the dealership books we’d received. I used construction paper to cut out a big circle to enclose this image, and then placed a slash through it.

My friends thought I was super weird. I was just making a statement that all ‘tween girls make, though.

I am completely anti-Ford Windstar.

I never did accept that car. Not even years later when I sometimes practiced driving in it. I hated it with every fiber of my being and liked to frequently tell my dad how it was such a piece of crap. After it broke down on the way to Florida and the closest Ford garage refused to service it, he finally started listening to reason and agreeing with me. Clearly I was so knowledgeable.

Gosh. It was like he hadn’t even grown up as the car guy son of another car guy.

(For the record, my paternal grandfather died before I was born, but he was a successful used car salesman. He and my dad and my uncles used to go to car auctions and drive around in basically whatever car they wanted. So cars have been a thing for me pretty much since I was three and my dad invented a game for us called “guess the make and model of the next car that drives by our house.”)

Anyway, there’s no point in walking you through every vehicle my family has owned and my weirdo attitudes about them. Suffice it to say that we found our groove with Honda years ago, returning to that manufacturer after the 1992 Accord we had leased for a while was deemed to be one of the best cars we ever gave back.

2000 Honda Accord

Me with the 2000 Accord, heading to my Jr. Prom to dazzle people (and weird them out) with information about the Accord’s disc brakes.

I learned to drive in my dad’s 1996 Honda Civic. I named her Cyndi, and I loved the hell out of that car (even when her manifold was cracked and she sounded like a bar fly.) His next move was a blue 2000 Accord (which, given my fondness for the Grinch, I named Cyndi Blue-Who). I accompanied him on a warm May afternoon to pick it up at the dealership. He let me drive it off the lot and back to our house, and I drove my date and myself to my junior prom in it later that evening. While all of the other girls were talking about how many bobby-pins and gallons of hairspray they’d used or where their flowers had come from, I was the weirdo trying to tell people about the Accord’s disc brakes.

Like a race car, guys!

So anyway, fast forward to October 2005. I was driving around in a used 1991 Accord that, prior to my college graduation, my sister and I had shared (at least until my dad bought his box o’fun – a “sunset orange pearl” Element, and undoubtedly the boxiest vehicle we ever owned). Its name was Winslow and it smelled like old man pee (according to one friend, and the sentiment just sort of stuck).

I was just about two months into my first real-world job teaching ninth graders how to speak English “real good and stuff” and my crippling student loans hadn’t kicked in just yet. Plus, paying suburban rent every month actually made my checkbook cry. My dad and I had discussed how I wanted a new car and that hopefully I’d be able to afford one soon after I saw what my loans were going to be like. I’d even told him that I kind of liked the look of the upcoming 2006 Civic.

“That light blue color is really sharp,” I’d said, proving my coolness.

So I was sitting outside my friend’s apartment complex one Saturday afternoon that October, talking to Dave Coulier on the phone. (Yes, that Dave Coulier. Cut-it-out!) I’d be happy to tell you how it came to be that I was talking to this man of Full-House-and-Alanis-Morrissette fame on the phone, but leave a comment if you want to know. I should really try to stay on topic.

Dave and I were discussing how I taught ninth grade English and my students called me The Hatchet. He informed me, ever so wisely, that Mary Kate and Ashley had been in ninth grade once. In the midst of this stimulating conversation, my cell phone beeped to inform me that my dad was on the other line.

“Well, Dave, this has been fun, but my dad’s calling me.” Happy trails, Dave. He was a really nice guy.

I answered the phone and my dad just launched right into it.

“Hi, Renee. Hey, I just wanted to let you know – I hope you can afford to make car payments because I just ordered your car for you. It’s an ’06 Civic, that light blue color. It’s going to be manufactured in early December and you’ll have it by Christmas.”

Le sigh. I was excited about my new car for sure. But I have this little problem with anxiety attacks (see: above story about stuffed animals) and so I freaked out for a while about making payments.

