Dear Tom and Ray:
I recently bought a house, and now find myself constantly needing to haul things: large amounts of yard waste, old furniture, scrap metal, etc. I have been thinking about getting a small pickup truck, but whatever vehicle I get will become my main, everyday vehicle, so I'm being very careful about this decision. Truth be told, I love the idea of having a pickup. It would come in handy at work, as well as around the house. The only thing I hate about the idea is the poor gas mileage. I currently drive a 1995 Honda Civic, and can't imagine what I'd be spending on gas if I got a pickup! So, here's what I've been thinking: What if I put a hitch on the Civic and bought a small-size trailer? I know that my towing capacity would not be much, but it might be good enough for what I have to haul. Is this a bad idea? I really don't want to ruin the Civic and end up with nothing. Is this a good idea? -- Maryanne
RAY: Not really, Maryanne. It won't take much weight to put a serious strain on the little Civic engine. Even a good-size mother-in-law could croak this thing ... if you could get her into the car.
TOM: But you're right to be concerned about the downsides of a pickup truck. Besides the lousy, trucklike ride, most of them are big, heavy, high off the ground and drink gas.
RAY: But there's one that might work for you. You might be the perfect candidate for a Subaru Baja. The Baja is the spiritual successor to the Chevy El Camino and Ford Ranchero. In other words, it's half-car, half-pickup-truck.
TOM: It's based on the very popular Subaru Outback wagon. It has four doors, and seats four comfortably. It has standard all-wheel-drive and a durable, four-cylinder engine that gets pretty darned good gas mileage. But instead of an internal cargo area in back, like a station wagon, it has a small pickup bed in the back. You can even get a metal, fold-out extender to carry larger items when you need to.
RAY: Of course, the great advantage is that you basically get to drive around every day in a car, not a truck.
TOM: The only disadvantage is that, well, it's pretty ugly. But you didn't say anything about not wanting an ugly vehicle in your letter, Maryanne, so we're going to consider this case closed!