Thursday, September 15, 2005

Prius first impressions

Here are my initial thoughts on the Toyota Prius (2002 4-door model), which we got a couple of weeks ago and just took to Yosemite National Park and back on one tank of gas...

It's whisper quiet. At a stop light, or backing up, it's like the car has run out of gas and is just rolling in neutral. I like that I can roll the window down and hear things other than my own engine. It's relaxing in residential neighbourhoods, and useful in busy spots because I can hear if something's coming at intersections with bad visibility. (Well, I guess I could be smashed by another silent Prius. :-)

Getting about 47 MPG. Gas today was $2.99/gallon at the best(!?) local station. With the Mustang, one trip to work and back = exactly 1/4 tank. I've now done 2 such commutes, plus a moderate amount of driving around town since Saturday, and have used less than 1/4 tank. There's an elaborate dashboard display that can show the current MPG, plus a graph of how it goes over time. This is the same display that shows
maps, directions, etc. when using the built-in GPS. (Not sure if this is optional anymore or if they're making it standard.)

[More recent update: to Yosemite and back, including lots of up/down mountain passes, we averaged 48.1 MPG. Commuting to and from work, I can get 52 MPG if I'm careful.]

The tax breaks you hear about only apply when buying new. We should be able to get the carpool lane exemption though.

Roof is a bit low, I have to tilt the seat back same as my old Tercel. It's very nice to have 4 doors. I'm not wildly impressed by the trunk space. Rear seats don't fold down, although in recent models they do. They've only had a true hatchback since the 2004 model, but all the ads say hatchback even if it isn't true. Next step is to investigate roof and/or rear bike racks.

Brakes are good. Turning radius is good, especially in reverse for parallel parking. Acceleration is OK, even from a standing start where the engine has shut off. I have one intersection where I have to cross 4 lanes and jog left, with traffic coming fast from both directions. Even a momentary slowness would be scary, but the Prius scooted right through from a seemingly inert start. It strains a little bit to accelerate as it approaches top highway speeds.

6 CD changer, not MP3 CDs unfortunately. Luckily it has a cassette player so I can use my adapter with the iPod. No line-in on the built-in stereo. Lot of dashboard buttons and touch-screen controls for the navigation system.

Air conditioning top-notch, lots of nice extras like dialling in the actual temperature and a setting where it adjusts the airflow based on how much cooling is actually needed. The speed and car condition is all on a digital readout just below the dashboard, I prefer it to the normal dials, although in bright sun it can look like you're going "188" and all the warning indicators are on. :-)

Because the car and windows are a different shape than I'm used to, I'm still adjusting to the visibility. Apparently the hatchback has significantly worse visibility. I'll have to check how to turn off the dash display, because it reflects in the windshield at night. Some of the dashboard controls (like volume) and particularly the mirror adjustments are obscured by the steering wheel and gear shift. The gear shift is a stick coming out of the dash near the steering wheel, a
little bit retro.

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