It was December 22, 2005 when I parked Winslow in the lot at the Honda dealership by my parents’ house. I thanked him for his years of service and told him to take it easy.

A number of formalities later, Ken, my dad’s Honda salesman of choice, walked me out onto the showroom floor and introduced me to my new car, Beverly. Cue up Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture. (No, seriously, click on that. It’s cued up to exactly what I heard in my head when I saw my beloved Beverly for the first time. Totally normal.)

2006 Civic

Almost seven years later, she still sings “Forever Your Girl” to me. (I have absolutely nothing to do with it.)

Bev and I have had our share of tough times – namely when I had to stand outside a very tall gate at 2 a.m. with $150 in exact change (aka, my whole savings account at the time) and wait for a guy named Donny in an F-350 to retrieve her from the tow company. Or when she just stopped on the highway and made me walk up a hill in heels in mid-June in Virginia.

I’ve never outgrown that sentimental attachment to my car. Sure, I look at other cars. I think about what I might like in the future, but I’m attached to mine, especially now that she’s paid off and actually mine. I know I can’t possibly be the only person who has conversations with my car. I might, however, be the only person who suspects her car is pals with the Transformer Bumblebee. When I’m in my car, I think. I work out problems. I talk to myself. I’m also totally obsessed with music, and Beverly, like Bumblebee, seems to have a knack for playing the perfect song at the perfect time. (Again, it’s not weird.)

Driving, for me, isn’t just a mode of transportation. It’s an enjoyable activity and it helps me clear my head. Sometimes I like finding myself in challenging driving situations. Sometimes I like getting lost and figuring my way out, even if I’ve made the trip more difficult than it really needs to be.

I might not be able to rattle off specs, but that doesn’t change the fact that I still enjoy and appreciate cars. It certainly doesn’t change my attachments to them, strange as they may be. This is my car story. What’s yours?

Renee is waiting for someone to write a song about her life so that she can just quote the lyrics in her author bios. In the mean time, connect with her on Twitter: @writingrenee.

Jun 152012
 

Astute readers of this site will probably note that I have had some difficulty keeping Car of the Week a truly weekly piece. Some of that is laziness on my part and some is actual schedule and personal conflicts. Whatever the case, though, in the coming weeks we will be trying something new. Astute observers may also have noticed that Gearheads Anonymous has also gained a few new writers over the last month. So far they have only been contributors of individual opinion pieces, but that is about to change. Next week, for the first time, the Car of the Week will be written by someone other than me.

This does not mean that I am not going to do them at all anymore, but if several people are writing them my hope is that some variety and a sense of freshness is injected in to the process. Want to write one? Use the contact info in the “About Gearheads Anonymous” tab above. I’m always happy to have contributors.

This week, though, I have for you a car that brought Honda back to its roots in the U.S. market:

2007 Honda Fit

Why?

By 2006 the “small” Honda Civic had grown in size by 10 inches and 600 lbs over comparable Civics from the late ’80s and early ’90s. The Civic, in fact, was about the same size in 2006 as the midsize Accord was in 1990. The Civic is not unique in this, though. Most cars in the U.S. market have grown at a similar rate. It is startling to take a moment and consider, though. Sure the Civic still gets good gas mileage, and it is still smaller than the Accord, but it has lost some of that small car feel that made it so enticing in years past.

With the Fit, Honda sought to bring that feel back to American car buyers. Though it had been on sale for several years in Europe and Asia (under the Jazz name), 2007 was its first year in the U.S. and it made a splash. Where Toyota’s Yaris felt and drove as cheaply as it looked, the Fit immediately earned a reputation as a quality small car.

It did all of the things those early Civics did — got great gas mileage, handled well and looked good without looking outrageous — and managed to stay small without being spartan. Only one engine option (a 109 horespower, 1.5-liter four cylinder) was available, paired to either an automatic of five-speed manual. The car itself (which was only available as a 5-door) could had in either base or “Sport” trims. Both were priced well below $20,000.

