Most charges leveled at the phenomenally successful, groundbreaking Prius are true. The Prius is what it is – a car that is remarkably cheap to drive once you buy it, and it’s also got some non-fatal issues that got on my nerves over its week test. But let’s start with the goodies. The Prius pumps out a righteous 50-or-so miles to the city/highway gallon. It seemed I drove constantly, over freeways and in town, and the gas gauge barely moved. Of course I took it easy both to maximize my mileage and because if you try to lean on this machine, it’s like stamping at an intoxicated ferret. And in case you haven’t driven a hybrid, you don’t exactly start ‘er up. Rather, you push a button and you know it’s alive when you let go and you feel vibration in your seat. Press your accelerator and you get an ever-so-brief hesitation, followed by forward momentum accompanied by almost total silence. In addition to normal operating mode, the Prius offers three driver-selectable modes: EV, ECO and POWER. EV Mode16, 17 allows the Prius to run on battery power alone for up to one mile; ECO helps improve fuel economy by adjusting throttle input and climate control; and POWER helps create a more spirited driving experience.
I drove it during a snowstorm, and it was slow going. That’s not necessary any car’s fault if it’s Prius-sized, but I just kept thinking of the thousands of other men comfortably fording the weather with Rams, F-250s, Yukons and the like. One car can’t do everything, though. The Prius is a quiet, efficient, economical, roadworthy car, albeit one which never lets you forget it runs partially on electricity, and you either are ok with that or not. It’s got a nerdy though endearing body design, with a stubby front and rear. Inside, my tester wasn’t overly frill-y, with its a center-mounted instrument panel featuring digital readouts. ABS brakes are sterling, even in the snow. Handling is adequate, and the optional nav/sound system was particularly easy to work. The Prius has outlived all the tree-hugger jokes, and at a base price of $24,200, it’s saved a lot of people a lot of money and delivered a nose-thumb to big oil.