Tuesday, October 02, 2018


I've got my N license in British Columbia a few weeks ago! This means I can drive alone in a car, but only with one passenger, and restrictions like no electronics usage etc. After two years, assuming I'm still alive and not maimed anyone, I can be upgraded to a full license and will be able to use a gps (yes!) and carry more people.

Now cars here in Canada are extremely cheap, from a Singaporean's perspective. A brand new Mazda 3 GT for example is about 25k. EXTREMELY CHEAP. That would probably cost like 3,4 times more back home.

Now, I'm one of those idiots that care about investing for retirement and personal finance. Can I afford a car? Easy. Can I justify it? No. So, I've opted instead to go with car shares. There's lots of car shares (and rental companies) here in Vancouver. I've barely over a year of experience, and some carshares need over 2 years of driving experience (e.g. Zipcar, Evo). The two that allow, as afar as I know is Modo and car2go.

Haven't driven much with car2go, mainly because it's a bit more expensive than Modo. Modo's about 2.50 for half an hour plus .30 a km, but car2go runs about 32 cents a minute, so even a ten minute jaunt costs a fair bit. It gets cheaper if you get one of the packages, e.g. an hour is 13 bucks, or 22 cents a minute. But Modo's five bucks an hour for their regular vehicle + 30c a km.

The key advantage of car2go is they're great for one-way trips. You don't need to return the vehicle to its start point, so long as it's parked at a proper parking space. I try my best to plan out one way trips because the smart car is good fun, but it rarely occurs.

Now the smart for two is a pretty solid vehicle. I love the throttle and brakes, and the car is so easy handle. A few things I thought might not be so good, especially going downhill, is that I need to crane my head down in order to see the traffic lights.  Visibility on the rear isn't the best either. Overall, it's a fun peppy car. Haven't taken it on the highway sadly, I'd be keen to see how it handles there.

Modo is Vancouver's big car share co-op, and the one I've been driving the last few weeks. I've driven a few cars and thought I'd put down some thoughts about them:

2016 Honda Fit (Blue)
Compact, throttle is a bit more responsive than I like. I'm sorry to say while I think this is a brilliant ride for the price, I thought it was a bit forgettable. It's.... a car.

2016 Honda Fit (Red)
I'm not sure what's with this particular Fit, but this car drives great! It had a "Eco" button that I don't remember seeing on the Blue one (edit: It's there, I checked recently). With that enabled, the car accelerates really nicely, but eco turned off, the car became really sensitive to throttle input. The fuel economy of this car appeared really bad though, I drove about 100km (downtown to Belcarra National Park, to New Westminster then back downtown) and that ate up nearly half a tank of gas (?!). Odd.

2016 Honda CR-V
I never liked SUVs, but I had to find out exactly why they're clogging up the road. This car feels damned planted on the road, and the steering feel is excellent. Eco mode is brilliant, makes for easy throttle control, and regular mode was a bit more touch but gives plenty of power to go uphill in New Westminster. It's wider, but I think the higher seating position allows me to better know where I am on the road. Lots of space inside, and lots of usb ports to share too, plus two 12v ports! I can see why people like 'em but I think I'm gonna stick to smaller cars like the Fit.

Fiat 500
I really want to like this car, and I will definitely rent it again, but it's the most twitchy car I've driven so far, it's rather scary when driving on a wet highway. The engine noise is also the loudest of all the cars I've tried. It's fun to hear the revs, but I soon got sick of it. The auto transmission also shifts around the 50km/h mark, which is annoying. The steering has zero feel, but it's super maneuverable.

I love the interior though, it's so kitsch! Unfortunately I don't like the rpm/kmph display, it's confusing with the RPM reading on the inner ring, and the kmph on the outer ring with a gear/cog motif that makes it difficult to read exactly how fast you're going.

Still, it's a very popular vehicle and I've not been able to rent it when I needed a car. There's also other variants that I want to try, like the 500C (convertible! oooooh) and the performance model, the Abarth. Not a big fan of the later - don't like the text emblazoned on the sides, and the interior is a boring single tone, not kitsch enough for my taste.

While this has 4 seats, there's no way anyone's going to be sitting in the back lol. Well, maybe if they're like, tiny. One great thing about this car, only two doors, brilliant. That way, you only need to buy one bazooka, point it to the right, and let it rip when you see a t-rex trying to get in. Don't reload when driving, that's unsafe.

Mazda 3 Sport
OMG this car rocks! It's got good enough power for hillclimbs and getting on the highways. Interior is boring and un-kitsch but super comfy. Throttle is... not super direct, I feel there's a slight lag but it's a good thing. I thought I could control it the easiest. Dashboard is boring and utilitarian.Two usb ports and a 12v socket in the center console.