The Fit, then, checked all the right boxes at just the right time for many American consumers. It will probably never outsell the Civic, but to me the Fit is the more interesting car. It does more with less, which is an equation that has always appealed to me.

About the Car

The Fit was introduced to the rest of the world as the Honda Jazz in 2001 and 2002 but, as I said above, did not hit American shores until late 2006 as a 2007 model. Different regions of the world get different engine options, but here there was only one: the 1.5-liter gasoline engine.

The Fit ran in that form until it received a substantial update for the 2009 model year. The body was redesigned, but retained its 5-door wagon layout. The sole engine option remained a 1.5-liter four-cylinder in the U.S. Other regions got a hybrid option, but Honda decided that a Fit hybrid would compete with its new Insight and existing Civic Hybrid models, so it was not offered to American buyers.

A limited-production electric Fit (or Fit EV) is currently scheduled for the 2013 model year, but no additional major changes are expected to the model line in the next couple of years.

Other Resources

Fit Owners Club
Fitfreak.net Unofficial Honda Fit and Honda Jazz forum
Wikipedia: Honda Jazz and Fit (to be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
Car & Driver long-term road test of the 2007 Fit

Some photos in this article were freely sourced from Google. If you take issue with usage of any image, please contact me and I will remove it.

May 202012
 

You know what really annoys me? Someone who tailgates in a straight line, then falls about a mile back when the road curves even a little bit, then blows by when it straightens out again. Indeed, as any real car guy (or girl) will tell you there is a large distinction between having a fast car and being a fast driver. A fast driver knows how to do more than simply plant his/her foot in a straight line and then hang on for dear life. Rather, a fast driver respects speed and knows when to apply it. They also know how to approach a bend properly and go through it in such a way that the car stays balanced. In short, a fast driver understands and respects what makes a car go fast.

So, obviously the biggest problem in that original equation is the moron behind the wheel. But what if you are not a dolt? What can you do to make your car handle better and with more confidence, to match your abilities? To do that we need to take a look at my favorite part of any ground-based vehicle: the suspension.

In simplest terms, the suspension works to keep a car stable and all 4 tires in good contact with the road when going over bumps and around turns. Suspension systems on modern cars are just that — systems that are designed around the chassis so that every part works together seamlessly. While this provides consumers with some truly amazing cars right from the dealership, it does present some challenges when upgrading. Because everything is designed to work together a certain way, making a single change in one area can have a dramatic effect on the car. For instance, simply changing out the springs may lower the stance and stiffen things up, but may also result in a harsh ride and unpredictable handling.

On the other end of the spectrum, simply slapping on a front strut tower bar might look cool, but without additional stiffening in other areas of the chassis, it will be pretty useless. In other words, unless you are going to address the whole system, it is likely you will either waste your money or ruin your car (or both) by simply throwing random parts at the suspension.

But fear not. There is one area where a simple inexpensive upgrade can change the dynamic of a car for the better without the above consequences.

Sway bar(s)

The front and rear sway bars (also called anti roll bars or something similar) work by providing a stiff linkage between the left and right side suspension systems. By giving stiffness here, the amount of body roll a car experiences when cornering is dramatically reduced.

Like the other suspension systems in a car, the sway bar sizes are carefully considered to provide the desired balance. Most manufacturers make this balance pretty docile from the factory to accommodate a wide range of drivers.

How you go about rectifying that will depend on your car and how you use it. For me, simply changing the rear sway bar for a larger diameter unit completely changed the way it handled at every speed. My car, though, is a relatively big, heavy front-wheel-drive Acura. A different dynamic exists for a rear-wheel driven car and again for one that drives all four wheels. Research is the key here. There is likely to be a lot of knowledge out there about your specific car on the internet. Chances are good you will be able to come up with your ideal setup after reading what others have experienced.

