Once upon a time in a land down under, I owned a first-gen Mazda 3. It was my first car and possibly my first true love. I bought it used, but it still gleamed a nice Strato Blue Mica color. Unfortunately, it fell victim to a vicious hailstorm and got beat up beyond what the Australian insurance companies would deem reasonable. So they took my car and I got my 'acts of God' compensation. That was in 2014. Since then, I haven't driven a car of that size or smaller with any regularity. It's been nothing but SUVs and crossovers for me.
I got the chance to break that streak recently. I was lent a Hyundai Elantra 1.6 GL AT test unit for a week to drive around for a story. While I was trying to get a feel for it, I realized a few things about driving small cars that I'd forgotten about since my days with the Mazda 3. Can you relate to any of these?
1) You sit down to get into your car
In an SUV or a crossover, you slide in or climb up to get in the driver's seat. In a small car though, you're literally sitting down to get in. And maybe I'm just getting older, but has getting up and out of a car always been this hard on your knees?
2) Your eyes need to be like protractors
In the last few years, I've become indifferent to curbs and steep driveways. I just drive over them like any other stretch of road. With the Elantra though, I relearned how to angle out of humps and big drops, lest I scratch the bumper. Even getting out of my driveway was a process of trial and error. As any small car owner would know, getting the right angle is crucial to your bumper's health.
3) The number of passengers make a big difference
Suspension in small cars is a game of inches. One passenger too many and you'll find yourself not only going slower, but closer to the ground by a fair margin. This means you have to be extra careful going over your subdivision's speed humps. That familiar sound of a car's under chassis scraping against asphalt will make everyone in the car wince in pain.
4) You will really feel the road
Speaking of humps, I didn't realize how many little holes my usual roads have until recently. In an SUV or a crossover, I can drive straight over them with no consequence. Since I was closer to the ground in the Elantra, I felt all of those little bumps and level changes. I guess now I can empathize with those small cars who drive slowly over some parts of EDSA.
5) Not everyone will see (or respect) your space
When I'm driving my dad's Mitsubishi Montero Sport, I sometimes feel as if I'm Brock Lesnar making his way through a crowd of average-sized people. Everyone knows for sure that you're there. In a small car, though, I had trucks and buses suddenly cutting into my lane, while big SUVs bullied me left and right. Hey guys, my car might've been small, but it has just as much right to use the road as you do.