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Click & Clack

CLICK & CLACK : Bring On the Baja

Sunday, April 10, 2005; Page G02

Q Dear Tom and Ray:

I recently bought a house and now find myself constantly needing to haul things. I have been thinking about getting a small pickup truck. The only thing I hate about the idea is the poor gas mileage. I currently drive a 1995 Honda Civic. So, here's what I've been thinking: What if I put a hitch on the Civic and bought a small-size trailer? Is this a good idea? -- Maryanne

A 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, truck-like ride, most of them are big, heavy, high off the ground and drink gas.

RAY: But there's one that may work for you. You may 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.

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have an '88 Geo Prizm that I got for my 16th birthday from my parents. I just put hubcap spinners on the car, and I want your opinion on whether this is lame. My mom says they make it look like I'm trying to draw attention to myself. I want to know what you guys think. -- Matt

RAY: Well, if I were driving an '88 Geo Prizm, I certainly wouldn't want to draw any attention to myself. So, I certainly understand your mom's concern.

TOM: Throughout the ages, teenagers have always looked to make fashion statements that their parents disapprove of. It's part of the process of growing up and declaring your independence. If my kid decided to get spinning hubcaps instead of piercing his schnozzola or wearing spiked green hair, I'd be thrilled.

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