In the broadest sense here are a few suggestions based on my experience:

Factory upgrades This option won’t apply for every vehicle, but for many there are already options out there from the same company that made your car. Believe it or not, I have gotten some of the best results by simply using factory sway bars from another similar model. The Honda Civic and Acura Integra, for instance, share many parts and sway bars are frequently interchangeable. For my CRX (a DX model) I simply added a rear sway bar from an Si model. If budget is an issue for you then upgrading this way is easily the best option — if the parts are out there. If not, you will have to go to the aftermarket.

Image courtesy of Progress Group

Progress Now, I have to admit, because of my success using factory pieces as upgrades I have embarrassingly little experience with aftermarket sway bars. I do know one thing, though. The Progress adjustable rear sway bar was the best $140 I ever spent on my car. It eliminated the soft feeling in the rear of the car and as a result made the entire dynamic of the car more confident in virtually every situation. Obviously, your results will vary, but if you’re looking at upgrading your sway bars, this is a great place to start.

The Next Step

If you have made this change and you still aren’t satisfied with your car’s handling, it is time to get out your wallet. From here on in quality parts will start to add up quickly.

And they start with a complete suspension setup. For most modern cars this means a full coilover kit with stiffer, adjustable springs and upgraded dampers (also possibly adjustable). Going this route means that you will be buying a system that is designed to work together with itself and is further designed to fit in your car. Piecing together a system can have its benefits as well, but the risk of mixing parts that won’t jive is much higher. Either way, expect to spend anywhere from $600 to $2000 depending on the quality of the parts, the features and the level of adjustability.

There are also myriad options for additional chassis stiffening beyond the sway bars. Anywhere the chassis flexes you can probably add a bar to keep it from doing so. Just keep in mind for all of this that the stiffer you make things, the harsher the ride will get. It is easy to get swept up in making a car handle like it’s on rails only to find out at the end that it’s virtually unusable on the roads. The simplest way around this is to do your research and make sure you spend enough time thinking about it before you take the plunge.

Next time: Finally, more power.

May 112012
 

Hmm. It would seem I missed this segment last week. My apologies for that, but sometimes life just gets in the way. In any case, Car of the Week is back. I spent a considerable amount of time going to college graduations this past week, so I decided that this edition should feature a car that I was a fan of during my own college days. One of my favorites from those early days of the new millennium was…

2002 Mazda Protege ES

Why?

As I said in my review of the Mazda2, I drove the ES model Protege in 2002 in order to find out if Mazda was really serious about their “Zoom-zoom” marketing strategy. The answer, I found, was a resounding yes. It handled great, had decent pep, and gave you all sorts of stuff standard that the Civic only offered as options — alloy wheels, fog lamps, trunk spoiler, etc. It was a lot of car for the money and, fair or not, it became the benchmark by which I continue to judge every Mazda I drive.

The ES of this model year featured a 2.0-liter inline-4 that produced 130 horsepower. It could be had in auto or stick, but the one I drove was equipped with a 5-speed manual, naturally. The ES also got bigger wheels, stickier tire, stiffer suspension and a plethora of audio goodies.

With a decade between now and then I still look back fondly on that test drive. By today’s standards the Protege is a little under powered for a vehicle at the top of its model range, but by any other yardstick it is still a competent car — economy, handling, cost, etc. Though not quite as legendary as the Civic or Corolla, the Protege has exhibited decent longevity as well and high-mileage examples can still be found running strong.

Over the course of that decade, Mazda has built upon the standard it set with cars like this, giving us a number of offspring like the 3, 6 and aforementioned 2, all of which represent great value to go with the high level of entertainment. I don’t know that this Protege was the actual starting point, but for me at least, it represents the point where Mazda started to perfect the balance between value and fun.

About the Car

Mazda’s 323 was a mainstay of the ’80s and its evolutionary sibling, the Protege, became a similar force in the ’90s. The first car to wear the Protege badge hit U.S. shores for the 1990 model year and the name ran until 2003, when it was replaced by the 3. In that time it went through three body styles (1990-1993, 1994-1998 and 1999-2003).

