Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Danville, California
So here I am, in Reno. There's strange white stuff all over the ground here. Bizarre. Oh well.
Renting from Alamo. Booked a mid-size, the example given was a Pontiac G6. I pay no attention to the key I'm given, but am told the car is parked in stall "K2"
Over I go. The car in the stall seems kindof small, so I check the sign. K2. I get closer.
"You've got to be kidding"
It's a Prius. Sure enough, the key fob says 'Toyota'. Oh well. Throw the bags in the back seat, and in I get.
For a smallish car, it's relatively efficient with space. Even with the driver's seat all the way back, there's plenty of room for back-seat passengers. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of there being no room for the driver. Last car I drove which was this cramped was a Fiesta. Nothing for it, but to lean the seat-back back a bit, to provide arm length. I had a try at raising the steering wheel, but it turned out to have been in the highest position. I can only assume it is designed to be easily driven by particularly short women, and tall men were not expected to drive this vehicle. Boot space looked promising initially, until closer investigation revealed the floor to be some 5" higher than it needed to be, as near as I can tell. There's a gap under the floor, between it and the tools for the spare tyre, and I think the spare tyre is under the tools. And I believe it's not a full-size either. My convertible has more boot space than this thing. I'm sure you could theoretically slide stuff under the false floor, but I've not found a practical way of doing it yet (Particularly if it slides around when in motion). Seems to be an ample amount of storage compartments, and four cupholders.
For the first time in a car, I was befuddled. The key was absolutely tiny, and I couldn't find the socket to put it into. There was, however, a large rectangular slot which I figured out the key fob itself fits into. I guess the small conventional key is an emergency backup, but there's no manual in the car. So, put it in, and realise that it can't be turned.
OK. I've seen cars like the S2000 with an 'Ignition' or 'Start' button. It's not on the centre console, nowhere near the key slot... Hmm. There's one here labelled 'Power'. I push that once. A few lights come on, but there's no obvious effect otherwise. Light blinks. I push it again, and the 'Power' light stops blinking, more lights come on, and I think the car's started. Absolutely quiet. Engine may not even be on. The dashboard is a bizarre LED thing about two feet behind the steering wheel. In order to make it readable, it appears to have a magnifying lens placed in front of it, which isn't perfectly focused and frankly, looks weird.
Next thing to do is to plug in my GPS. Try to find the cigarette lighter. It doesn't appear to be in any of the normal places. Then it hits me: The Prius doesn't have a cigarette lighter. Obviously anyone who buys a Prius is not going to be someone who would pollute themselves or the environment with cigarette smoke. Who'd need a cigarette lighter? I did, eventually, find a single socket (sans lighter) mounted forward under the dais on the passenger side, but really, you need more than one.
I note that the driver's mirror is folded in the 'parked' position. Being unable to find the 'unfold' button, I figured it was probably automatic, and would unfold once I got going. So, put it in gear.
That's the gearstick? That little knob with about an inch of movement way up on the dash? Push it into "R" and it immediately popped back out. Try again, with the same result. Eventually I notice that about a meter in front of me, the "R" light has lit up and stayed lit up. Apply accelerator, and... hooray! We're moving. Wing mirror's staying folded in though, maybe it unfolds when going forwards? Look in rear view mirror.... OK. What genius decided that putting a horizontal bar/spoiler right in the middle of your field of vision was a good idea? The rear window is huge, but because of the angle and this spoiler, you can see squat out of it. I turn on the display screen to see the power transfer between battery, motor, engine, and wheels.
Move that pathetic little knob into "D", and it pops out again. I'm starting to figure it out now, though, so forwards I go with more confidence that the car will do what I want it to. Wing mirror is still folded in, though. Then it hits me. It's not an automatic wing mirror. I roll down the window in the sub-freezing temperature, and push the mirror into position.
This should have been a warning to me that not all is high-speed and modern in this car. Four miles later, a guy flashing his lights at me at an intersection informs me that there's no automatic light sensor to turn on the headlights. My two-year-old Audi has one. Heck, my six-year-old Chevrolet has one. Any car I've rented in the last few years has had one. What's with Toyota? Granted, I had thought it seemed rather dark out there, but I had written that off to being blinded by the insanely bright (Even at min brightness) screen showing the power transfers. I eventually turned it off.
