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May 21st, 2006

Three Design Choices I Like About Our New Cars

I’m not a car guy and don’t take notice of most of the important things when driving a car (ask me my horsepower and I have no clue), but I notice the little things I like. Three things that stand out for me with the two cars we recently purchased are:

  1. Aux-In – The 2006 Prius (and some other new cars) are coming with a simple aux-in jack in the stereo for plugging in an MP3 player. It’s a small thing, but it’s nice for cars that don’t have cassette decks (I’ve never considered those FM transmitter doohickies an option, really).
  2. Gas tank side indicator – When I was driving a rental car a few months back, I noticed that right by the E/F on the gas gauge there was an arrow and it pointed to the side the gas tank was on, making it easy when pulling up to a gas pump. Since then, I noticed that both of our new cars have it as well. A very, very small detail, but it’s quite nice, particularly when you’re driving an unfamiliar car. The Kia didn’t have this sort of luxury.
  3. Cassette and CD player – Our 2002 Outback has both a cassette deck and a CD player. While I only occasionally listen to cassettes in the car anymore, it’s a nice feature for the reason listed above. Since older cars don’t have aux-in jacks, the cassette deck is the best way to hook up an MP3 player and this makes it possible while also offering a CD player. I should also note that I really like the layout of the Outback’s audio system. It’s very, very basic, but that’s the reason I like it. It responds how you’d expect it to in every case.

I should also comment that I like cars that have wheels.

Posted in Cars

Marcus Mackey September 24, 2006, 5:42 am

Actually… the original VW Rabbit that was sold here in the late 70’s and early 1980’s was called a Golf abroad. The same thing as our VW Jetta, which is known in Europe as the VW Bora. I’ve even seen people who have “mod’ed” their Jetta’s to carry the Euro nameplate, as I witnessed an owner at the gas station at the corner of my block with a U.S. Spec Jetta (i.e. narrow license plate frame) sporting the Bora letters on his trunklid.

The reason for the Golf name change has been said to have happened for numerous reasons. Even AutoWeek ran a # of reasons for it, one in that they are trying to play up the image of the old spunky 80’s Golf’s (sporty, many found the last Golf to be sort of numb… which owes itself in some ways to the fact that the Golf/Jetta in Europe are very popular with elder people and they’re more touring cars than sporty cars, as the original Rabbit/Golf was in it’s day) which were seen as being quality built (for their time) and also sporty. The other is that the name conjures compact and agile, much like a real life bunny rabbit. That’s largely the reason, I’m sure, that VW originally “hopped” to the name in the car’s original times, but considering that VW is trying to target a demographic of people that probably have no recollection or knowledge of the past Rabbit, I think they’re more setting out to garner a new image while playing to those who remember and loved the old Rabbit’s of their time.

VW’s image has become plagued of late due to their reliability concerns (the massive 1.8T recall that their dealer network struggled through because it had too many cars and not enough technicians) and the less than svelte/verve handling characteristics of late model Jetta and Golf’s in comparison to the competition that has caught up and in some ways… surpassed the German make’s strength as a maker of affordable cars with great handling and reliability. Much as VW used the Beetle to try to drum up sales by playing off of their heritage, so are they poised to use the Rabbit as well. I can’t blame them… as I think this move is much smarter than the attempt to turn VW into a make that covers the economy market while inching into and smack dab into Audi territory. I never understood that attempt at overlap.

The best however might be this quote in the above link:

*”Keep the name Golf (the German name for the Gulf Stream, not a reference to the sport) and you’d get more of a yawn. And if you dared try to get clever with the ads, some churlish enviro-critic would point out your city car is heavier, larger (an inch in width and in overall length, 2.6 inches longer in wheelbase and 1.5 inches taller), more powerful and less fuel-efficient than last year’s. Change the name, though, and you get to start over. Hence the brilliance of “Rabbit.”’*

On a sidenote… I’d like to see VW bring their Spanish Seat (pronounced: SAY-ot) subsidiary over. I can’t stress it enough how awesome the Altea, Ibiza, and Leon are. If given any of them, I’d have to rethink the tC as while I’m not a huge hatch fan, I find their styling absolutely sexy. I think of them as a VW/Audi underpinned car with Alfa Romeo-level styling. If priced properly, I think thet Seat’s could be a runaway hit in the U.S. and give VW and Audi a car with a decisively different image. With as similar as some Audi’s and VW’s look, having a car that’s set off on a different aesthetic might draw more people into their showrooms.

Then again… if VW were just smart enough to give us a sported-up version of the European Polo, I’d have to cross-shop it as well. I mean as much as I like the GTI (not a huge fan of the I-5 in the Jetta/Rabbit), when you start it at $23k… it’s hard to drop the coin on it when there’s cars as good as it for much less. The Polo isn’t quite Fit/Yaris sized… (perhaps more like a Versa) but it’s Sub-Golf enough that I could see the 1.5L T/SC motor they have in Europe making the car into something akin to the original Rabbit GTI’s of years gone by. For the right pricepoint… it could be huge.

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