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Toyota Prius

Hybrid-engine passenger car from Toyota

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A bit overrated, if you ask me

  • Jan 25, 2010
  • by

I had the opportunity to drive a rental Toyota Pious, er, I mean Prius in Los Angeles over Christmas weekend as part of my Holiday Inn package.  After all the hoopla over this particular hybrid, I admit that I was a little excited to see what it was all about.  Enterprise delivered a grey 2007 base model Prius to my hotel parking lot.  Save for the standard rental car door dings, scratches, curbed wheels, and bumper nicks from previous renters who just don’t care, it was no worse for wear than most other cars in the West LA landscape.

Despite a brief introduction on how to operate this video game, er car, by the rental car agent, it still took me a little while to get used to the stupid silly little “shifter”.  The rental agent appropriately called it a joy stick which I agree to be a very suitable word for it aside from the fact that it doesn’t bring me much joy.  Like a joy stick, the shifter always returns to the central position.  For those of us who truly DRIVE cars, we are familiar with this placement as being in neutral. Toggle it into drive and it slides right back into the central position.  Same with reverse.  While in reverse, an annoying chime beeps incessantly until you put it in park or back to drive.  Now park is a whole other issue.  It’s a button with a green light on the dash above the joy stick where you would normally find the hazard button on most other cars.  The other oddity is the “B” on the selector which I learned was engine braking after finding the owner’s manual in the glove box.  Hey Toyota, if it ain’t broke, DON’T FIX IT!  There is simply no reason why the gear selector can’t operate like any other selector.  I absolutely hated having to look down (and towards) the dash display to see if I were in park, neutral, B, or drive.  No need to worry about reverse unless the car is screaming at me.  Again, for those of us who DRIVE, I’m used to going by feel to determine what gear I’m in so I don’t have to take my eyes away from what’s outside the car.

Now onto the dash board display.  The digital read out is pretty clear to read, but it seems like it’s a football field away from the steering wheel.  Again, going back to the school of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  Why is the display not centered in front of the driver, but centered on the dash?  Probably to save money on left hand drive and right hand drive models, but there’s no need to aggravate the ergonomics of it by make the display so far away.  Not only is the entire display far away, but the speedometer readout seems to be about 2 inches further away than everything else.  For those of us who DRIVE, we prefer to have as few points of focus as possible to decrease the amount of time your eyes are off the road.  The Prius has at least four points of focus when you throw the LCD touch screen display into the mix.

The touch screen display is pretty neat.  It’s very large and very clear to use.  With a basic interface, the controls for temp, radio, trip info, and power distribution can all be quickly found.  If the car was equipped with navi, it would be found here too.  Since all the attention is drawn to this display, perhaps Toyota was hoping that most people would overlook the cheap hard plastics that surround it.  The dash and door cards were all cheap hard plastic.  For a car intended for long distance commuters, I would think that Toyota would want to make the interior a little more aesthetically pleasing.  There was also no standard auxiliary audio jack (it’s an option).  Even Hyundais have standard auxiliary jacks.  As I mentioned earlier about points of focus, the large display can be a large distraction too.  I enjoyed setting it on the power distribution screen to see when it was running on electricity and/or gas since I do appreciate the mechanical and technological aspect of the Prius very much.  The down side is that it’s a little too entertaining sometimes to watch the arrows change directions.  I can also see how some hypermillers can get completely absorbed by the numbers and charts.

I was a bit disappointed in the gas mileage (roughly 35-40mpg).  It just wasn’t all that impressive.  There are plenty of other cars that are much more attractive and drive much better that can achieve pretty much the same real world mileage.  For the commuter who travels 100 miles a day and is religious about mindlessly hyper milling in the center lane, I can see the Prius as being an attractive option.  I must confess that I was not trying to get the most MPGs, but rather just driving it like a normal car.  In fact, there were times when I wanted to see what this baby could do.  The Prius is very technologically advanced, but I feel as if it’s making too many compromises.  With modern diesels lighter cars with manual transmissions, these compromises don’t need to be made.  I was literally surrounded by Priuses (highest count was four all around me on the 405) so it’s obvious that Toyota has tapped into the hippie market very successfully which I’m sure is one thing that ain’t broke and they aren’t fixing.  In fact, if I were running the show at Toyota, I would toss around the idea of putting in the market a Prius doesn’t even have the hybrid drive train for $7000 less.  I bet I would find a good number of buyers.  There is no doubt that the reputation of the Prius far exceeds its abilities. 