As I said above, the Protege was always known for providing an excellent balance of fun, value and economy. By the end of its life, though, Mazda had imbued some seriously sporting aspirations, culminating in the turbocharged Mazdaspeed edition. The addition of a turbo bumped the power to 170 and the suspension was further tweaked to match. Though it was short-lived (just a year), it was a remarkable indicator of just how far the Protege had come since its inception.

Other Resources

Club Protege (enthusiast community for the Protege)
Mazda3Club.com (enthusiast community for the Mazda3 and Protege lines)
Wikipedia: The Mazda Familia line (including the Protege) (to be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
Road & Track review of the ’01 Protege ES

Some photos in this article were freely sourced from Google. If you take issue with usage of any image, please contact me and I will remove it.

Apr 062012
 

Okay, I have gone long enough without a Honda in this spot. I am a major Honda-phile and it has taken some serious restraint up to this point to choose cars from other brands so that I did not seem to be biased. That ends now. This week’s Car of the Week is one of my favorite Hondas of all time:

1999 Honda Civic Si Continue reading »

Apr 042012
 

When it comes to cars, Americans love their tradition. Ours are some of the oldest carmakers in the world, with the rich histories of OldsmobilePontiacPlymouthAMCEagle and Mercury adding to the culture of their parent companies.

Hm.

Okay, so maybe I exaggerated a little; maybe we have killed off more car history in the last 25 years than we have created. The fact remains, though, that America is the source of some of the greatest continuing nameplates in automotive history – the Mustang and Camaro, the Chrysler 300 line, the Corvette, the Charger and Challenger; the list goes on for quite a while.

But it’s not just the American companies that have long-lived, historic nameplates. The Honda Civic has been around the U.S. market for 40 years (it was introduced in ’72 as a ’73 model). The Toyota Corolla, introduced in 1968, is even older. It is a similar story with regards to their larger siblings, the Accord and Camry. These cars have been with us for so long that the names, and the cars themselves, it seems, have become beloved.

Or have they?

Last year, Toyota put out a press release detailing its upcoming 2012 Corolla. Included with the usual self-congratulatory descriptions of the car’s features was the following line: “The Corolla’s design, created with input from styling studios in Turin, Italy, strikes a sporty profile.”

Predictably, that quote was greeted with something bordering on raucous guffaws by the automotive world. The folks at Jalopnik had a particularly tongue-in-cheek reaction that I found thoroughly amusing. All joking aside, though, this does raise an interesting question from a communication perspective: if these cars have come to a point where their makers are reaching this deep to make them appear to be something that they clearly are not, simply to make them interesting, might it be time for a reboot?

2012 and 1973 Civics

Let’s take a moment and reflect on what these cars were and what they have become. The 2012 Honda Civic is roughly the same size as a Honda Accord sold 20 years ago, and more than 10 inches longer and 600 lbs. heavier than a similar Civic of 1988 vintage. Those disparities only grow the farther back we go. Similarly, the Corolla has grown in size and weight to match the Camry of 20-odd years ago – some 600 lbs. heavier and 7 inches longer than the “same” Corolla was in ’88.

So these are pretty clearly not the same cars that they were even two decades ago, let alone at their introduction. Why, then, do their makers continue to cling to the same old maddeningly incremental updates to the same old cars with the same old names? Why do they try to paint them as something they are not in order to make them look interesting?

Year after year the Civic, Corolla, Camry and Accord are all top-10 sellers in the American market. Is it the name that carries the weight? If so, why would automakers like Toyota feel the need to try to paint that name in an unreasonably flattering light?

Honestly, I think that Honda and Toyota don’t really know what they want cars like these to be anymore. In an effort to be everything to everyone, they have become, boring, soulless hulks, lacking the personality that once made their namesakes so interesting and attractive to car buyers.

