What it is: Last time we looked at the largest car in the Prius family, the Prius V, and now we will be looking at the original model, referred to simply as the Prius. The main difference between the two is that the Prius V offers significantly more storage area and a wagon style hatchback. The normal Prius still has a hatchback, but it is less rounded in the back. There is still a large cargo area with plenty of room for sports equipment or groceries.
The Prius is powered by a 1.8L 4-Cyl. engine with Hybrid Synergy Drive, which is Toyota’s brake regeneration hybrid technology. Basically, whenever you press on the brakes, it takes some of the energy that is dissipated and turns it into electricity. This electricity is stored in batteries and used to power an electric motor whenever you push the throttle. The result is insane gas mileage rated at 51 mpg city and 48 mpg highway. The Prius is driven just like a normal car, you just get exceptional gas mileage in the process. According to the window sticker, the estimated fuel cost is only $1,100 which translates to less than $100/month. I think that is something we would all sign up for.
The interior was great and my test model had the optional heads up display (HUD) which projects your speed onto the windshield. At first I thought it was kind of silly, but I immediately missed it after my week with the Prius was over. You definitely keep your eyes on the road more, because you don’t have to look down to check your speed. My test model was also equipped with the deluxe solar roof package, which adds a solar powered ventilation system to keep your car cool in the summer; it’s perfect for the Houston heat!
MPG: 51 city / 48 highway. It was comical how I couldn’t get the gas gauge to go down. With my short commute from Kingwood to Humble I didn’t come close to emptying the tank, even with a trip or two to downtown thrown in.
Cost: Base price $24,000. As-tested $32,815 (four package and deluxe solar roof package)
Upsides: Incredible gas mileage, cool technology features.
Downsides: Below average acceleration. Price is higher than comparably sized cars.
Wrap-up: After driving the Prius V for 10 days and then the Prius for 7 days immediately afterwards, the idea of driving a hybrid really started to grow on me. The car is reasonably fun to drive (more so than many economically-focused sedans) and the insane gas mileage has an intoxicating effect. It can only be described as feeling you are being more responsible with the car you drive. There are plenty of fiscal arguments out there that say hybrids are a more expensive choice, and they are probably right (although the gap is narrowing). However, my gut keeps telling me that this is the 21st century and there has got to be a better way to do this. The Prius is not our long-term answer, but for $30,000 or less it is an attainable step on the way. The rest of the car is all Prius though (regular Prius model review coming next edition of the Tribune) which means that you get the killer gas mileage and a tech-friendly cockpit. I had the Prius V to test for 10 days, and it was almost comical how I was not able to get the f enhancing the driving experience they enhance fuel economy. Unfortunately for my manly bravado, they make more and more sense every time I drive one. The Prius V acts like a ‘normal’ car in every sense of the word. It has plenty of get up and go to get on the freeway and is even reasonably fun to drive. If they had a Prius that could pull my boat then I would be first in line at the dealership! Politics aside, I think everyone can agree that it is beneficial for us to burn as little gasoline as possible (okay, maybe not the gas companies) and the Prius V is a shining example of getting to cut your eco-footprint while not making compromised with the car you drive.
Car review: Prius - Monday, July 23, 2012 - Copyright 2007 Ourtribune.com