Finding Ryomobile

After a rough start, I finally made some progress in looking for a shiny new ryomobile. So instead of ranting about the experience, I can actually talk about how a ryomobile is discovered and evaluated.

When I decided to get a new car, I started off by making a list of criteria a ryomobile must satisfy. They were:

  • Tree friendly: I like trees, and I don’t like wars, so my car has to at least get decent (30mpg+) gas mileage. Since I plan on commuting mostly by bike+lightrail even after I get a car and I generally don’t drive much, I’ll still burn less gas than most people even if I don’t get something as fuel efficient as a hybrid.
  • Lumber friendly: Unfortunately trees do get cut, and fortunately I can buy dead trees cheaply at Home Depot and build cool things. So my car needs to be able to haul 2x4x8’s or large volumes of other stuff.
  • Pocket friendly: For the last seven months I’ve been renting a car once or twice a month, and spending around $200/month on transportation. Even if I had a car, though, I likely wouldn’t do much more than twice the driving as I do now, so I’m not willing to spend much more than twice what I spend on ass-hauling now. So taking insurance into consideration, my monthly payment for the car would need to be $300 or less.
  • iPod friendly: This wasn’t really a criteria initially, but is very high on my wish list. My first car had an auxiliary input jack in the stereo, which was really nice, but I’ve tried struggling with the iTrip in more modern cars and the experience was barely tolerable. So an audio system with either iPod integration, an auxiliary input jack, or a tape deck (in that order of preference) is a huge plus. Unfortunately, car manufacturers seem to think CDs are still cool…

That basically narrowed my choices quite a bit, and by applying my Japanese prejudices and limiting my options to Japanese cars, I ended up with the following contenders (all of which I test drove last weekend):

  • Toyota Matrix Of the 3 contenders, the Matrix is the only one where the back seats fold down completely flat, as does the front passenger side seat, allowing you to haul cargo up to 8ft long (like 2x4x8’s!). With an EPA rating of 30/36mpg, it was also rated the 10th most fuel efficient car in 2006. Unfortunately, it’s a bit on the pricey side, and the driving experience was thoroughly average. iPod integration also isn’t an option.
  • Scion xB The xB is powered by the same puny 108HP engine as the Toyota Echo, and looks literally like a box on wheels. On the flip side, the interior is cavernous, and the “puny” engine gives the car a decent gas mileage (30/33). In general, the car didn’t feel particularly underpowered for me, but its stiff suspensions made the ride almost painful on a bumpy stretch of Highway 85. The xB, however, comes with an awesome stereo, ABS, stability control, brake force distribution, and a whole slew of other features built-in, and even with an optional iPod integration upgrade, it costs under $16k. Despite its many shortcomings, there was something strangely likable about the car.
  • Mazda 3s 5-door I rented a Mazda 6 a while back and really enjoyed driving it, so I decided to add the Mazda 3 hatchback to my list of contenders despite its lower gas mileage (25/31). Of the 3 contenders, the Mazda 3 has the most powerful engine (160HP), and when combined with the “intelligent” automatic transmission, it let me go zoom-zoom up and down through the hills of Redwood City with little trouble. Of the 3 cars, I think the Mazda 3 is the most fun to drive, and generally also the nicest ride. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more expensive than the xB (understandably) and iPod integration isn’t an option (although a tape deck is available as an option, and iPod integration is an option in Japan so there’s some hope).

Right now, I’m leaning heavily towards the Scion. The Mazda is undoubtedly a better ride, and probably a better car in general. If I had to rent a car for a weekend, I’d probably choose the Mazda over the Scion. But for a long term relationship… well, the Mazda’s just too sexy for me.

The Scion somehow just fits me better. I’ve been wearing the same shoes and pair of glasses for nearly six years now. My apartment is sparsely furnished, and I own little that I don’t need. I sleep on a cheap futon mattress on top of a frame I made myself out of $30 of lumber and some cinder blocks. I like to think of it as a modest lifestyle, but maybe I’m just cheap. Either way, I find the Scion’s functional minimalism to be more compatible with my lifestyle than the sexy car that goes zoom-zoom.

Update 2/11: Ordered a Scion xB

2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Ginger said,

    I wasn’t sure about the Scion before, but it totally looks like a Ryomobile.

  2. 2

    Albertaco said,

    +2 eprops.

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