Test drove a Toyota Prius
Test drove a Prius last week and wanted to share my thoughts. First some background though: I live in Herts and commute to Chiswick in West London every day. The train/tube combination is generally okay but expensive (£280 per month with a season ticket plus Oyster) and it takes well over an hour each way, too.
I've driven it a few times in my Sportback now, to consider if it would work out buying a second car, and although the drive is quicker I quickly realised an auto would be much better with all the stop-start traffic. After lots of research into various fuel-efficient automatics, the Prius looked interesting; the fact that the engine stops when stationary seemed clever and the long-term magazine reviews spoke of brilliant fuel economy - in the city at least.
So with Jeremy Clarkson's Top Gear review still in mind - he described people who would buy the Prius as "believing they could save the Tasmanian Fruit Bat" - I went along to have a look.
Starting and moving off in the Prius is weird. There's a small, rectangular key that goes into a slot and you press a button marked "Power". No noise, nothing. The display says "Ready", you press on the brake pedal, flick the little stubby gearshift into "D", release the foot-operated parking brake plus the pedal and squeeze the throttle to go.
If there's enough battery power, and you drive slowly enough, you stay on electric power but more likely, the engine starts silently and runs. It was impressive; the electric motor only works to 28mph but delivers about 295 lb/ft from zero rpm, so pick-up from standstill is swift although at faster speeds the Prius starts to struggle. There is a button which switches power solely to electric until the battery runs out, and when you brake or come off the accelerator, the electric motor becomes a generator to recharge the battery.
The ride was stunning, miles better than my Sportback SE, and the overall quality inside and out was excellent. The T-Spirit model I drove was fully loaded with things like sat nav and bluetooth, plus a reversing camera and Intelligent Park Assist, which reverse-parks the car automatically. That'd be a laugh...
Overall I was very impressed. For a second car, I would never have thought of a hybrid before but this is very much a surprise choice. The press haven't always been kind, and admittedly it does look a touch odd, but I discovered this week that the Prius topped the 2008 JD Power survey (and was joint top with the Lexus IS200 in 2007) so it must be good.
Still thinking about it but definitely worth a look!