Ode to a Car…

I’ve always been a Honda girl. I owned a Honda Accord 2-door hatchback for most of my 20′s/30′s, which I drove until it just wouldn’t drive anymore.
I loved that car.
I practically lived in that car.
At one point my father looked at the odometer and asked “do you ever turn the &$^%ing thing off??”
(yes, I get a large part of my brassiness from my paternal genes)

It drove me to my first job, my first real vacation, my wedding, and to the airport numerous times to drop off and pick up myself and my friends from our various adventures.

It moved me to my first apartment, my marital home, and then back to my father’s house with all of my belongings after my divorce.

It took my friends and I to parties, and hospitals, and sporting events and everything else in between.

One of the last things it did was pick me up from the airport and drive me to my dad’s funeral.

Why do I preface this with all of that back story? To let me off the hook.
You see, unlike most guys, who will rhyme off a list of specs and what is under the hood in braggart fashion, I don’t really pay attention to those details. (besides y’all can click on the link I provide later and read all of that gobbilty gook for yourselves!)

Guys trade in their cars over and over for the next bigger, better, faster version.
I, and most women I know, develop a relationship with our cars. They are like… a part of us.

When my car went to car heaven, and I moved downtown, rather than buying a car, I resorted to renting and car-sharing w/Zipcar. Even then, my first choice of vehicles was anything in the Honda family. (the sturdy, reliable Civic sedan, the sporty, cute Fit, and even the oddly boxy Element for random trips to Ikea)

So when Honda Canada provided me the opportunity to take one of their newer models for my Indy/Detroit road trip (“The Schwit/OWW Indy-Detroit Road Trip Spectacular Presented by Honda Canada!”) I jumped at the chance. Especially when offered a fuel efficient, eco friendly, hybrid!

That’s a Hybrid?!

Now, not having done any research prior to picking up my car, I was expecting one of those bulbous, granny sedans. Come on, you know that’s what you think of when you hear “hybrid”. Instead I was greeted by a sleek, sexy, black sports car. Amazing!

As soon as I saw it, I knew this awesome little two-seater was going to be the perfect muse for my journey.

At first glance it looks small, but it was deceptively roomy inside. Not only from a passenger standpoint, but also from a storage standpoint. I was able to utilize the hatchback trunk for two carry-on sized suitcases, and a couple of extra bags of shoes ;-)

I also travel with a large laptop bag, filled with everything you need to set up a mobile office, and another bag of camera equipment. Both of which stowed neatly in the bucket like compartments behind each passenger seat, which also prevented them from sliding around. The back of the “back seat” area can be folded down to create a larger storage area for more luggage, etc… This came in handy on the return trip home with an extra passenger, his luggage and a large bag of souvenirs picked up along the way.

One of my favourite features of the hatchback storage was the privacy screen which could be pulled down over your contents to give the appearance of an empty car. Something I always consider when traveling to keep prying eyes out. This also kept the contents of the “trunk” from blocking the already challenged view out the back window. (more on that later)

Up front, I was pleasantly surprised by the roominess. As a 5’8″ woman (approx 5’6″ of which is leg) It’s hard to find a car that not only has ample head/body room but also ample leg room. The Honda CR-Z provided both in spades. It’s almost too roomy actually, as I was unable to perch my left elbow on the window ledge as I drove (and I have orangutan arms!) This, in hindsight, was probably a good thing, as both hands on the wheel at all times is much safer ;-)  (right Honda Canada??)

The centre console was, however, awkward. I’m not sure if it is because I had the automatic version as opposed to the manual version, but the layout just didn’t make sense. There were three cup-holders. Two were up by the dash, which blocked the little storage cubby and shelf with all the auxiliary plugs behind them. The shift was pushed too far forward in my opinion, which pushed the two upholders too close to the dash, forcing you to have to creatively and carefully tip your coffee cup to get it in and out of it’s holder. My Grande Starbucks cup wasn’t as much of an issue as the new larger Tim Hortons cup, which was so frustrating to maneuver that I gave up trying to drink it (for fear of spilling all over the new interior!) and just stuck to my bottle of water.

