Whats that? We have a Toyota Prius press car? Right Foot Down?! Sacrilege!
Yes, as a matter of fact. I’d been given the Prius for a week to drive and challenged myself to find a place for it in my heart. I’ve always been a fan of Toyota’s products, including those Desert Sand Mica Camrys. Granted not all cars, or even Toyotas, were created equal though. Very, very, few cars do I have great distaste for (the PT Cruiser is one), but automotive enthusiasts in general have a deep-seated distaste for the Prius.
Why? Well, it wasn’t necessarily designed with them in mind. It was designed to reduce fuel consumption and explore new technology. Could it be something we’d like?
Full story and bonus photos over at RightFootDown.
The car Toyota loaned us was a Blizzard Pearl 2017 Prius 3. I had no idea they were broken down numerically, but it seemed to be a level of trim. What did it cost? Roughly $30,000 on the sticker. What did that get you? Nav, sunroof, heads-up display, park assist, automatic climate control, cloth manual seats, a wireless phone charging pad, alloy wheels (wrapped in Toyo tires) with covers (?), and all the good hybrid-electric stuff. Average pricing for mostly average options, I suppose.
I’m not a fan of the styling with this car (especially the thin grill that resembles a mustache) but to be fair I thought from the start that I wouldn’t really care for the car in general. I figured I would feel like I was trying to make a statement by driving one. You know, the usual “I care about the environment and want everyone to know it” kinda thing.
This was not the first time I had taken the wheel of a hybrid. I have to admit, I like driving silently, but that’s about the extent of my driving enjoyment. Initially it felt like I was driving a heavier Corolla with a longer hatchback. I didn’t know how I could get attached to such a machine.
After a couple days I started noticing certain things about the car. Off the bat, the Prius encouraged late-braking as provided a more productive regenerative charge. Cool when coming to a stop, but not as much in heavy traffic. The pedals of most hybrids have an odd feel to them that chips away a little at your confidence. The Prius was no different.
Suspension was much more soft than I expected. There was occasional feeling that the car might have bottomed-out over some uneven parts of the highway at times. While driving the car in a “spirited” manner, the Prius drove mostly how I expected. The Toyo tires fitted to the car were not really suited for having the RightFootDown, and complained about it.
The soft suspension also led to more roll and pitch, but thankfully not 90’s-Camry-like nose-dive. On the other hand, the Prius was downright great for cruising. The quiet ride, soft suspension, and comfortable (if lightly bolstered) seats made my commute a easy one.
Over a weekend, we went into the city to see a baseball game (Go Nats!) and initially, I found the car excellently suited to city driving. The electric and gas operation switched over when I expected it to. With two people in the car, the softer suspension nicely absorbed all of D.C.’s potholes that I couldn’t avoid. After the game I gave my brother and his girlfriend a ride home. With four people in it, it was very different.
The rear suspension just about threw in the towel and gave up. For reference, they are not plus-size individuals, and we had little, if anything, in the trunk of the car. Is it worth having a heavier-duty type of suspension for this car? I think so.
Driving my Mom around town led to comments on my speed thanks to the gauges being in the center. This center gauge “daring to be different” proved to be neat in some details, but also a little unnecessary, and occasionally annoying. It’s not something new to the Prius, but to be honest, I don’t know that it’s paying off.
After the last of the Scion xB and xD, the Prius (and similar Murai) are the last of the Toyotas to have the center-mounted gauges. Can we please get past this? Tesla touts this in their new Model 3, but in all seriousness it’s annoying to not have it in your lower line of sight.
The solution with the Prius here, was a convenient heads-up display that was shown directly in front of you in the windshield. It was mostly helpful, but in the week I had the car, I still found myself looking down and right to see the speed on the center gauges. Perhaps if I had the car longer, I might have become more used to it.
Our Prius’s dashboard was black with large sections covered in white. It didn’t cause as much glare as I thought it might on the windshield, but on some occasions the side windows appeared hazy when it was just the glare from the white dash.
About performance…well I saved this for last because really, whats the point here with the average Prius buyer? Since this is RightFootDown though, lets say that it went as expected. You had the gas and electric powertrains working together to build up speed when planting the throttle.
The 1.8 liter engine would rev (to what, who knows because there’s no tachometer) and the electronics whirrrrr away. With the electric drivetrain, there is no shifting so it confuses your “butt dyno” as to how you’re building speed. If I had to guess though, it felt slightly slower than a Corolla. People drive these cars with their big toes though, so that should give you an idea of how most are concerned about romping it.
Ultimately, I found I liked parts of the car, but not the whole thing itself. I loved barely using gas and how good of a simple morning commute car it was. The poor rear visibility and extra soft suspension really killed it for me though.
Could I have this car as a daily driver? Absolutely, but would I WANT one as a daily driver? Not really, to be honest.
There are other Hybrids on the market that could be more appealing in some aspects.
Where does the Prius go from here? With each generation, it’s beginning to feel like an old idea that just keeps getting brought up again in conversation.
The Prius Prime (which we haven’t tested) is supposed to add some fresh air to the badge, but still… how does the “game changing” Prius keep it’s place in the line-up when the Camry and Avalon (among others) have hybrid capabilities? A hatchback does not necessarily make a better car and neither does a center gauge cluster.
Things I liked:
- Very comfortable for commuting
- Very easy use of controls
- Hardly using any gas
- Wireless charging pad (although my iPhone 7+ wouldn’t charge because it was just a little too big)
Things I didn’t:
- The blind spots thanks to beefy rear pillars (it did have blind spot detection though)
- The actual gear selector knob didn’t illuminate (you went by the pictogram on the dash)
- Suspension much too soft with 4 average size adults.
- Very cheesy rear cargo cover
Written by Sean O’Donoghue. Photos by Josh Taylor.