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Good Taxis

writerwriter Posts: 119
edited March 8 in Ford
I do not generally have a lot of interest in taxis. However, I recently bought a minivan, and I realized that there were a lot more minivans being used as taxis than I had been aware of. Having thought about it, I realized that depending on the area that the taxi was going to service, a minivan could be a very good choice. On the other hand, I could also think of other areas where a different vehicle would be a better choice. It is not surprise that there is a wide variety of vehicles being used for taxis in my city.

So what current vehicle do you think could make a good taxi and why?
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Comments

  • writerwriter Posts: 119
    One vehicle that could be a good taxi in a downtown area would be the Mazda 5. The only problem I see is that the motor is a bit small if a heavy load attempted.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,848
    If it's a vehicle used mainly in downtown use, I don't think you'd have to worry too much about blinding acceleration, so the Mazda 5's engine might be okay. After all, a great deal of the old Mopar taxis were just slant sixes, and many Checkers just had Chevy 230/250's.

    I think the main thing taxis have to be is durable, rugged, and cheap to fix. And that's not necessarily the same as reliable.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,593
    think the main thing taxis have to be is durable, rugged, and cheap to fix. And that's not necessarily the same as reliable.

    Yep, that's the reason Taxis fleets like Police Depts have stuck so long with the antediluvian Crown Victorias. CVs are awful to ride in, extremely cramped in the back with low roofs, and not great to drive as the seats are bad and they're really thirsty. I notice in recent years fwd sedans and vans have been used more and more as cabs.

    A minivan is almost ideal for taxi use in places like NYC because they're easy to get in/out of, have plenty of luggage space and get reasonable gas mileage (compared to Vics and GMs). Toyota Sienas are particularly popular in New York right now.

    There is legislation pending in NYC to revamp taxi standards with an eye to better fuel efficiency and lower emissions. Mayor Bloomberg's goal is to convert the entire fleet to alternative fuels, good for him. I personally can't understand why they didn't go to diesels back in the 70s when gas prices started skyrocketing.

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • writerwriter Posts: 119
    First, I should clarify that I have never worked in the taxi industry, but a long time ago, I did work for an engine rebuilder. So I did hear, second hand, how the taxi industry used their vehicles, and what they thought were good, and why. All the comments are about right, particularly how the "big sixes" were fairly common, and rugged was a central theme.

    I think the thing to do is start with a standard of some kind and then see how the job determines what is a better vehicle. So I have in mind as a standard, the old Checker Marathon, or more correctly, the '55 - '58 Chevys that the Marathon was based on. I do not have as much experience with the actual Marathon because I rarely saw it in Canada.

    The basic factors were, room for 3 passengers and a huge trunk. That carried through to the last cabs I had real experience with (as a passenger) which were the old Chey Biscaynes and equivalent Fords and Chrysler products (the classic big cars before the front wheel drives came along). Note that comfort and good looks are also serious matters for the bigger companies. The big companies (and the better small operations) realize that a good experience can get them repeat business. Cabs are kept as clean as reasonably possible, and yes, dents *are* removed from most of them fairly quickly.

    I think the Mazda5 is particularly good for downtown because it can hold 2 passengers comfortably and another 2 passengers, acceptably comfortably. If you have ever sat in the middle seats, of the Mazda5, they are not quite as good as a Mazda3. I am not sure exactly why, but that is what I felt. The back seats are harder, and you are supported only in your lower back and your head. The seats do not come up to your shoulders.

    But with more than 2 passengers, the luggage space disappears very quickly. With 1 rear seat up (3 passengers), you can stash, maybe 2 thick briefcases per passenger. That is a guess, but I am fairly confident about it. So you could take, say a lawyer and a couple of assistants to a court for a fairly big case. Or maybe 3 people to some other big meeting. But you would not want to try 3 people heading to an airport for a week's vacation. With 4 people, they would be with their computer cases on their laps.

    The other drawback is that the sliding doors have a hinge on the bottom which is exactly where you want to put your foot when you get out from the back seat, and that hinge specifically has a sign that says not to step on the hinge. In that regard, I would say that it would have been better if the Mazda5 in North America were sold with swing open rear doors. The car is narrow enough that such doors would be comfortable in most situations. Besides, bigger taxis have been in use for years with swing open rear doors, so there is no reason not to have them.

    The biggest advantage though, is that it is shorter in length and narrower than any vehicle that I have ever seen in use as a taxi in Toronto, and I expect, tighter turning as well. So, aside from acceleration, it should have an advantage getting around in bad traffic.

