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Category Archives: The Big Idea

The Big Idea: Little touches that matter

In the last few weeks, I’ve driven the 2015 Volkswagen Golf and the 2014 Kia Forte5 (which I wrote about here). Both are small hatchbacks aimed at buyers in the market for a good-looking and practical compact car.

Both also have this neat feature:

2015 Volkswagen Golf

That’s one of the rear outboard seatbelts in the Golf. Notice that little raised edge between the belt and the seatback? That’s there for one reason: to keep the seatbelt from getting caught behind the seat when you flip it upright from its folded position.

Here’s the same detail in the Kia Forte5:

2014 kia forte5 010

It’s the kind of thing that most buyers (and, in fact, most car reviewers) won’t notice, and that’s because it works so well. Some cars have a little clip to hold the belt out of the way, but a) that’s not as effective, and b) you have to remember to slide the belt into it. This barely-noticeable design element works all by itself, simply because it’s there. I want to find the engineer who came up with this idea and take him or her out for a beer, that’s how much I appreciate this kind of detail. You can bet I’ll be looking for this in every vehicle I test, from now on.

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Posted by on September 5, 2014 in Kia, The Big Idea, Volkswagen

 

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What I think: Analog speedometers are a waste of space

I was looking at photos of the Subaru Impreza I test-drove recently, and I paused at this shot I took of the speedometer.

 

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Posted by on January 13, 2012 in Design, The Big Idea, What I Think

 

What I think: Driving a sports car in the snow

It was a snowy, slippery January day, and I had to make a trip to the grocery store. Here’s a photo of the two test cars I have right now; guess which one I took.

Here’s a hint: it wasn’t the red one.

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The Big Idea: Practicality in its prime

As a vehicle type, the minivan is nearly 30 years old. Therefore, most of the major innovations have come and, if they were good ideas, stuck around. Think along the lines of dual sliding doors, seats that fold away into the floor and, gimmicky as it might be, the swivelling second row seats and hideaway table offered in the Dodge Grand Caravan.

So, what’s left? Not much, but a handful of manufacturers have included a couple of small, but useful, features in their recently-redesigned minivans.

In the Honda Odyssey, the second-row seats can move a few inches side-to-side, providing space to set three child seats across. And here’s a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that feature: a garbage bag ring that folds out of the back of the front-seat centre console – no more searching for an out-of-the-way place to hang a trash bag during those rolling road-trip fast-food lunches.

2011 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite

2011 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite; photo courtesy Honda. Click to enlarge

Every minivan available at the moment has a third-row seat that folds away into the floor; the cavity it fits into can be used for cargo when the seat is upright. But Nissan did something unique in its 2011 Quest by designing the seat to fold forward, instead of toward the back, leaving that storage well free even when the seat is stowed. Hard panels that fit over the opening provide out-of-sight storage for valuables.

2011 Nissan Quest SL

2011 Nissan Quest SL; photo by Chris. Click to enlarge

Less practical, but still cool, is the second-row lounge seat that can be optioned into the Toyota Sienna, creating the kind of luxurious seating normally reserved for ultra-luxury sedans.

2011 Toyota Sienna Limited V6

2011 Toyota Sienna Limited V6; photo courtesy Toyota. Click to enlarge.

What will they think of next for this most versatile of vehicle type? We’ll have to wait a few years, until the next round of redesigns, to find out.

 
 

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