DEAR CAR TALK: My ’06 Scion xA has 87,000 miles on it, and I’m thinking of updating.
I love my Scion because I sit up higher than in a sedan (I’m 79 so I’m getting shorter), and I can see who’s out to get me on the road.
Any hatchback out there these days that’s not an SUV but will let me see better? Thanks for your help. — Lynne
DEAR LYNNE: Plenty of them, Lynne. You’re in luck. Over the past decade, the rest of the car buying public has caught up with you.
A lot of people now prefer to sit up a little higher when they drive. Why? Well, as you say, it’s easier to see over the car in front of you. That advantage will diminish as more sedans are replaced by tall hatchbacks and crossovers. But hopefully you’ll have a few good years of visibility before you get overtaken.
The second reason people prefer to be a little higher is because it’s easier to get in and out of the car. We’re not talking about the huge SUVs, where you have to get a running start to clamber up into the driver’s seat. But cars that are a little higher off the ground put the seat bottom closer to human hip level. That means you don’t have to “fall” into the car, or “climb” out of it.
So, you have a lot of choices these days. You’ll have to go out and sit in some new cars, and decide which fit you well, and which you’re comfortable driving. But we’ll give you a few suggestions to get you started.
We’re going to assume that you want a basic hatchback, like the Scion. Nothing fancy. And while we don’t know the exact seat height of your current Scion, we know the car’s overall height is 60.2 inches — unless, like you, Lynne, the Scion’s getting shorter as it gets older.
Here are a few cars with similar heights that we like:
The Hyundai Kona is 61 inches tall, about an inch taller than your Scion. We drove it recently and really liked it.
Kia makes an unusual car called the Soul, which is a bit boxier than your Scion, and a couple of inches taller. But it has very good visibility and a lot of room inside.
If you ever drive in the snow, and want all-wheel drive, we like the Subaru Crosstrek, which is 63.6 inches tall. That’s a few inches taller than your Scion, so you’ll have to make sure it’s easy to get into and out of, but it’s very comfortable for a small car.
And if you want to impress all the kids, you can go electric with the Chevy Bolt, a battery-powered hatchback that’s 62.8 inches tall. You’d plug it in at night, and you can go 250 miles before having to recharge it. And you’ll never have to set foot in a gas station again, Lynne. Unless you need some Gatorade and a bag of Bugles.
There are others, but that should give you a good start. Let us know what you end up with.
DEAR CAR TALK: Please settle a contentious issue between my husband and me.
He is an electrical engineer who is never wrong, and I am a housewife who values her pride and is tired of being embarrassed in public. We have agreed to abide by your decision, although I think my husband may renege on this agreement if you decide in my favor!
We have a 2017 Volkswagen Golf, a 2016 Toyota Tundra and a 2019 Subaru Legacy. The contentious issue is my husband’s belief that driving these vehicles during the hot summer months for more than 10 miles necessitates raising the hood after parking the vehicle, essentially to “let the heat out.”
If we go to the grocery store, he raises the hood in the parking lot. If we drive out of town, he will raise the hood at the rest stop and again at our destination. If we drive 15 minutes to go out to eat, he pops the hood at the restaurant. I am tired of nice, concerned strangers approaching us to see if we “need any help.”
Surely in this day and age, cars and trucks have fans or refrigerants that will automatically help cool the engine when a vehicle is stopped!
If you say this practice is good for the car or truck, I will swallow my pride and try to accept the fact that we are the only ones EVER to do this, wherever we go!
Love your advice and your newspaper column. Thanks for your thoughts. — Becky
DEAR BECKY: Oh, Becky. We feel for you, sister.
You’re absolutely right. The fact that nobody else on the planet except Hood-Up-Henry does this (and no manufacturer recommends it) is a pretty good clue that it’s 100% unnecessary.
Car engines are designed to run hot. They have robust cooling systems, and fans that are designed to come on even after the car is shut off, when necessary.
But unfortunately, you married an engineer. And engineers focus on the theoretical.
Even theoretically, the engine itself — the pistons, crankshaft and valves — is unaffected by how long it takes the heat to dissipate. But there are rubber belts, seals and hoses whose lives could be extended by (according to our detailed calculations) up to 11 minutes total over the life of the car if he dutifully raises the hood after each and every drive.
Is it worth it? No. I would say just in marital strife, he’s already on the losing side of the ledger.
Then you factor in the wear and tear on the springs, hinges and pistons that hold up the hood, the hood latch and the hood latch cable, and the dry-cleaning bills from the grease he gets on his restaurant clothes, and I’d say he’ll never catch up, no matter how many minutes of life he adds to his belts and hoses.
But as you wisely — and probably correctly — predict in your letter, telling him he’s theoretically right but practically all wet is not going to get him to change his behavior. For that, you may have to resort to trickery.
Here’s what I’d do. Next time you two have restaurant reservations, pay some neighborhood kid to stop by while you’re eating and steal the battery.
Your husband will acknowledge that his hood-up habit just cost him $90. But he’ll argue it’s a fluke, and that he’s still saving money in the long run. So, a month later, pay the kid to do it again.
That ought to persuade him that there’s great benefit to keeping the hood latched closed in public places.
If not, we give up, Becky, and all we can offer you is our admiration and sympathy.