Cars · Daily Observations

A Prius Experience

My dear car, Lizzy, is in the shop for repair and tune up.  I have had a rental for a week and it is a Toyota Prius. I jumped at the chance to go with this rental company because they had a Toyota. I thought that would be a good thing. I thought great, I’ll know the controls, it will have the auxiliary cable for my Iphone podcasts. I know Toyota. All will be well. Until I got into the car.

The gentleman at the rental company was kind and patient with me while showing me the car. He showed me the controls. He showed me the power button that turned the car on. Yes, folks there is no need for a key. Just put your foot on the brake and press on, and you are ready to go. I did just that, but I didn’t hear the car. As I was listening and looking around, the rental agent, said, “It’s on.” I thought, it can’t be, I don’t hear the engine; I don’t hear…anything. The agent said the car is on. He pointed to the words “Ready” on the digital dash display. Ready? I thought I was driving a car, not baking cookies.

The digital display is set toward the center of the cab. It is not directly in front of the driver. It took me 3 days to figure out where the time display was because there is so much going on the display. There is an animated car showing how the fuel, is or is not, being used.  The speedometer is digital, too. What we once thought was cool in the late 1980s with the Camaro is now a reality in Toyota’s Prius. I just don’t think it is all that cool anymore.

Next, the drive shaft. It is fashioned after a stick shift, but all you have to do is move the shaft into the proper position and let go to either drive, reverse, etc. A stick shift in this futuristic spaceship of a car, Toyota, why are we turning back the clock on this one part of the car? It is very difficult to maneuver. Reverse is to the left and up, which is totally not intuitive and drive is to the left and down. To park, you keep your foot on the brake and press a button marked P. I have not had any trouble with this because I am so cautious about what I am doing when maneuvering the stick that I have not had accidents. The reason I am driving this thing in the first place.

I am not tall so the very bucketed seats are not good. The passenger side seat is at a relatively normal place in the car. My driver’s seat is not. It is at least a good 6 inches forward and 1-2 inches elevated. It took me a while that first day getting the seat in the right position.  I typically drive a Rav4, which up off the ground. I step down to get out of the vehicle. With the Prius, I have to practically barrel roll out of the car. And remember I am short. I pray there will not be any serious storm while I am driving the car because there is about 4 – 6 inches of clearance between the ground and the chassis. How do people drive these in New England? The wheels are nothing to write home about either. As I said to someone about the few jeers I have received in the last week: I like my cars like I like my men, big and burly (with plenty of clearance underneath).

With regard to redeeming qualities, it handles really well. The steering is extraordinarily easy, turns on a dime. The hatch is convenient for storage of my tennis racquets, groceries, duffle bag, etc. It is a four door, and the back seat looks roomy enough.  As with most of Toyota’s vehicles, there is plenty of storage areas. I’m not nuts about where the cup holders are, but I think that is more of muscle memory issue, than one of convenience. You get used to things being a certain way and take them for granted, especially when you are on auto-pilot in the morning. Then there is the obvious gas mileage. I’m not sure how much I am saving because I feel as though I ride the brake so much that it forces the fuel portion of the engine kick on.  That’s where I spend so much of my car money, brakes. The traffic is the worst for them.

It has been an adventure with this car. I have been curious about them since they rolled off the assembly line. I have had the Prius experience. I am not going to purchase one, still I am curious about Toyota’s SUV hybrids.  Will they drive me crazy, or will they be, big, burly, and cost effective? Perhaps, a car mate mate made in heaven.

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