Automotive Reflection

Sometimes you get perspective from an unexpected place.

This week the Toyota went in for its regularly scheduled service, and since we still needed two cars, we borrowed my mother's Protege-5. The last time a car was in for service we borrowed my mother-in-law's BMW 325i, and what got me reflecting was how similar the cars appear, yet how totally different they were to drive.

For some reason I could never come to grips with the BMW. I like the theory of the rear-wheel drive; the traction control was a bit annoying, but let enough wheelspin through that you were warned against carrying on to much. However the 5-speed is really weirdly set up, first gear is so short that I never used it, rolling off from a standing start in second most of the time. The steering feedback, driving position, sightlines, throttle and brake behaviors, all felt wrong in a way I can't really define. I was never comfortable driving the car.

The Mazda, on the other hand, I was quite at home in almost immediately. Once the seating position and mirrors were set up, everything just felt right. Clutch, throttle, brakes, steering, driving position -- everything. It felt more "at home" to me in ways that even the Subaru never did.

Even though the BMW had more power, better handling, and is all together a "better" car, I had more fun driving the Mazda around.

I wonder if this is because of the time I spent learning to drive in our family's old '85 Civic, or the '86 Civic that I owned some years later. My formative years were spent in those cars, so perhaps it is hot a surprise that the Mazda, a similar small-car front-drive layout, feels so natural to me. The Subaru, and the current 626, felt/feel much bigger and tend to wallow more; however due to their larger size I had different expectations for how they'd feel.

Just interesting to think about what cars tend to suit me, interesting to wonder what that says about me.