Calvin Trillin's charming novel Tepper Isn't Going Out is a great way for non-New Yorkers to learn about borough residents' quest for a bit of personal space. The Alternate Side Parking Reader log ( is one woman's exploration into New York City life with a car (and life in general). Fit, I envisioned a week of stuffing the hatchback full of necessities. Within minutes, I started panicking about the end of the experiment: How would I be able to give up all this freedom?

That feeling lasted until I returned home, a venti soy latte in my driver's-side cup holder. Then a new sense of dread came over me: It was time to parallel park, an activity I had pretty much avoided for the past 14 years. Though I rent cars when I travel, most of the places I go feature wide-open spaces and lots of lots. That is far from the story in my Queens neighborhood, where people will jam a car into a spot from which even the guys in that annoying Mentos commercial couldn't dislodge a vehicle. My goal was to find a spot within four blocks of my apartment - in any direction - that didn't require an early-morning move for street cleaning. Don't worry, the story has a happy ending. It took me just 15 minutes to find a place, and I made fast work of the actual parking. I was back up on the horse, and it was a good horse.

THE VERDICT: The Fit makes sense for daily life and is comfy enough for a serious road trip. I'd buy one, though not in the dreadful Blaze Orange Metallic of the test car. Eek. Make mine Nighthawk Black Pearl, please.