May 16, 2011

Toyota Prius

                This is our most requested review.  We consider ourselves to be the auto reviewers of the people, by the people, & for the people, so don’t be afraid to drop us note in any of the comment sections and we’ll give your car/truck a shot. 
                Toyota advertises this car as the world’s most popular hybrid.  We can definitely tell you that the damn things are everywhere around our headquarters and we have been considering Prius specific push bars.  Just give them a little tap and watch ‘em spin!

The ad-wrap adds something to it!

                The interior of the Prius offered more head room than we expected.  We did have to ratchet the seat down quite a bit, but didn’t go all the way to the bottom.  If you’re over 6’4” there’s hope that you will fit in this car comfortably.
The Prius has a centered instrument display.  Both the driver and the front passenger can read the display easily.  We actually liked this display.  The graphic showing where the power was going was really cool to look at for the first mile, but then it became irritating and useless after three minutes.  When you brake, the power goes to the battery.  I don’t know any sane person who would need to be informed of that every time they stopped the vehicle.  The display also included mpg graph based on the last five, ten, fifteen, and twenty minute intervals.  Some of this explains the slowness of Prius drivers since they are spending more time reading useless information displays than actually driving.
Speedometer and power distribution graphic

Electronic Gear shift and push-button parking brake
           The gear shift knob in the middle of the console was irritating.  In reverse there is literally a beeping inside of the car.  Not outside to alert pedestrians that you can't see behind you and will be hitting them shortly...  We also had difficulty shifting quickly from drive to reverse.  Everything about this car says that you have loads of time to get where you're going.  We don't have that much time and we got frustrated. 

Also the information that we gave out recently to turn off your Prius as it races away from you mis-applying the accelerator instead of the brake is also not correct.  There is no ignition to turn off, just a "power" button.  The gear shift is electronic and wouldn't let us select neutral and then turn off the car.  The good news here is that NASA proved that the throttle control and engine management computers on the Prius weren't the reason for the sudden accelerations.  We get back to work on finding a way to get it turned off at speed, but it's going to take awhile.  No dealer really wants to give us another Prius right now...
The armrest in the middle was a letdown.  It wasn’t high enough to be in a comfortable driving position and it had to be slid back in an awkward procedure to get it open.  One option that intrigued us was the solar powered fan to help keep the interior at a cooler temperature while the car is in a parking lot on a hot summer’s day.  This option comes with the moon roof, but if you want all the fancy electronics like navigation and what not, then you can’t have the moon roof.  The electronics cause the overall weight to be too high and so the moon roof is the easiest way to save the extra weight. 
The dealer decided to wrap this car with an advertising body graphic.  The angle of the rear glass made it virtually impossible to see anything out the top glass portion.  The holes in the wrap were at such an angle that there was no opening to look through, only solid sticker.  We hate the split rear windows anyway, and this only aggravated us further.  Seriously, if you got cut off by an Olathe Toyota Prius lately, now you know why.  The drivers can’t see anything!

The mutated offspring of David Bowie and Optimus Prime.

                We have never really liked the look of the Prius, even the redesigned 2011 model.  The advertising wrap did nothing to aid in our opinion of the aesthetic suckiness.  We feel that you could have designed a retro-modern look (yes, we know those are different ends of the spectrum, but Fiat did it with the 500) and been more appealing.  The outside of a Prius feels like the engineers at Toyota took a square and tried to figure out how to take the least amount of material off the square and still make a car.  We are not fans of this style for the Prius. We are always willing to change our opinions, but Toyota will have to change the look of this car first. 
                One feature that started us down the road of swaying opinions was the keyless entry.  Not only is it keyless entry, it’s key fob-less entry.  As long as you have the key fob in your pocket, the car will recognize you and unlock as you pull on the door handle.  The truly cool part was when you touched the front end of the door handle with two fingers after exiting, the car locks itself.  This is a feature that we only played with once as we exited the vehicle and the salesperson couldn’t help but show off as we got in, but we still liked it.  It doesn’t solve the problem of how to get into your car with your hands full of groceries or Chihuahuas. 

Even the trees are embarassed for it!
                The performance of the Prius was unique.  Off the line at traffic lights, the car would roll silently for the first few feet until the demands on the electric motor became too much.  There would be a little lag and then the 1.8L four-cylinder engine, literally, kicks in.  In economy mode, the Prius is like trying to coax a two year old into a doctor’s office (Had to do that last week, the real life scenario was only slightly harder than getting the Prius to “go”).  In power mode, the car handled a little better.  Not much better than say a Honda Fit or a Toyota Yaris, both much cheaper.  Does the fuel economy outweigh the overall disappointment in the handling of the Prius?  Our answer is no.  The gas tank is 11.9 gallons and the mpg split is 51 city/48 hwy. 

                For the money that the Prius costs, we’re just not feeling it.  The one we drove was a little over $25,000 and we could have had quite a few more enjoyable cars for not much more at the pump.  Yes, the Prius’ range is 606 miles, according to Toyota, but we felt that we would never see that kind of mileage because of how hard we had to drive it to keep up in traffic.  We could have chosen eco mode and effectively shut down one lane of the highway, but we figured it would cause others to waste more gas as they accelerated around us.  See, we are friends to the environment… just not in a Prius.  We aren’t even going to get into the argument about how much fuel and carbon are emitted just to make the Prius because we really don’t know the actual numbers.  Our attention spans don’t have the patience for real scientific research.  We just like driving cars! 

                Because of the damage from the recent tsunami, it will be increasingly more difficult to find a Prius here in the States.  Most Honda, Toyota, and Nissan models are put together here, but a lot of the essential electronics and other components are manufactured in Japan.  Most imported brands will see some cutbacks in the amount of models available.  If you really want a Prius, go get it now, but don’t expect the dealer to come down any on the price.  Our opinion is that you can definitely wait (like forever) but then again what do we know.

Thank you, Olathe Toyota.  Enjoy the free marketing to all nine of our readers...

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