Why the Prius doesn't deserve all that hate
Bring out your torches and pitchforks, people. The Prius is now a good car.
As a car enthusiast, I love things that are fast, noisy and good-looking. I also love to hate a range of things, one of which is the Toyota Prius. I used to think they're driven by snobs living in Los Angeles, especially those called Leonardo and Matt. However, I finally got to drive one, or rather had to drive one. And somehow, I'm not compelled to kill myself yet.
I was on a family trip to Kyoto. Since my dad wanted to save money, and my mom doesn't give a pig's arse about what we choose as long as it moves and it's cheap, we rented a Prius. I could already see my friends mocking me when they found out I drove a Prius.
First impressions aren't great. Our car was in black and had Skittles for wheels. The front looked like a catfish. But the biggest offender of all, is the interior. In the press photos, the Prius had this funky interior finished in black and white leather. Not this one though. In this, everything was dark and gloomy, it gives you an idea of what it's like being in a body bag. Everything was finished in either dark fisher-priced plastics or black cloth. The window switches don't even have any markings on them. This makes figuring out where the controls are extraordinarily painful, as you can't see nor feel where the controls are.
Besides the Eeyore-endorsed interior, the seats weren't particularly good. We drove around 50 miles to our hotel, which isn't a particularly long distance. But both my parents complained about how numb their buttocks were and how their backs ached. My dad may be old, but he uses a BMW 1M as a daily car and he thinks the comfort is more than acceptable. The infotainment system, despite being the better "JDM version", was still unfathomable and clumsy thanks to a slow responding touchscreen and a messy layout. We still had physical shortcut buttons though, so thank you, Toyota.
Ergonomics aren't particularly impressive either. Mind, this is not actually a Prius only problem. The auto headlight switch was on the lower right of the dashboard, away from the right hand stalk, where all the light controls are. The footbrake sometimes get in the way of the footrest, and the gear lever is a bit far away from you, unless you are at the Peugeot driver's seating position.
This may sound like the usual Prius hate speech, but bear with me, as we will now move on to the good things about the car, which there are plenty. We will begin with the fuel economy first. Despite my dad's Fast-and-Furious driving habits, he averaged 22 km/L, which is a fairly impressive 62 mpg. And when I drove it, I averaged a scarcely believable 30 km/L (84.7 mpg). And we were driving on the motorways rather quickly and spent a fair bit of time on steep hills and in the city.
Then we get to the sheer amount of goodies this car has. Car rental companies usually buy the most spartan of trim levels, and ours was no exception either. But still, the car has front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, lane keeping assist and radar guided cruise control as well, something my Gran Coupe doesn't have despite the gigantic price gap. They aren't just gimmicks. They actually help a lot even for an experienced driver like my dad and they rarely malfunction or panic.
Last but not least, we move on to what is usually the Prius' Achilles' heel: the driving experience. In eco and normal mode, the petrol engine kicks in only at the very last moment. And when you demand a bit of acceleration, you are greeted with the CVT drone, which sounds like the machine Satan uses to decimate his victims. Underwhelming would be a kind way of describing it. However, when you put it in Power mode, you really do get "mo' powah, babe!" The throttle response instantly becomes noticeably sharper and the hybrid drivetrain goes to attack mode, where the petrol engine kicks in much earlier and the motor gives a bit more oomph as well. No, it still isn't a Mclaren P1, but the response is immediate and the instant thrust is more than adequate. The steering has little to no feel, but once you get familiar with it, it's quite precise, so you can trust it. Parking is remarkably easy as well thanks to the light steering and tight turning circle. The deadzone is noticeably smaller than that in the Yaris I learned to drive. Along with the low drag body which only gives a bit of wind noise near the mirrors, this combination makes keeping the car going in a straight line fairly simple. Brakes aren't that grabby despite the brake energy regeneration system. The ride is soft without being soggy. It's so nice that your passengers quickly fall asleep, so the backseat drivers would just shut up. And for the best bit: the eco score. I thought it was ridiculous for Toyota to judge how you drive depending on how you accelerate, maintain speed and brake. But turns out it's pretty fun. My dad and I would compete to see who would get higher scores. It even gives me a chance to mock my dad for driving like an idiot and getting a 16/100 for the eco score, just like he did with his exams back in school.
So there you go: the Prius isn't actually that bad. It does exactly what it's meant to do and some more. Yes, it's slow, the infotainment system is stupid, the gear position feels as if it's designed for an ape, and there aren't any USB ports to plug in your phone. But bad? No. And let us remember, without the Prius, the holy trinity would have never been born.
What other good cars are hated or ridiculed? Let me know in the comments below! (Nissan Juke owners can piss off)