The Prius is loaded with quirks both on the outside and the inside.  At least the exterior shape is functional as it has one of the lowest coefficient of drag for production cars, but a lot of the inside stuff is just silly.  Like a hipster, it’s trying so hard to be different, but it’s useless.  The handling was lackluster at best.  It felt like a Corolla.  And like a Corolla, what is the deal with the high nonadjustable seating position?  Why do boring cars always have to sit so high?  The braking took a little getting used to due to the slight regenerative braking vibration.  Perhaps if I drove the Touring model with slightly sportier suspension and larger wheels, my opinion would be a little different, but as the saying goes…you can polish a turd, but it’s still a turd.  The one thing that the Prius did prove to me is how useful a hatchback can be.  The visibility is excellent and the cabin felt very spacious.  The hatch opens up very high and with the 60/40 split folding seats, I was able to stuff two large moving boxes, two medium boxes, 4 bags of packing peanuts, and a back seat passenger with ease.  I don’t know why our society is so obsessed with “needing” SUVs to fit all of our crap when it’s much easier with a hatchback.  The Europeans have figured this out long ago.  I would take a diesel VW Golf 5 door hatch over a Prius any day.

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January 25, 2010
hey Rebecca... very thorough review!! Nice work. Scathing, but well done! No matter what you say though... i still LOVE driving my old Prius. It feels like driving a toy or a golf cart to me... but then i must be one of "hippies" you are referring to. ;) Thanks for taking the time share this thorough review, but it has got me thinking about how much i'm missing my prius now. :(
More Toyota Prius reviews
review by . August 29, 2009
I know squat about cars. When people ask what kind of car I drive, I struggle to recall exactly what it is that I'm driving and the year it was made. I've trained myself to give a rote response, almost reading a script when I say a "Ford Taurus". Just a few days ago I discovered that some unknown culprit had backed into my car, leaving a nasty impression on the rear bumper. When I called my insurance company and they asked for the year of my car, I just sat on …
Quick Tip by . April 22, 2010
I have the first model. I love driving it. feels like i'm driving a toy... so fun. My bro drives it now, but i want it back!
Quick Tip by . April 08, 2010
posted in Eco-Babyz
Small trunk if you have kiddos, the interior seating is very roomy though
review by . April 05, 2008
Pros: Will save you thousands of dollars in gas.   Cons: They get you to every time with the warranty   The Bottom Line: Highly recommend this for anyone that has a chance to beat the oil companies at their own game.     Once upon a time, I can remember when gas was less than a dollar a gallon. But it has been years since we have seen that happen. About five years ago, Toyota came out with a car that they advertised would get around 60 miles …
About the reviewer
Rebecca Low ()
Ranked #138
I'm a mommy to 6 rats, 1 beta fish, and a dozen freshwater fish and married to my college sweetheart. I attend anime & comic book conventions, collect toys & figures, and own a popular Sailor … more
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The Toyota Prius is a full hybrid electric mid-size car developed and manufactured by the Toyota Motor Corporation. It first went on sale in Japan in 1997, making it the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle. It was subsequently introduced worldwide in 2001. The Prius is sold in more than 40 countries and regions, with its largest markets being those of Japan and North America. As a top seller in the US market, the U.S. Toyota Prius made up more than half of the 1.2 million Prius sold worldwide by early 2009.

The Prius is the most fuel efficient gas car sold in the U.S. according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA and California Air Resources Board (CARB) also rate the Prius as among the cleanest vehicles sold in the United States based on non-CO2 toxic emissions. The UK Department for Transport reported the latest Prius is the second least CO2-emitting vehicle on sale in the UK with 89 g/km.

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Brand: Toyota
Category: Hybrid

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