    The step height into the rear seat seems to be about 16" which is not quite as low as I thought, but still than a typical full-size minivan.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,593
    Your comment about sliding doors makes me wonder how those popular Siena cabs are faring. Sliders seem to be fairly trouble prone in ordinary family usage. I can imagine they'd be a real pain in fleet service.

    I've come to detest the full sized vans used by many airport livery services. They are way too high to get into easily and have a really bad ride.

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • writerwriter Posts: 119
    Sliding doors would be less desirable for taxis than families because in the case of taxis, passengers generally get on or off at a curb or other unobstructed location. The only situation I can imagine where a sliding door is any kind of advantage is when some of the Minivan style taxis take on or let off wheelchair passengers.

    The problems I have heard about sliding doors have all been obvious, particularly the dangers of injuring children when power doors are used.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,167
    Scion xBs and xDs, and VW Rabbits might make good taxis for 1-3 passengers, since they're space and fuel efficient, easily maneuverable, and relatively low cost. Diesel versions of these vehicles would be even better. Larger vehcles, such as minivans, would be required for more passengers and luggage.
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,328
    When I was in China five years ago there were tons of diesel Jetta taxis. They manage to put enough of us in one.

    The thing that gave me real pause is that not only do they drive with millimeters between cars and use the horn instead of the brake, but they only have seat belts in the front seats! I noticed that both the driver and our translator were wearing them which left the rest of us relying on prayer.

    I have to admit, though, that I didn't see an accident the whole time we were there.
  • writerwriter Posts: 119
    I have measured the step-up height in my 2003 Montana (standard length) when it was almost empty (carrying about 50 lbs. of random stuff) and the step-up to the front driver side is about 16.5". The rear height is harder to determine because it depends on whether you are aiming for the middle seats or the back seats. I measured it in the middle of the door and it was about 19.5". I would guess that the later Chryslers, and most other minivans in this size range are about the same. As I noted, the 19.5" is not really that much higher than the 16" for the Mazda5. I have been in a Ford E series van, but I did not measure the step-up height. It did seem to be a bit more than my Montana. But I would want to measure it to be sure.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,167
    I had the same experience and similar observations in China in '04.
  • writerwriter Posts: 119
    Regarding minivans as taxis, first, I have been trying to estimate how many minivan taxis there are in Toronto and my estimate is that there seem to be about 1/4 of the taxis. I think I have been seeing more than 1/4, but I do not go downtown, so I am guessing that the minivan taxis are probably more in the suburbs.

    The exception is the taxis for the handicapped, which are probably proportional to the distribution of the handicapped population -- which is probably a fairly constant rate per capita. However, as I have pointed out, there are more minivan taxis around than just the ones for the handicapped, and I expect the rest of them tend to stay in the suburbs.

    The handicapped converted taxis seem to all be "Grand Caravan" size. The non-handicapped taxis come in both "Caravan" and "Grand Caravan" sizes. In case you have never really looked at the numbers, the regular "Caravan" size minivans are actually fairly close in size to current medium to large size cars. They are just taller. I found the following data using Edmund's databases. This compares a 2004 Malibu in its lowest cost form, against the 2003 Venture in its lowest cost form. Both are commonly used as taxis. The Malibu is the last version before the "Euro" version which is just being replaced in now in the 2008 model year:

    Exterior:
    2003 Malibu Std / 2003 Venture (base)
    Length 190.4" / 186.9"
    Width 69.4" / 72.0"
    Height 56.4" / 67.4"
    Wheelbase 107" / 112"
    Curb Weight 3,106 lbs / 3,699 lbs
    Turning Circle 36.3' / 37.4'
    Ground clearance 5.5" / 8.3"
    Gross Weight ? / 5,357 lbs.

    Interior:
    Front:
    Headroom: 39.4" / 39.9"
    Shoulder room: 55.5" / 59.8"
    hip room: 52.0" / 55.5"
    leg room: 41.9" / 39.9"

    Rear: [Venture Row 2 or 3?]
    headroom: 37.6" / 39.3"
    shoulder room: 55.3" / 61.9"
    hip room: 52.0" / 60.4"
    legroom: 38.0" / 36.9"

    Trunk volume: 17.3 cu. ft. / 19.9 cu. ft.
    Max Cargo Cap: 17 cu. ft. / 120 cu. ft.

    Engine: 3.1 litre OHV V6 / 3.4 litre
    170 SAE HP @ 5,200 / 185 hp @ 5,200
    190 ft-lbs Torque @ 4,000 / 210 ft-lbs. @ 4,000

    Fuel Tank 14.1 US gal. / 20 US gal.
    EPA (City/Hwy) (20/29) / (19/26 mpg)
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,848
    I didn't realize that the Venture was that small back in 2003. I think these days though, most "minivans" are around 200". Once upon a time, brands like Mopar and GM offered short and long versions of them, but aren't all the short versions extinct by now?
  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 39,982
    image

    (thanks Euphonium)

    Moderator
    Need help navigating? stever@edmunds.com - or send a private message by clicking on my name.

