Stories

How To Enjoy Something Smaller

Let’s just get the joke/meme out of the way: Winter is coming.

Jeep Cherokee parked in a snowbank
You buy a Jeep, you park in snowbanks. It just happens.

The last few winters I’ve had the joy and pains of daily driving a 1996 Jeep Cherokee. 4.0L straight six, 5 speed, 4WD, snow tires. Affectionately known as the Thunder Wagon due to a modified exhaust when I bought it. After years and years of having FWD hatchbacks to manage Worcester, MA blizzards and hills, I caved after the 2010/2011 winter and bought this. It’s been great, but the time has come for something new. I simply can’t keep up and deal with all of the little problems of a 20 year old vehicle. I mean, I have 3 bikes to work on, damn it! Also, I wanted something more modern, something… well… something made in this century.

I had one main requirement: a manual transmission. 4WD or AWD was another one, but I was willing to possibly do without (and I did). My dream vehicle was a slightly used Nissan Xterra, but I was also willing to consider a Subaru Crosstrek, or a Kia Soul because for some reason after renting one years ago I really like them. I’m weird, I know. My favorite Porsche is the 914. Again, I’m a bit odd. Long story short, I settled on the Kia Soul, because I found a 2011 with 18,000 miles for $8,300. That’s basically a brand new car (or trucklet, as I call it) for a third of the price of anything else I was considering. Were those other vehicles three times as good? No.

2011 Kia Soul
Probably not going to be parking this in snowbanks.

Now here’s the rub. My daily mode of transportation for months has been a Suzuki GSX1250FA. 1250cc, 100hp, 80 lb-ft of torque. The Kia is 1600cc, 120hp, 115 lb-ft of torque. Granted, the Suzuki is not a lightweight but I think you can imagine the Kia is much heavier. Let’s call the Suzuki 750lbs with fuel and rider, and the Kia 3000lbs with the same.

3000 lbs / 120hp = 25 lbs per hp
750 / 100 = 7.5 lbs per hp

For reference, the Kia has about the same power to weight ratio as a ten year old Ford Focus.

The Suzuki is about on par with a modern Nissan GT-R, a.k.a. Godzilla.

Imagine going from a GT-R to a ten year old Focus. That’s like an F1 driver going from their race car to a Fiat 500.

Oh wait… Many have done that. Heck, many still do. Even Vettel has one. It’s one of those age old questions: Is it more fun to drive a fast car slow or a slow car fast? The answer is, of course, if you can, to do both.

So that’s exactly what I’m doing. Not long ago I test rode the new SV650 from Suzuki, and while it had nowhere near the power of my bike, I was grinning like a little kid while tossing it around the streets. I missed that feeling. I miss having something underpowered that forces me to downshift before I pass instead of flicking a little more power on and being in triple digits. I miss having something that isn’t supposed to be fun, but is, because you are making it fun, willing it to be so. I miss making the most out of something instead of just basking in torque like it’s a yacht party in Monaco. I don’t miss 9,000 or 10,000 RPM redlines though. The Kia’s limiter kicks in pretty heavy at 6,500. That’s taking some getting used to.

Suzuki Bandit on track
I probably won’t be taking the Kia to a track anytime soon, though.

Maybe it’s never easy downsizing from litre or liter (or ever leader) plus down in engine size. Some us can never fathom the concept. The power is all encompassing. I understand. Daily riding my 1250 has turned me into Alan Alda laughing at cars like they are Frank Burns. But still I understand the hollowness in that thought. Something ebbs away at you. I have seen others on 250s, I have seen them on 500s or 650s. They are having more fun and wringing their machines out more than most of us can comfortably fathom.

I will always want more, but for a little while, I want more with less.

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