Inconvenient convenience?

Oscar GambleI’ve always thought that Japan, on the whole, make the best cars. Yeah, yeah… Italian and German supercars notwithstanding, but who can afford those? My first car was a Datsun, my second a Mazda. Our current family car is a Toyota.

Since moving to our current address we’ve found the need to buy a second car, because Suzanne and the kids are simply too selfish and lazy to get out of bed before 6am and take me to the train station in the mornings. Because I’m not in the demographic of buying European supercars I could not afford much. All I wanted was a little shitbox to get me from home the the train station in the morning and back again in the afternoon.

Coincidentally, a friend was looking to offload a car of his for cheap so I offered to buy it. It’s a Hyundai, which is a Korean make. The friend assured me it was very well looked after and maintained, and ran well. It does, and knock on wood I hope it keeps going. But there’s one little difference between our Toyota and my Hyundai which bugs me.

See, our Toyota doesn’t require you to turn the headlights off when you turn the car off. As soon as you turn the key to “off”, the headlights go out and the parking lights remain on. It’s not until you open the door that the parking lights turn off. This is pretty convenient for me because it’s just one more little thing I don’t need to remember to do. If I happen to turn the car on the next day in daylight hours and the headlights are on, no problem.

But, this behaviour gets me into trouble in my Hyundai, especially now that we’re in winter. When I leave home, it’s mostly dark. Well, dark enough that driving without headlights would be a bad idea. But when I get to the train station, it’s light enough that you can drive quite safely and legally without headlights. After I’ve parked my Hyundai and turned the key off, my instinct from years of Toyota driving leads me to grab my stuff and go, paying no attention to my headlights which are still on. I can’t tell that they’re on because the sun has already risen and I can’t see the lights reflecting off anything, and the instrumentation lights aren’t bright enough to see in daylight either. And, probably most critically, there is no friendly audible alarm found in other cars, which conveniently tells you that the boolean condition of lighted headlights and an open driver door has been met.

I’ve caught myself a couple times when I look back at my car to see that it’s parked straight, and I see an almost imperceptible red glow from the rear parking lights. D-oh! But on other occasions when I don’t second guess my parking abilities and simply lock-n-leave my car it’s not until I’m actually on the train that the doubts come: “Did I actually turn my headlights off or not?” Usually I can think back and identify that I actually did flip the switch, but one time last week I had to get Suzanne to swing by the train station car park and verify it.

So, who can I blame if I leave my lights on? Certainly not myself! But I can’t decide if I should lay blame at the feet of Toyota (and Mazda and Datsun) for making me the way I am, or blame Hyundai for not adding a feature which any other decent car manufacturer includes in any 20th century car?