As I was going, I had a brief sample of the road-going abilities. Do not buy a Prius if you like acceleration. I know the Hybrid Civic does 0-60 faster than the regular Civic, but Prius' acceleration is... well, frankly, it seems lethargic. (I've just googled the times, and it seems lethargic because, well, it is lethargic). Do not overtake trucks on two-lane-roads without plenty of breathing space, trust me. I also find the lack of a rev counter to be annoying. Granted, it's of slightly less utility with a hybrid, but in any circumstances that I'm particularly interested in the revs, I'll have the hammer down and the engine running anyway.
Engine noise at low/slow speed is astonishingly low, but sadly, I wish I could say the same about the road noise. Even cruising at 30mph seems to be about as loud inside the car as a conventional car. At freeway speeds, the engine roars along, so there's obviously no benefit there.
I'm driving 90 minutes each way tomorrow, I should get a good feel for the car's abilities on a cruise. I'll let you know, but so far, I hate this car, and have seen nothing to recommend it. (Yes, I know about the fuel consumption, but other Hybrids and diesels aren't far off it)
Well, after another four hours behind the wheel, mainly cruising at 60mph or better, I can say that the Prius has not grown on me at all.
I will give it credit for being apparently well built. I heard nary a rattle nor a squeak out of the furnishings. We're not talking Audi luxury here, but what they have provided appears to be put together properly, everything seems to fit, no mis-aligned or loose panels or any such thing.
That, however, is all the credit I'm going to give it.
Allow me to list some items which are wrong with this car:
The bumpers are wrong, the headlights are wrong, the engine is wrong, the dash is wrong, the ignition system is wrong, the steering wheel is wrong, the seats are wrong, the cupholders a wrong, the electrics are wrong, the electronics are wrong, the roadwheels are wrong, the transmission is wrong, the roof is wrong, the boot is wrong, and I'm not too keen on the tail-lights.
I don't like it. And I doubt it would make a jump over an open drawbridge to make me like it.
Road noise remained higher than I would have expected, but those small little wheels and the odd suspension system which somehow combines roll with non-pliance magnifies every bump on the road. The cupholders, whatever they're designed to hold, are not designed to hold the average McDonald's cup or soft drink can. The way there's a small jolt when the transmission goes from petrol to electric to regenerative drive, which it does often, is also annoying. Also susprising was the lack of a 3.5mm jack in the radio, I was pretty sure that sort of thing was standard these days, particularly amongst small Japanese cars. I mean, hell, the Toyota Aygo has one.
As much of my journey was on two-lane road, travelled by HGVs, there was opportunity to truly analyse the mind-blowing power of this vehicle. Fortunately, the roads in Nevada tend to be long and straight, so I could see oncoming traffic a long way off. There's much wailing and screaming from the engine, it revs to a good high rate, I guess, but ultimately, it's a 4-banger trying to move a ton vehicle. Even with the boost from the electric motor helping it out, acceleration is poor, whilst that 18-wheeler is long.
The seat didn't get any more comfortable either. If I'm in a particularly small car, I like to be able to move my legs around a little bit for circulation. Except my knee bashes against the gear selector if I try to lift it up. I also was not amused when, in the parking lot, the ignition system decided to go on strike. The vehicle simply refused to release the parking brake or go into gear, while the LED on the power button glowed a warning red. It is entirely possible there's a simple reason for this, and that it's in the manual, but it certainly isn't intuitive, with no indicators to say if even the engine has decided to turn over, or that there is any other problem. All you know is that the car won't move. I ended up resorting to randomly pushing buttons and moving levers before the thing decided to comply. It did it again to me when I filled up on gas before turning it in. On the intuitive note, this is also the only car so far in which I have been unable to get the cruise control or rear window wipers to work. It's probably simple and in the manual, but it's not obvious.
If you're, oh, six foot tall or shorter, and you're looking for a good short-range runabout, you can probably do a lot worse. You could probably do better as well, but anyway. Even at that, you would not want it to be your exclusive car, unless you have no idea what a proper car is like and don't know any better for long-distance rides.
Last edited by Manic Moran; 25-11-2008 at 06:17.