Just behind the shift was the overly large parking brake taking up the bulk of the centre console, and then the most awkwardly located third upholder, which was actually between the seats, almost behind them, forcing you to bend your arm strangely to try to locate and retrieve your beverage. Needless to say, that one became a change/pen/sunglasses holder. I also had to use the little gully under the parking brake for storage of toll fare, etc… as there was no other spot for such items.

After my first stint in my new car, I came to the conclusion that it clearly hadn’t been designed or tested by a woman before production. ;-)

While I’m talking “cons”, let’s briefly discuss the HORRIBLE blind spot. My goodness. The sleek angle of the hatch not only pinches down the side/back windows to barely see through slits, but it also doesn’t give you much of a back window to see out of. In addition, there is a spoiler like bar dividing the rear window. Leaving a strip barely 4-5inches high to see out of the bottom. (and it’s tinted) While I was able to work around it during the day, when I did most of my driving, it caused quite the odd sensation while driving at night. When a car pulled up directly behind me,  the spoiler bar actually blocked the headlights. So you became unaware that anyone was following you, until they hit a bump, and their headlights appeared suddenly in your rear view mirrors. Very unsettling.

I was able to creatively adjust my side mirrors to make the most of their visibility, and since I always drive constantly scanning the traffic approaching from behind as well as ahead of me, the blind spot became a non-issue for the most part, until I had to change lanes, then it was, quite frankly, a pain in the ass! Luckily the built in navigation system gave me fair warning of upcoming lane changes, and I drove the same route several times in both locations, so I knew to give myself plenty of time to safely traverse the lanes of traffic.

GPS Virgin no more…

Yes, before this trip I was actually vehemently anti-gps. Researching all of my routes, printing out maps, and memorizing interchanges and exits prior to departure. But I figured I should get the most out of this spiffy machine and all the bells and whistles it had to offer, so I opted to test it out.
Well, let me tell you, I will be hard pressed not to use a GPS when I travel in future. Not only did I find it less distracting than I originally thought it would be, but when you’re traveling alone in a car at night in Detroit, and get detoured off the highway into the “girl… you shouldn’t be driving here alone in that shiny new car!” part of town, you’re mighty happy to press that “detour” button and have the calm female voice tell you she’s recalculating your route… (cause I sure as hell wasn’t pulling over to ask for directions)

I’m told that Honda vehicles have one of the better navigation systems, and after putting mine through it’s paces for almost two weeks, I can tell you it was extremely intuitive and extremely easy to use. The only part of the manual I actually read was how to insert the US map CD instead of the Canadian map CD. (it was very Bond-like in it’s sleek “hidden compartment” drop down) Other than that, it was very straight-forward to program and use.

Speaking of manuals, I did take a quick peek through the main car manual the night before I left, to see how the Eco system thingy worked. (figured it was better to read it before bed, than to try to figure it out on the road) I then spent my trip playing the “don’t let the dashboard light up blue” game while I drove! (if you were driving efficiently, the dash glowed green, if not, it phased from aqua to bright, “you’re not driving well” blue!) Yes, it sort of teaches you how to drive better! I remained in the green about 90% of the time, and I believe I grew 3 dashboard trees on my journey! (that’s a good thing) and the best part, I only spent around $180 in gas!! Considering I drove across 2 Cdn borders and 5 state lines over 12 days, that is awesome! Heck, I spent almost $250 last year on a portion of the same trip, over the course of 2.5 days.

Other cool features, which I discovered randomly…

A button to switch your speedometer from km’s to mph’s. Saved me having to do math in my head while trying to stay within the speed limit on the American side. (no tickets! yay me!)
The engine’s Auto shut off feature when stopped in traffic or at street lights. (again, great way to save on fuel)
And the seat warmers! (after spending a 10+hr day soaked through to the bone shooting race cars in the rain in Detroit, that rapidly warmed up seat and lower back area was a welcome discovery  before my 40min drive to the hotel from the track)

But probably the most important feature, (and yes it is a feature actually) was the incredible handling on that car. I never once felt I didn’t have total control of the vehicle, even when I had to go all Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot! evasive maneuver, not once, but twice to avoid an aggressively driving asshat with zero sense of “personal space”

So there you have it. My CR-Z adventure was a sweet success. Now let’s break it down:

Looks – A++
Every time I walked towards the parking lot, and laid eyes on it I thought “damn! What a sweet ride!” then “Hey! that’s my car! ” (seriously, I took so many pics of it while I approached it in parking lots!) Oh, and it got lot’s of compliments, especially from guys “diggin my wheels” (remember, this trip was to two race tracks, filled with gearheads, so that is saying a lot!)

