For the last couple years, I’ve been carpooling in my Ford Ranger. That works fine for 2 people, but I wanted to take another passenger. So I got a new car specifically for carpooling. What did I get? Let’s first define my criteria.

  • 4 doors because everyone should have their own door
  • Hatchback because I love the extra space, especially when the seats fold down
  • 35 mpg highway is a good target
  • Automatic transmission so that my wife can drive if her car is being serviced
  • Interior in excellent condition
  • As close to 100k miles as possible
  • As close to $2000 as possible

The car I found checks off all of these boxes. I get 37 mpg on the highway at 70 mph without drafting (but of course I draft when I can). The interior is all leather and in surprisingly good shape for an older car. The previous owner installed a Bluetooth radio, which works great. And the price was on target. So what was it? A 2003 Hyundai Elantra GT with 129k miles.

So what kind of performance am I expecting? It tips the scales at about 2650 and the motor churns out 135 hp. With those numbers, it’s actually pretty similar to my previous track cars (325e, Miata, Yaris). At this point you must be thinking “wait, you’re going to track that thing?” Well of course. Every car is a track car, and with my Yaris headed for New York soon, I need a FWD track car. You might wonder why I like low-powered cars. There are several reasons.

  • I’m cheap. I don’t like spending money on cars. I’ve talked to Corvette owners who said their rotors are over $1000. WTF, a pair of rotors is the price of my car.
  • Less wasteful. I don’t fully approve of fun at the expense of the environment, so driving economical cars makes me feel a little less guilty.
  • Lower speed. I don’t actually want to drive faster than 100 mph, especially without a cage. I think my favorite corners are in the 50-70 mph range (off camber, blind, and wet if that’s not asking too much).
  • Passing people in actual sports cars is a cheap thrill that hasn’t gotten old.

Mine looks like this minus some clear coat issues on the hood. But I don’t really mind pealing clear coat. They’re like wrinkles: just a sign of age.

2 thoughts on “Carpooling

  1. Fantastic choice!

    No, I mean it. Before I ever did my first track day, I lived in Dallas and dailied a C5 convertible. Once I moved to Austin I was still working in Dallas a few days a week and realized very quickly that I was killing the resale value of my car, so I bought one of these as a commuter toy. It lasted me longer than the Vette did – tons of fun (admittedly, mine was a stick, which makes a difference with a low powered engine), but it very much fit the “drive a slow car fast,” level of fun, while being surprisingly roomy and decent inside for the money (mine was $14K out the door brand new with the excellent Hyundai warranty – that I never used).

    Mine was blue, and apparently I kinda miss it :)


  2. The good thing about an automatic, if there is a good thing, is that the engine hasn’t ever gone above redline. In fact, it changes gears at 6.0k.


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