Little Toyota in a big SUK world

Question: What’s little and dinky and has four doors and gets 46 miles to the gallon?

Answer: Definitely not my 1995 Chevy Stegosaurus.

When the first wave of SUVs rolled out, they were obviously good vehicles for Nevadans, Idahoans, Utahans, etc., etc.; burly cars that could deal with snow, mud and our bolt-loosening back roads, yet still afford a level of comfort and even style when amblin’ around town. For people in Reno, Boise, Missoula and so on, that was the recipe for a hit. So who knew all these jokers in Kentucky and Kansas and Florida would follow our super-hip, trail-blazing lead, and turn the SUV phenomenon into the SUK pandemic? I mean, what’s with these knuckleheads driving their Ford Excursions into downtown Miami? On the scale of general overall wrongness, that’s right up there with making Don Rumsfeld the next Dalai Lama.

I’ve had a ’95 Chevy Tahoe for the last two years, and have basically enjoyed the vehicle. In fact, I’ve been enjoying the poor beast to death. I’ve put 63,000 miles on the monster in two years, a positively meth-like pace that will doom this car to the local pick ’n’ pull in a matter of moons. As I contemplated the 63K stat recently, I realized that using this car for commuting (I drive 40 to 50 miles a day) isn’t really a solid strategy of modern efficiency. Really, using this gas-sucking pig to commute to work puts me right up there on the intelligence scale with the guy who rinses out Mike Tyson’s spit bucket. I was inspired to do a little math … 30,000 miles at 15 miles a gallon (using numbers of unwarranted optimism) … and let’s say $1.70 a gallon … that means I burned up 2,000 gallons of gas last year, for a total gas tab of $3,400!

Call me crazy, but I swear there’s room for improvement here.

Something had to be done for two reasons. One, to give the poor beast a break, before I came out one morning and found it dead in the driveway, tires and oil pan pointing towards the sun. Two, to give my poor wallet a break before it assumed the same belly-up position. The solution was clear: I needed a little gas miser for a commute car. That way, I could rest the beast and save it for the “dirty back road” assignments for which it was truly made, and I could also cut way back on the slightly deranged $160 to $180 a month I was blowing at the gas pump just for the daily commute. And let’s face it, with the way gas prices have been headed, it doesn’t seem likely that I’ll be able to count on the tender mercies of Exxon’s pricing policies to help me get a lid on all this financial petro- hemorrhaging.

Which leads to next week: It’s dinky, gets 46 mpg and rocks. Well, no, it zips. Tales of myth and reality from the very nifty and very innovative Toyota Prius.