Previous month:
August 2014
Next month:
October 2014

4 entries from September 2014

Micro cars .. stuck in the past or future trend?

I watched a lot of movies in university that I probably wouldn't watch now. You know, those kind of movies where you come out of the theatre a little shell-shocked and have to go over to your friend's house and sit up all night and talk about the MEANING of LIFE because you can't get that weird stuff out of your head? Brazil was one such movie.

These days I watch a lot more Austenland than Brazil, but one thing about it that still stands out is the cool three-wheeled microcar that Sam drove (a Messerschmitt KR200 with special mods).

Since seeing it, I've had a bit of a fascination with microcars. And while we've seen that microcars aren't necessarily more fuel-efficient, with Canadian cities getting more and more congested they may start to make more sense to drive. But even more than the potential of creating fewer emissions or having an easier time finding a parking spot on the street, the main thing I love about microcars is their look.

Car manufacturers have been creating microcars since the late 30's, but they really took off as a response to post WWII economic realities. And even in those early days, the microcar often has a "futuristic" look to it - evoking a Jetson-esque aesthetic of a personal transport vehicle.

Two of my favourites are the BMW Isetta and the Peel Trident.

The Isetta looks like a fun amusement park ride, with its front door literally being on the front of the car.

BMW Isetta

 And the Trident could definitely be driven by George Jetson himself. 

Peel Trident

Autonet has published a great round-up of three-wheeled microcars from early days to some relatively current models.

Are you a fan of microcars? Would you consider getting one? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.

Most Congested Cities in Canada

Most Congested Cities in Canada
Photo: iStock

Now that we're well into September, I remember what it is I miss most about summer - lighter traffic. In the fall we're all back to work, back to school, back in our cars. And let me tell you, Vancouver has a traffic problem.

Actually, most cities in Canada have a traffic problem. At least according to TomTom.

Since 2007, TomTom has produced an annual Traffic Index - a comprehensive analysis of travel times and travel congestion - in major cities and urban centres around the world. They use the anonymous data they have gathered to track overall congestion levels as well as peak weekly congestion times.

Most Congested Cities

Canada's most congested cities are, in order:

  • Vancouver
  • Toronto
  • Ottawa
  • Montreal
  • Calgary
  • Quebec City
  • Edmonton

In an "Americas-wide" index, Vancouver is the 5th most congested city, behind Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, São Paulo and Los Angeles. Toronto comes in at a cool 9th, following after San Francisco, Honolulu, and Seattle.

The Traffic Index also has detail about how much additional time the average commuter spends in traffic during peak time as well as the best and worst peak periods of the week. For example, in Vancouver, the worst morning commute is on Tuesdays and the worst evening commute in on Thursdays. 

Most Congested Cities - Vancouver

And in Toronto, the average commuter will spend about 34 extra minutes in traffic for every hour they drive during the peak period. If you have a 30 minute commute, that is 83 extra hours a year you spend in traffic!

Most Congested Cities - Toronto

What's your commute like where you live, PumpTalk readers? And if it's long and painful, how do you pass the time in traffic? Let us know in the comments.

All charts and graphs taken from the 2013 TomTom Traffic Index. Copyright TomTom International BV.

- Rose R.


'Tis the Season for Tailgating

Tailgating Season
Photo: iStock

Well, it's September. Summer road trip season is officially over. But I can't be too sad because we're moving into my next favourite car season: tailgating season!

Point of clarification: tailgating in this instance is the "social event held on or around the open tailgate of a parked vehicle" not the "practice of driving too closely behind another car". Thank you, Wikipedia!

The tailgate parties of my university years were relatively simple affairs. A few friends, a cooler chest with beverages and grill fare, a portable grill and a bag of charcoal were all you needed.

We used to hang out in the parking lot of my university stadium for a few hours before the football game started. Also, technically we weren't using the tailgate because I drove a Chevy van (inherited from my parents' catering business - and while it was the singularly most unsexy vehicle ever, it was also kind of awesome because it held a lot of people and/or stuff) and we sat in the side-sliding doorway of the van.

But the tailgating of my youth has nothing on today's tailgate parties. Tailgaters now set up tents, decorate with flower arrangements and have HDTVs hung so they can watch the game while cooking on state-of-the-art grills. Games, grilling contests, DJs and dancing are now part of this over-the-top car activity!

These days tailgating parties are not just for the big game; people are now tailgating before events like the opera! And a little rain doesn't get true tailgaters down - check out this video from tailgaters at the opening of the Santa Fe Opera season.

Are you a fan of tailgating? Any tailgating tips to share? Leave a comment below.

- Rose R.

Monthly Poll: Can you drive manual transmission?

Manual transmission
Photo: iStock

I really like watching the Amazing Race (and not just because Petro-Canada is a sponsor of this year's The Amazing Race Canada!). But I am always amazed that every season, there is at least one team that appears to have never watched the show.

This is the team who totally shocked when there's a weird food challenge. Or they fail to keep track of their special Amazing Race passport fanny pack. Or, they aren't prepared to drive a stick shift.

If I were preparing for The Amazing Race Canada, the first thing on my list would be to practice my stick-shift driving. Because there is nothing so stressful as having the lead in the Race and watching it dwindle as team after team passes you in their manual transmission vehicle, all because you didn't spend a little time learning how to drive stick.

Of course, driving stick has more benefits than getting you ahead on TV's most exciting reality show - according to manual transmission devotees, driving stick is more fun, can offer better handling and may also deliver better fuel economy. All good reasons to consider giving the ol' manual transmission a try.

So, how about you? How's your stick-handling? Natural-born clutch jockey? Or would you be the team-member in the back seat thanking your lucky stars that your team mate drives a 1972 manual transmission Dodge Dart at home?

And for all of you Amazing Race Canada fans - there are still a few more weeks left in the Petro-Canada Fuel Your Favourite Team contest. Every time you vote for your favourite Amazing Race Canada team, you'll be entered for a chance to win free gas for a year (see contest rules for details)!

The contest runs until September 20th and you can vote once per day, so be sure to get voting ASAP!

- Rose R.