Skip to main content

Yes, I like my Prius

Posted by pelegri on December 27, 2004 at 10:28 PM PST

We got a new Prius about 5 months ago. Since it seems that at least once a week somebody asks me about it, I decided to write a longer answer...

To begin at the end: Yes, we like it very much and I would buy it again. It is not a perfect car, but it is a pretty good one, it gets great mileage and most of the tradeoffs of previous hybrid and electric cars are gone.

First about the mileage. We routinely get 49-50 mpg out of each tank, with a mix of in-town driving and highway commute. We took it backpacking to the High Sierras and we got 36 on the way up, a very cheap way down, and a total mpg of 49 for the whole trip. Speed matters: we took the car from San Francisco to LA; the first part of the trip was fast driving at about 80 and the mileage was about 43 mpg, but in the congested freeways of LA we got 57+mpg. Short trips will give worse mileage while the engine warms up, and cold weather also lowers the mileage substantially. Overall I'm very happy with the consumption. An extra bonus could be the new law on car pool lanes in California, although I don't count on it being approved by the feds.

The Prius has quite a bit of internal space for a car of its external dimension. It qualifies as a mid-size, and although the way the feds measure this is does not always translate into usable space, the seats are very comfortable. The front has plenty of space and headroom, and the back has a lot of legroom. The main drawback is that the headroom in the back is a bit limited because of the shape of the car; I am 6'2'' tall and touch the celining when seated at the back. The Prius is also a bit narrower than other mid-sized cars and that translates into a middle rear seat that is a bit tight. Both limitations are due to the desire for a good Cx (0.26).

As all hybrids the Prius combines more than one source of power; in the case of Prius a gas engine and an electric engine. Hybrids can be parallel or series; the Prius is parallel in that the two systems can work independently. For example, once the engine is warmed up it is quite common to run on the electric only in city driving. The hybrids from toyota (prius, and soon to be lexus and highlander) and ford (escape) all are parallel hybrids. The honda hybrids (civic, insight, and accord) work in seriers: they use the electric engine to help the gas engine and can't run on the electric only. Both systems shutdown the gas engine when stopped (as in front of a traffic light) and use regenerative braking to charge the battery thus improve mileage. In general the toyota approach can deliver better gas mileage (although the lighter Insight has the best mileage of all) but the parallel systems are more complicated than the series ones. I have only driven the toyota, so I can't compare, but I like being able to drive in electric mode only.

In general the power and pickup of the car is more than adequate for my needs. It accelerates well (0-60 in 10 seconds) specially from 40 mph or 60. In our trip to the Sierras, we carried 5 people plus luggage in a rack [a yakima loader on top of thule mountings] and we were doing 65 going up; the engine was a bit noisy, but we didn't have any problems.

The Prius is pretty well equiped for its price. We have the middle of the range model and we paid MSRP price for it. It comes with wireless ingition (which I love - my keys stay in my pocket all the time now) and ABS and VSC as well as side airbags. The finish is very good, and, so far, we have not had any problems with it.

From what I've heard from other people, the current Prius is much better than the previous model. There are only two negative areas I can mention: one is that the transition from regenerative braking to standard braking could be smoother; the other is that the car is a bit too affected by cross-winds if you run with the tires inflated extra. The first is not a biggie to me; when I worry about the second (like in the road to San Luis Reservoir) I reduce the pressure on the tires.

If you want more details, there are a number of good website. John has a good site that includes a very useful Users Guide. Other prius resources include forums and a yahoo group. A couple of other general web sites are hybridcars.com and hybridcars.about.com.

So there you have it, a longer version of "yes, I like it". It is not a perfect car, but it is a pretty good one, and this is one of those cases where you can think globally and act locally. The current Prius happened because the first generation sold well enough; the success of the current generation of Prius is likely to spark a wider adoption of hybrid technology around the world; and I am looking for a smaller, sportier, hybrid to replace our second car :-).