COAL Catch-up: Have I Given Up?

My COAL series ended a couple years ago. Since that point, I’ve bounced around a bit, and I thought it was a fine time to share where I’ve been and where I’ve currently ended up. Let’s go back to 2008, while I was daily-driving The Mythical Beast. I had a significant increase in income and could afford a toy, and everyone said it was The Answer, so I bought……a 1994 Miata.

It was, indeed, what The Internet said it would be, except that I must have bought the worst possible example on the planet. It had enough electrical troubles to make any MG or Triumph blush. While I was busy chasing down the source of the problems, I was also continuously replacing electrical components that were killed by the problems. Cooling fans, HVAC fan, horn, wiper motor, headlight motors – they all failed one by one. I got sick of it, and fast. I couldn’t even bring myself to dump this set of problems on an individual, so I cut my losses in and traded it in at a Mazda dealer. What did I buy?

This extremely low-mileage 2005 Scion xB. It had a 2004 build date, and when I bought it in 2009, it only had 22,000 miles on it. I got it for a fair price, while surreptitiously dumping the Miata on the unsuspecting dealer. (It was running fine the day I traded it in!)

Much has been written, here and elsewhere, about the first-generation xB – even our esteemed editor owns one! Therefore, I won’t bore you with a rehash of facts about this car. Rather, all you are going to get are my opinions.

The xB was simultaneously the best car and the worst car I’ve ever owned. In the city and suburbs, it was fabulous. The interior/exterior size relationship is fantastic. It was quick enough, nimble, and easy to park. Despite an EPA rating of 27MPG city (by current measurements) I could get 35MPG all day long in cool weather, and it only dropped to 33MPG with the A/C blasting. Best car ever made… until it came time for a road trip.

On the highway, the xB was the worst car I had ever owned. Sub-optimal gearing made the engine rev to 4000RPM at 80MPH. As a (slightly) glorified economy car, Toyota/Scion didn’t give any thought to, or spend any money on, any sort of soundproofing. The drone was virtually unbearable.

The boxy shape, so useful in town, was a tremendous detriment on the highway. Passing semis or cars caused it to get blown around almost as badly as an old VW bus. On top of that, the winds of the desert Southwest are almost constant, requiring continuous steering corrections even without nearby traffic.

The nonexistent aerodynamics made for lousy fuel economy, too. The xB is the only car I’ve ever driven that got worse mileage on the highway than in town. While I could get 33-35 in the city, I never exceeded 30MPG on a road trip.

Nonetheless, I kept the xB for 6 years and 70,000 miles, making it the longest I’ve ever owned a car by choice (as opposed to poverty) in my driving life. By the time I was ready to move on, I had already acquired the Unintentional Acura, so I was free to daily drive that while I sold the Scion privately. I got a pretty penny for it, too. Besides being a good car, the xB is a bit of a cult classic, so it held its value well, and remains the best overall value per dollar car I’ve ever owned.

Driving the Acura around town was fine, but it was never really intended as a daily driver. I spent months scouring the Internet for a new driver, and one day I came upon…

…this 2013 Chevrolet Sonic LT. Chevys depreciate horribly, so I grabbed this one with 28k on the clock for under ten grand. I thought I got a bargain, but it turns out I overpaid. I don’t know if I got a bad one or if it had been abused by the previous owner, but it had far more failures than any sub-50,000 mile car has a right to. The final straw was a somewhat severe coolant leak that wasn’t caused by anything obvious, and one I didn’t want to pay to track down.

Also of note: during the tenure of the Sonic, I decided to let the Integra go – I wasn’t really using it, and I just lost interest. It went to a Honda/Acura enthusiast who simply wanted it more than I did. As predicted in the original COAL post, I sold it for about $1000 less than I had into it, which was fine by me.

I took a huge financial bath on the Sonic, but I needed it gone. I headed over to the nearby Toyota dealership, and traded it in on this creampuff…

2008 Toyota Prius. Yes, I’ve given up. I have lost my enthusiasm for cars. I bought the car for people that hate cars, and the car that enthusiasts love to hate. In the Internet age, I can enjoy my old-car passion vicariously, through this and other websites. I’ve reached the point where chasing electrical gremlins or lying on a concrete floor hold absolutely no interest for me, and I’m not the sort of fellow who wants to write checks for someone else to do it.

So far, I sort of like it. I am still remembering how to drive a car without a clutch, which is something I have not owned since the Biiiiiiig-Pimpin’ Cadillac. The cabin is light and airy, not unlike the Scion. The low beltline makes for great visibility, aside from the split-glass liftback, which I’m still getting accustomed to.

I’ve only put about 1100 miles on it so far, but I think it will be okay. 50MPG doesn’t hurt, either.