Efficiency – A++
Twice the driving, half the cost. Nuff said.

Comfort – B+
Though I had ample room, the layout was just awkward enough to make it slightly uncomfortable. (and the blindspot brings it down from an A-)

Ease of use – A+
All of the bells and whistles were very intuitive and easy to use (radio, cruise control, nav system, eco system, etc..)

Safety – A++
With the Navigation system pointing the way, and the amazing handling, I felt completely protected and at ease.

Would I consider purchasing this car? You bet.
The only deterrent for me would be the blind spot/visibility issues. Especially were I to spend a lot of time driving in the city. But for straight highway driving, which I did the bulk of, this car was an absolute dream.

I was so sad to return the car, that I completely forgot to look at the final millage (which probably would have been one of the more valid things to compare at the end) But I do know it was over 1600 miles

For more information (and all the technical gobbilty-gook that I really didn’t feel the need to spew here, but that you’re probably interested in) click here
You’ll be looking at the details under the Premium Package ;-)

Finally, a huge thank you to David Miller (The Driver Magazine) for the advice and for checking on me throughout my journey, and to Laura Heasman and Honda Canada for providing my dreamy transportation, and for the opportunity to test it out.

I’m sure this is probably one of the strangest “consumer reviews”, and most likely one of the least politically correct, but as Popeye says “I am what I am” and my readers wouldn’t have it any other way ;-)

7 responses to “Ode to a Car…

  1. I’m drooling…

  2. I guess, to let you off the hook, I cannot be offended by the ‘most guys’ thought since you have allowed for exceptions to your rule. I can only add that most guys, with whom I grew up and currently know, will know the specs of their vehicle, sometimes ad nauseum, but all develop a relationship with their ride.

    I actually love that humans anthropomorphize our machines as has been a constant since the Industrial Revolution and nowhere more so perhaps that our vehicles of mobility and freedom. I wistfully long for the return of my ’77 Mercury Marquis Brougham 2-door which saw me through many formative years, more than even my best of friends at the time. It just wasn’t built for the long haul required to make it to today (not in jackassery manner I drove it anyway).

    When growing up with an individualized transport system, cars can become our conduit for mobility, freedom, security, and even companionship, and I for one welcome that relationship.

    PS For the many reasons you love that new little Honda and for many which you don’t, may I suggest a trip with a 2012 Ford Focus? SE Sport level or above is a superb and sporty little car. If I had reduced my top highway speeds on our recent 2,600 mile driving vacation, I’d have cracked the 40mpg barrier with ease. Yes I am a ‘Ford guy’ and so was my dad, his dad before so ‘fair fooks’.

  3. Pingback: Summertime, Summertime… | Fast.Food.Focus

  4. So, once again I stop by to read the latest (to me anyway) and once again come away wondering if you are mellowing ( or you have been replaced by a shape shifter from the TV series Fringe. Looks like you, talks like you, but not you). Not a single F bomb to be found. And what is this: “do you ever turn the &$^%ing thing off??”. Really? Not that I’m looking for every other word to be &$^% (I get plenty of that at work) it’s just what I have come to expect. Hmm.

    • LOL! Sorry Rob. I swear I’ll be swearing come next week! (tis time for the circus to come to my town!!)

      This piece was a little more “formal” as it was specifically tailored to be read by and redistributed by Honda Canada ;-)

      Oh, and in the Milwaukee Rewind there is a big ol F-bomb about 5 lines in ;-)

      • No need to apologize. I get the corporate vibe so everything is cool. I just appreciate that you don’t hesitate to write what you feel, whether it is &$^% or not .

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