  • writerwriter Posts: 119
    Do you have a link for the announcement for that? I remember it, but back when it was news, I just was not interested in it. What company was it?
  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 39,982
    Sorry, thought I had linked it. :blush:

    MiniC.A.T compressed air-powered car (Straightline).

    Tata Motors is supposedly producing it for MDI, but it still sounds a bit pie in the sky. 2009 is the latest delivery date.

    Here's a NY Times story on it.

    Moderator
    Need help navigating? stever@edmunds.com - or send a private message by clicking on my name.

  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,593
    I recently flew from NH to AZ. I had no trouble climbing up into the Siena that took us to the airport but my 90 y/o MIL sure did (there was no portable step to help us out).

    The 7-passenger diesel Ford Van that picked us up was a joke, very difficult to get in and out of for both of us, extremely hard-riding and uncomfortable with little room in it when full. I was unable to locate a seatbelt for myself. Next trip I will look into an executive car service (Lincoln Town Car).

    For ease of entry/exit certain crossovers might be superior to MVs. I find the Nissan Murano and VW Toureg very easy to get into. OTOH the Volvo C90 was a bit high and the Enclave I saw this week was taller than the SWB GMC Denali it was parked next to (!) I didn't bother to try the driver's seat because it looked like it would be too hard
    to get into. By contrast the Denali wasn't too bad (it had a nice wide running board to step onto).

    You should know I am conscious of this topic because I have a partial paralysis that makes it difficult for me to get into certain vehicles.
    Minivans

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • writerwriter Posts: 119
    In #12 paragraph 3 I wrote "This compares a 2004 Malibu . . .", but in the data I identify the car as "2003 Malibu Std". The data is for the 2003 Malibu. I have a lot of data lying around for vehicles around 2003 because I started looking for a vehicle earlier this year (I started looking from about April 2007). I felt that I did not want anything newer than 2004 because most of the depreciation occurs in the first 4 years, so 2003 was the newest that I expected to buy. By coincidence, I think that 2003 is probably about the average age of the vehicles I see in taxi service lately too. However, when I was looking for the Malibu, I found the 2004 data first and did not feel that it was the exact age was that important, so I copied it down. After I wrote the message, I decided that I wanted the 2003 Malibu data instead, because it would make a better comparison, so I re-did my search and came up with the proper 2003 numbers. However, I missed that reference, so that is why there is an error.

    I will be posting a few more numbers regarding 2003 vehicles later.
  • writerwriter Posts: 119
    I think you can get steps (in the form of running boards) for most of the taller vehicles. I do not like steps for a few reasons. First, they can be damaged while parking, they are probably detrimental to aerodynamics (which costs you extra fuel), and lastly, depending on the installation, they can create new rust points.

    I have seen some minivans outfitted with a ramp for wheelchair usage. I did not pay attention to where the ramp is stored. This looked like a good, fairly inexpensive alternative to the power lifts.

    Maybe you could suggest that some of Edmunds' writers put together an article on step-up heights for various vehicles?

    By the way, I should clarify that my name "writer" was sort of accidental. I am a writer, but not for Edmunds. I picked the name because I was new to forums back when I signed up and it did not occur to me that I would not be able to change it later. It was a bad choice. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about it now.
  • writerwriter Posts: 119
    2007 was the last model year that Chrysler and GM made the standard size minivans, so if you run out tonight you can probably still buy a "new" one at a low price. For this 2008 model year the Chrysler and GM minivans will be "Grand Caravan" size, which is, as you say, a bit over 200" overall length and on a wheelbase of around 120".

    Ironically, Kia has just started selling a short length wheelbase version of the Sedonna, which means that if you want that size in particular, they have the only product on the market. Since they now have an excellent reputation, if there is any real demand for the size, they could make huge sales numbers on it. However, the Chev Equinox and Pontiac Torrent are so close to that size that GM expects them to take up the sales lost by the minivans. I think the only problem with this idea is that they do not offer a 3rd row seating option in the Equinox/Torrent.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,120
    ...from cars to minivans, the drivers should change too! Back in the day they were gruff, tough-talking New Yorkers. Then they became immigrant drivers from the Middle East, India, and Russia. Now that they are using minivans, they can be suburban soccer moms who will need to moonlight as cabbies to pay for the ARMs that reset at a higher rate on their McMansions.
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