The compact hatchback is the best Florida car
After driving the same vehicle for over 10 years, I'm now finally driving something else that's much better suited for Tampa Bay Florida.
Be gone, truck
Up until very recently I was driving a pickup truck. I won't say what brand it was other than it was a GM vehicle made in the mid-2000s. There was nothing major on the truck that was broken mechanically, but it had over 130K miles and GMs really don't last much beyond that point.
Could I have made my GM truck go all the way to 175K or even 200K miles and beyond? Sure. But the time was right to part ways and get something else, so I did.
What I ended up getting was an early-2010s 5-door compact hatchback from a Japanese brand. It's used and has 70K miles on it, which for Florida is low miles. I've not even owned it a week and like it much better than the pickup. I'll talk more about it in a moment.
The pickup I had was a 4x4 and was bought back when I lived up north specifically to deal with northern winters. Had I known I would be moving to Florida less than a year after purchasing the truck, I never would have bought it, because driving a 4x4 pickup in Tampa Bay Florida is just plain dumb when you don't drive on dirt (and I don't).
By the time I got rid of the truck, I really hated it. Sure, it ran fine, but I was at the point where I wanted to distance myself from trucks as much as I could.
Things I hated about the truck
I hated the fact that on average it could only achieve 17 MPG. It was possible to eke out 21, but only if I drove very slowly and barely touched the gas pedal whenever I took off from a stop.
I hated that the the truck always felt "floaty" when driving, even when it was brand new. New tires didn't help and neither did new shocks. The truck just felt weird by design, almost as if you weren't connected to the road. And there was nothing that could be done about that.
I hated all the useless cargo space. Uncovered unsecured cargo storage in a steel bed to a guitar player such as myself is absolutely worthless. Anything put back there is open to the elements. Unless bungee cords are used, the cargo will slide all over, hit the bed walls hard and bounce harshly even when small bumps are taken at slow speeds. Said another way, you can't put guitars or amps in a pickup without them getting seriously damaged or destroyed.
I hated the hip point. This refers to seat ergonomics. Trucks have higher hip points, which on long trips makes the back ache. No matter how much cushion or support the seat has, if the hip point is high, pain happens after a while. My truck was no different. They weren't the worst seats, ergonomically speaking, but they definitely weren't the best either.
Things that make a small hatchback the best Florida car
My first car back in my teens was a 1984 Honda Civic 1500 S, which was a 2-door with rear glass that opened. Technically not a hatchback, but close enough. Great car. The 5-door (4 doors and rear hatch for the 5th door) I have now is the closest thing to what my first car was, looks-wise and size-wise.
I had forgotten how much I loved small hatchback cars. And for Florida use, it's pretty much perfect.
All the cargo space in the compact is usable. The gas mileage is fantastic, as I went from an average 17 MPG in the truck to an average of 24 with the compact and a highway MPG of 32, which I can get up to 35 easily just by driving with a light foot. The power curve of the compact is better, the handling is better, it launches better, stops better, rides better, the seats are better and heck, even the steering wheel feels better in the hand...
...yeah, pretty much everything is better.
The compact hatchback is also by far the best car to zip around the city with. Whether I'm in Tampa or Brandon or St. Petersburg or Clearwater or wherever I am in Tampa Bay, the compact handles it well.
My driver confidence is also much higher. It's not that I'm afraid to drive (far from it), but as said above, the truck always felt floaty, and that doesn't exactly inspire bring about driving confidence. The compact feels much more planted to the road, and that absolutely does give me more confidence when driving.
Small car stigma?
The car I drive now is 38 inches shorter than the truck I had.
Do I feel embarrassed to drive a small car?
Not in the slightest.
I've owned pickup trucks, SUVs, sport coupes, compact sedans, midsize sedans and compact hatchbacks. My favorite is the compact hatchback. The car feels right and just makes the most sense for Florida living.
I'm also 42 years old and have enough wisdom to know that nobody truly gives a crap about what you drive.
In addition to all the positives I've said about driving a compact hatchback, there is one more. Now I have a car that's totally correct for transporting guitar gear. And that's a big deal to me.
Does that mean I'll finally be able start a band? Maybe. There are a few things I have to do before I start seeking out other people to form a band with. But if I do get one together, of course I will write about it here.
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