Lots to Like, Maybe Even Love, About the New Rivian R3

I’m prone to romanticism, nostalgia, and hyperbole, so maybe take that into consideration here, but possibly the best car I’ve ever owned, in terms of utility, ease, thoughtfulness, general capability, and overall fun was the 2012 Honda Fit Sport with a 5-speed manual transmission. My wife and I bought it brand new for something like $16,000 and 12 years ago that was more than it sounds like now, I assure you. 

It was a phenomenal adventure car because it was a wedge-shaped hatchback that was small but magically roomy. It was the first car I’d ever seen where the backseats folded completely flat. The passenger seat did too, which meant I could comfortably sleep in this tiny car, all 6’1″ of me. It didn’t have much for ground clearance, but it was light, sprightly, handled mountain roads well, and if you knew what you were doing, snow and dirt roads too. Got something like 30 mpgs, and with roof racks you could haul an unbelievable amount of stuff. 

Then Honda stopped making it. Lame. 

I bring this up because ever since I sold that car I wanted it back. Or, at least, I wanted the option of a car like that back. And EV automaker Rivian’s reveal of their new models last week, especially the surprising R3, and the totally shocking outdoor-oriented R3X, showed me Rivian saw that gap in the fun, quirky, eminently useful hatchback/crossover space and jumped in. 

Quirky, sure. Badass? Kinda. Loveable? I think so. A welcome attempt to make something that’s not enormous and that provides endless utility? Absolutely. The Rivian R3X. Photo: Rivian

The R2, a much larger, nicer, traditional-ish SUV got most of the coverage, and, frankly, was more interesting to me at first. But all weekend I kept seeing pictures of the R3X and kept growing more enamored. First, it’s going to be “entry-level.” For an EV with AWD, that could mean all kinds of different price points, but at least it’s not aimed at the premium market. Second, look at it. Its bulldog cuteness is evocative of Euro hatches from the 80s. It’s giving old-school VW Golf vibes, and those cars, despite running properly only about 30% of the time, were near-perfect.

The R3X has a higher ground clearance than the R3, (though I can’t find the exact measurements), a wider stance, tow hooks, comes with burlier tires, and has a “rugged and playful” interior, according to Rivian. That’s all great, as is that AWD is standard on the “X” model, but what I’m mostly excited about is the back AND front seats fold flat. Read that again. Not just the back, but the driver’s and passenger’s seats fold flat. 

Back seat folded flat (and just look at that behind the seat storage strap situation). 


And the front seats folded flat too. Looks like two people could sleep back here and that’s freaking incredible for a compact crossover. Photos: Rivian

You can do wonderful things with an EV platform’s lack of transmission and central engine and Rivian is making great use of that to produce a small but spacious car that will be ideal for young people, couples, single folks, dirtbags, car campers, people with dogs, surfboards, and on and on. 

It could be the aforementioned nostalgia talking here, but doesn’t it seem like there used to be lots of fun, small hatchbacks you could camp in rolling around out there? None of them, however, would even approach the sheer utility of the R3X, or even the regular, less outdoorsy R3. 

Looks like a rendered image, but the ability to raise the rear glass to accommodate things like surfboards is worth sharing. Photo: Rivian

Rivian’s tagline is “Adventurous Forever” and that’s both a motto for living and, I think anyway, a nod to the carbon emissions-free, more sustainable mode of transportation an EV provides. But it’s also a direct statement about what these vehicles are made to do. Sure, lots of suburban folks who will never drive their vehicle outside of the lap from a strip mall parking lot to work to home will pick up a Rivian, but these vehicles really are purpose-built to be outstandingly useful for camping and otherwise supporting adventurous activities.

If they can sell these R3s for anything approaching the $30k range when they become available (sometime in 2026 or 2027 apparently) Rivian could have a huge hit on their hands. And, hopefully, motivation for other carmakers to get on board. 


Words by Justin Housman






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