I came across a poll online the other day asking, which would you rather have: a Prius or a bicycle. The majority of voters chose the bicycle. Why? I think I'd rather drive a car with a roof and air conditioning to work than a bicycle.
The Toyota Prius is not a bad car.
Before you start flaming me in the comments, think about it for a second, why do you actually hate this car so much?
Is it because it's a hybrid? Well, so are the Mclaren P1, the new Honda NSX, the Porsche 918 Spyder, and in all likelihood the next Nissan GT-R. The Porsche 918 Spyder is an especially interesting case because its hybrid system is very similar to the Prius, being able to run on the V8, the electric motors, or both, in the most efficient way possible. Point is, if you hate the Prius because it's a hybrid then you should also hate all these other cars as well.
"But wait," you say, "Those cars may be hybrids, but they're performance cars, they drive well, they're fast!" Yes, the Prius is not a fast car, and doesn't claim to be a performance car at all. But, there are so many other cars that are just as slow as the Prius, some even slower, on the market right now (the Mitsubishi Mirage springs immediately to mind). In the real world, the Prius isn't outrageously slow, it doesn't struggle to pick up speed or climb hills like the old Honda Civic Hybrid I used to drive. On the road it just feels like a normal car, only quieter. So if the Prius gets this much hate because its slow, then almost every other cheap commuter car like the Chevy Cruze, Toyota Corolla, etc. should be hated too, and I don't see anywhere near the amount of hate for those cars as I do for the Prius.
Maybe it's because the Prius is ugly? Now I will admit that the current generation Prius is not a looker, but it's not the freak accident in a scissor factory that was the first-gen Porsche Panamera or the original Ssangyong Rodius either. The last-gen Prius (pictured above) and the one before that weren't even bad looking cars. Boring or plain-looking maybe, but ugly? Not really.
In Japan, the Prius has one of the most extensive aftermarkets of almost any car on the market, the customization options are huge for the platform. In fact, Wataru Kato (the man behind the downright insane overfender-clad supercars of Liberty Walk) owns and drives a modified third-generation Toyota Prius.
Not a widebody Aventador, but a blacked-out Prius is Kato-san's daily driver. (credit: Speedhunters)
Over in the Land of the Rising Sun, the Prius is a practical but highly customizable daily driver used by tuners across the nation. Yes, some of these tuners like Kato-san have questionable tastes, but the car wouldn't have the amount of parts available for it if there wasn't widespread demand. So, the Prius has appeal to car people in Japan, but why not here in North America, or Europe, or really anywhere else?
You may be saying about now that it's not bad because it's ugly, or because it's slow, or because it's a hybrid, it's actually bad because it's all of those things put together. And yes, it is slow, hybrid, and not good-looking. But you shouldn't hate it. Driving a Prius is not a bad experience. Dull, maybe, but not bad. You know what is a bad experience? Driving the Lexus CT200h.
I've had the extreme displeasure of driving this car, and let me tell you, if any car is deserving of the hate the Prius gets, it's this. It uses the exact same powertrain as the Prius, making 134 bhp, but while the Prius feels like any other car while driving it, this feels ridiculously slow, and not in a fun way. Floor it and it feels as if you're doing walking pace. Older Honda's, like the one I used to drive around in feel as though you're going much faster than you are, while the Lexus is slow, and feels slower. But that's not the worst part, ohhh no. The ride in this car is just absolutely evil. It's so firm it's beyond uncomfortable, yet it still feels like it's getting significant body roll through the turns. Even one of those racing bicycles with no suspension would be more comfortable than this. I was getting into the driver seat of this car expecting bad things and it still managed to be worse than I thought.
In the past, the Prius has been the poster-child of environmentalists who think they're better than you, but nowadays it's just sort of become like any other car. It blends into the scenery and drives like all the other commuter cars do. It may be boring but its not bad. The Lexus on the other hand actually is the embodiment of what everyone hates about the Prius but with so much more awfulness poured on. The final kick in the groin, though, is that the Lexus actually somehow costs more than the Prius.
So there you go. Let's all stop hating the Toyota Prius. Because in the end, it could be much, much, MUCH worse.