Off The Press

July 23, 2013

By David Hayes

Luigi and I prove to be a perfect match

Astute observers may have spied me behind the wheel of a spiffy, yellow Fiat buzzing around town lately. A confluence of odd factors combined to put me in said driver’s seat.

No. 1, I was growing tired of the commute between Issaquah and Kirkland in a 15-year-old car. While my Japanese car was built in America, it was not designed with ideal gas mileage in mind. Especially since the price of gas in recent years is celebrated for not topping $4 a gallon. I occasionally grow nostalgic for my first car, which I filled up for $10 or less.

David Hayes

David Hayes

And two, the RAV4 was beginning to exhibit additional signs of impending doom. Already the recipient of two major surgeries, it was time to look for a replacement before it required a third.

With a limited budget and a need for vehicle suitable for commuting, I began my search with small cars. The problem is my knees. After years of wear and tear, and major reconstructive ACL repair surgery, they ache, especially on long drives. I need lots of leg room even though I’m fairly vertically challenged.

After circling several prospects and planning stops at dealerships in Redmond, Issaquah and Bellevue, I began the search at the bottom of my hill in Kirkland.

Regular shoppers may have noticed a Fiat on display in front of the Issaquah Costco. It was now back at the lot on sale with an Internet special.

I have to admit, when the really small car craze began, especially with the Smart Car’s great popularity in Europe, I laughed. The things just looked goofy. And unsafe. One run-in with anything heavier than a water buffalo had to be a losing proposition.

Then, a funny thing happened. I sat in one. The legroom went on, and on, and on and my elbows had plenty of room to flap.

The seven air bags assuaged my safety fears. And the gas mileage pushing 40 on the highway had me at hello.

After one test drive, easily zipping in and out of traffic, proving this little guy had guts to boot, I was sold. At no time did it feel as if I was driving a sub compact. The search was over before it began.

All friends and family will just have to realize I’ve acquired a commuter car, not a car pool car. Internet photos have proven, however, that six-footers and beyond can comfortably sit in the back seats. None have yet taken me up on that challenge.

In addition, it’s refreshing to have an uncommon color, yellow, amid the sea of red, blue, black, silver, gray, etc.

The confirmation I’d made the right choice came over a weekend trip to Oregon, when I made it to the state capitol, Salem, on a half-tank of gas. Not too shabby.

With all the charges of racism in the news lately, I hope I, too, am not guilty with the name I gave my Italian import — Luigi. It just seemed like another perfect fit.


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