Why don’t I like Toyotas?

toyota.jpgThere’s the name, for starters. Sounds like something from Fisher-Price, doesn’t it? Toyota. Then there’s the missing leg room. I’m 5’7”, not a giant by any standards, except Toyota’s. The front seat is pushed back as far as it can go and my knees are still under my chin.

Then there are the headlights. In a 2005 Matrix, you can not turn them off. I’ve tried. The police have tried. Mechanics have tried. If you want to finish listening to the radio for a minute or ten before removing the keys, the headlights will be on and you will look like a dope. Are perpetual headlights really necessary?

A Camry I had featured automatic seatbelts. I hated them passionately and irrationally. Unfortunately, they were about the only working component in the car. The windows wouldn’t go down. The air conditioning didn’t work. The heat only functioned as a windshield defroster. The radio was silent as the grave. The distributor cap leaked. But the seat belts? Tip top shape.

Near the end, even they malfunctioned. They wouldn’t return to the default position when the motor was turned off, but they’d keep trying until they drained the battery and left me stranded in some desolate, Godforsaken location at night in a snowstorm. I was on a first name basis with every road service dispatcher in the area. It took maybe a month for a mechanic to identify the problem. One guy told me no, no, it wasn’t the seatbelts. Oh?

And you know the gear shift indicator? That’s supposed to light up, isn’t it? Ha. Those lights worked in both Toyotas for, oh, twenty minutes after buying them. Then went dark. Forevermore.

Last, but not least, the blind spots. Driving the Matrix is a high stakes game of mystery and suspense at 50 mph city / 80 mph highway. The seat backs practically reach the roof of the car, seeing around them, over them, or between them requires the dexterity of Mary Lou Retton. Wide posts between the front and rear windows block out most of what you need to see on either side.

Oh, and the dashboard warning lights. At least one is on at all times. Usually two or three. Tire pressure, air bag, seatbelt, low light, door ajar, something. But aren’t they helpful? No. They’re on one day, off the next, different lights in their stead. Aaarrrggghhh.

Granted, Toyotas last forever. The engines don’t require regular repair. Mileage is good. But. The electrical systems are a joke. The safety features are intrusive and meddlesome. The interiors compare favorably only to a straitjacket. My mind is made up. If I ever get another car, I want a Harley. With a sidecar and a little helmet for the dog. Wouldn’t that be great?

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