I think it’s time to reconsider continuing model lines like these; time to toss out the old and tired and see where some new blood and new ideas lead you.

What do you think?

Mar 052012
 

The ’90s were an interesting time for me as an automotive enthusiast. It was in 1996 that I first developed a more-than-passing interest in cars. It was in 1998 that I got my license, and it was in 1999 that I first drove a car that I could call mine.

But the ’90s were also a formative decade for the auto industry. Gone were the old ways of the ’80s – slow, heavy, dubiously-styled cars encumbered by emissions controls that no one really understood. Yet to come were the huge technological leaps that would make cars more than just transportation, but mobile computers nearly capable of driving themselves. Continue reading »

Mar 052012
 

Every year around this time we find out what the best selling cars of the past year were and every year, we see the same thing. Americans, it seems, love two kinds of cars: big honking pickup trucks and bland, reliable sedans. America’s strange obsession with the pickup is fodder for another day, I think; it’s the cars that concern me right now. For the better part of 30 years, the Accord and Civic from Honda and the Camry and Corolla from Toyota have dominated the car segment of the top 1o. One would think that to achieve this, Honda and Toyota would have had to keep making these mainstays more intriguing to maintain public interest. Instead, they have steadily become more archetypal, more alike, more boring.

Nonetheless, Americans line up at dealers to spend anywhere from $15,000 to over $30,000 on these glorified appliances every year. I have to wonder, doesn’t anyone want to enjoy driving anymore? Surely there must be any number of cars out there that, for the same money would provide more fun, more class and more personality. I decided to look around and see what I could find. Continue reading »

Mar 052012
 

It’s a copycat world, I guess.  Every self-respecting car magazine, it seems, has to periodically do a top-whatever (-5, -10, -50, -100, etc.) list of the best cars in whatever arbitrary category they have decided on for that month’s issue. That being the case, my own humble publication is clearly lagging behind. So what to do about that?

Back in 2008, on the 10th anniversary of the “immaculate reception” (otherwise known as the day I got my driver’s license), I wrote a large, all-encompassing piece on the top ten cars I had driven in those ten years.  Some day, perhaps, that will find its way up here as a really long feature, or in parts. In the mean time, though, I need something a little smaller—not to mention easier to read.

I first tried to think about what my readers would like to read about. Then I remembered that I don’t really have any. And even if I did, what do I care what they want to read about? This is my blog, right? I don’t know who I’m expecting to agree or disagree there, since I literally just got done pointing out my lack of readership, so I’m going to go ahead and agree with myself. Right.

With that out of the way, I decided to simply contemplate what are the 5 best inexpensive used cars for car enthusiasts like me.

Here, loyal reader, is what I came up with: Continue reading »

Mar 052012
 

Note, the following review was originally written May 5, 2011.

I didn’t actually set out to drive a Subaru today.

No, I started out with the intention of driving the new Buick Regal Turbo with the 6-speed manual transmission. Since I am one who likes fast sedans, I wanted to see if the Regal is as slick and sporty as they claim. Moreover, I wanted to see if the shifter is as bad as Car & Driver made it out to be. Since GM is a huge waste of time, though, it became clear pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to be able to do that. I won’t get in to that story here, though, since you clicked to read about another car entirely.

After leaving the third Buick dealer of the morning, I was at a loss. My plan was ruined, but I still wanted to drive something. So I meandered up the highway to see what other dealerships I could stumble across.  A small Subaru dealer was the first one that piqued my interest. I chatted up the sales lady for a few moments and told her of my interest in a quick sedan with a manual transmission. We walked around the lot for a while, looking for a Legacy, but as fate would have it none were to be found.

What we did find was an Impreza 2.5i Premium equipped with a 5-speed manual. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but as I read the equipment list, I realized that this was quite a bit of car for the money. I said as much to the sales lady and, having heard those magic words, it didn’t take her long to toss me the keys. Continue reading »