Handling is pretty solid, I felt very confident on the highways or narrow roads. I've also got brand bias, as I'm a big fan of the MX5 and FD3S, both of which I've never ridden lol. #initiald

If I ever needed to buy a car, this is probably at the top of my list. The main problem: It has 4 doors, meaning 3 extra egress points for velociraptors to enter the vehicle. It's expensive to buy like, 3 mini guns as anti-velociraptor defense.

(2014?) Toyota Prius C
I think this car is brilliant for city driving in mostly flat area; it doesn't have the strongest engine and you can hear it whine when you're on-ramping a highway or climbing steep hills. And New Westminster has steep hills! Not the steepest in BC but yeah I can easily floor the throttle and the car just.... tries its best to accelerate. The throttle positioning is also a bit tight; I had to keep shifting my foot to get a good place else I'd be trying to push against the right wall.

The throttle is great at low speed and for city driving, I feel it's very optimized for that range. When on the highways, yeah, flooring it doesn't really do much lol. Steering is very solid, it doesn't feel as "on rails" as the Mazda 3, but I felt very confident with it. I like the brakes as well, it was easy to slow down without over compensating.

The shifter does feel a bit cheap, but usable. No dashboard behind the wheel - the speedo is in the center and it's a digital readout. I thought this was a great speedo unit - unambiguous and easy to read. Definitely the car I had the easiest time keeping my speed with. I also think it was the only car I've driven so far that has a dash cam.

And yes, this car has 4 doors, which presents a problem when being assaulted by dinosaurs that know how to open doors. Consider buying one anti personnel mine, aimed at yourself, it's cheaper and you'd probably feel less pain than being eaten alive by dinosaurs.

2017 Toyota Prius C
The prius c above was recently replaced by this newer one. I only took it out for a short drive for dinner, and essentially I think it's a more refined version of the older one. Environmental controls were a tad confusing but I just put it into Auto mode and set a temperature and it worked great. Didn't get a chance to use the cruise control, mainly because I couldn't find it in the dark and I had to get to a dinner. Mazdas and Hondas have it just by my right thumb, and makes it easy to toggle on/off. I did think the older Prius C had more grunt off the line, but it was rainy today so possibly the TC kicked in. The headrest also felt rather hard, definitely not a car to go for long cruises in. I think, like the previous version, that it's easy to park and a very good city use vehicle. Oh, the e-brake mechanism? Very delightful to use :)

2012 Mazda 2
Eh, this is like Mazda's analog to the Honda Fit. Overall, I think the Fit is a better vehicle - but I'm comparing a 2012 vehicle to a 2016, so I'll stop there. That said, I really enjoy this car. Of all the brands I've tried so far, the Mazdas fit me the best. Even this budget car fits me really well. Handling is good, and small size means easy to park.

2018 Hyundai Elantra
The impression I got was that Hyundai made less than good cars. Evidently that's in the long past. While I don't fit just quite right with it, it was an excellent ride, and I really loved the backup camera in this car! I will have to take it out for a long jaunt like the Mazda 3 to really get the feel of it. If I had to nit pick, I would say that compared to the Mazda 3 it has a slight understeer entering the turn, and the steering wheel's grip was a little on the smooth side.

2015 Nissan Versa Note
Eh, I doubt I will rent this car again. I found the handling a bit too squirrelly for my taste, and I did not fit very well in the driver's seat. Throttle response I felt was smoother than the Mazda 2, which was nice, but the brakes felt really weak.

2016 Scion FR-S
Best handling car of all the cars I've driven to date. Wow. This thing just takes corners like a champ. And it's super flat in turns. Throttle is amazing and shifts so fast. Zomg. Come next year, I'm taking this up the mountains for a spin. The ride quality is rather harsh though. It also has rear seats, which I'd totally forgotten. Definitely only for kids. If not, it's a great place for bags and stuff.

2018 Toyota Prius
Oh my god. This car is the plushest car I've ridden. It goes over bumps and rougher patches of road effortlessly. Handling is vague, feels like I'm driving a cloud. I do think the Prius-C has more driving character. On the flip side, the interior of this car is pretty nice, and the one I drove had a backup camera is is sweeeeeet!

One interesting tidbit - the back of the prius is mostly plastic - I could not stick my N sign on any of the surfaces. The sides of the car are metal though, my N sign sticks well and fine there. Acceleration is nice and smooth, and the brakes are also quite nice, and they can jam the car to a hard stop if you push it deep enough. I think thus far, this and the Mazda 3 are my top choices for long trips.

Unfortunately, the Prius has 4 doors, so yes, it increases the difficulty of defending yourself if sharks attack.

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