As threatened, I took some time to go to Toyota of Sunnyvale to scope out the Prius. For those of you who came in late, I don't need
a new car, I have a 1998 Corolla which is good for another couple of years, at least. But my new job comes with a hefty sign-on bonus after I've been there a month, which would make a good downpayment.
I like the look of the Prius, and the idea of a majorly electric car, and everyone I know who has one is still drooling about it, so I thought I would check it out.
First off, I have to say it is almost pleasant shopping for a car at Toyota of Sunnyvale. The place is new, bright, clean , well-staffed and there was zero pressure. They had no problem with the concept of a test ride, followed by doing the numbers and giving me an estimate on my trade-in. Everyone was friendly, more than just polite. And more than that, they were honest about the pros and cons. Nobody was wearing tap shoes.
The first shock is the price tag. I was going for the almost-basic model, no frills except a CD changer. $26,000. That's $9k more than the comparable Corolla model. The next shock was the rear window. Between the shallow pitch of the hatchback and the spoiler stupidly placed about 2/3 of the way down the window, creating a bar across the window compete with totally useless rear windshield washer, there is almost no view behind the vehicle. It was almost as bad as being in a van. Next issue is the tiny steering wheel. Simple physics, folks, the smaller the diameter of the steering wheel, the less precise your steering. And the final piece of bad news was that despite the wider vehicle, they have crammed a too-wide arm rest/storage box between the driver and passenger which makes it feel cramped.
On the plus side, the car is quiet, the ride is a wee bit smoother than the Corolla, the car seems to be going slower than the speedometer says, it's quick to move off the stop line and has powerful brakes. Good tight turning radius, too.
A couple of things which are neither good nor bad, just different are the tiny gear shift widget. It's really a little joystick poking out of the dashboard. There are only three settings - drive, reverse and neutral. The "park" gear is a button on the dash. There is no key to turn - you insert the keyless entry remote into a slot, hold down the brake pedal and push a "power" button on the dash to turn the car on.
The back seat is advertised as big enough for three, but it only has two actual seat buckets. Th rear seats fold down all the way, and the rear storage area is pretty big that way.
I won't be buying one of these. The main reasons are:
- The rear view is not big enough to be safe
- The price plus interest - Even my CU wants 7+% interest (compared to 3.something for Corolla)
- It's too big for me, yet feels cramped.
This is not a criticism of those who bought one. It's an excellent car, and, as they say, YMMV.