I have owned a Prius for two weeks now. It was my “Black Friday” purchase. It allows me to take a snooty look at other cars and say to myself, I am being kinder to the planet than you are. Owning a Prius though, does makes me think I have more evidence in favour of me having mild OCD. Does that sound like a positive thing? I don’t mean to mock anyone with a serious level of OCD. Let me explain. My wife says I’m OCDish because I organise my wardrobe and clothes draws. I like CD’s and DVDs to be the right way up in the boxes. I always make a sandwich the same way. You know, I like to do it that way. In return I say she is OCDish because she always has to double and triple check the door is locked when we leave the house, and has to check the hobs and oven before we go to bed, even when it is hours since she used it, and has been in the kitchen several times since. We joke that our (almost) 2 year old has it times ten, as he likes to keep his toys in certain places. If we move some when he is not around, to another room, he does not get upset. But a little later when he discovers them, he will just carry them back to where they belong, then carry on with whatever he is doing. If nothing else, it is cute.
The Prius feeds into this obsessive behaviour for me. The Prius, Toyota’s best seller among the hybrid cars, gets a great mpg. Now you can just drive it and get a better mpg than most cars. That is not enough for me. I want the best mpg I can get. Or at least I want to see how much mpg I can get. So I like to switch driving modes often, not using the “power” mode (more on that in a minute), unless required, even though really, that is the most fun to drive in. At least in a sporty sense. I’m frugal with the air con, because that too burns gas. I long slow brake where I can, because that charges the battery a little more with regenerative braking. Getting 45 to 50 mpg is a good thing. Getting 50 -55, or better mpg is an obsessive challenge I enjoy. My wife, as she reads this, is no doubt pleased that I use this car to drive to work and back, without her in it.
Also obsessive with the Prius is the way I use the smart key, which by the way, I looooove. The gist of it is that the car can sense when the key is inside it. Then you use a power button to start it, and later, to turn it off. It is also smart because the front doors, and boot (trunk), can tell that the key is next to them, and you can open them by placing your hand on the handle, or sensor, and it unlocks. The doors can be locked the same way moving your finger across a sensor or onto a button at the boot. All this means is you can use the car without taking the key out of your pocket. I can go out and the first time the keys need to leave my pocket, is when I need them to unlock the front door when I return home. I’m obsessed with that too.
Thankfully the features I love don’t end there. There are several driving modes. “Normal” the standard mode, “Eco” which reduces the power output and uses the battery more, great for stop / start traffic (especially in southern California). “Power” which increases the output, gives you quicker acceleration for those situations where it is required, and “Evo” which gives a half mile or so of battery only. I’ve no idea where I would use the latter, I’ve not even tried it.
There is a touch screen stereo which reads my iPod just fine, has sat nav, and a few features for finding fuel, or listening to Pandora. Oh it has Satellite radio too. The air con is set by temperature (which can also be adjusted from the steering wheel), then you leave it alone to get on and achieve it.
Minor downsides, the steering doesn’t have great feedback, a bit too much power steering, but I find it a whole lot smoother compared to the older car I was driving, so that is relative. The brakes are decent but a little “not entirely sharp”, but that is how regenerative brakes work. Again they are better than the older car I was driving. Yep, relative, and honestly, if you need to stop quickly, they more than do the job. The normal drive is slightly sluggish in acceleration but not too bad, and the engine whines a little bit in power mode, but the car is a hybrid, what do you expect? All in, I think it does a good job, and so far I really like this car a lot. I like driving it. I could understand why it won’t suit all people, but it suits my habits, and little obsessions, just fine. Plus I can feel good that whilst I need to drive, compared to other cars, I’m being pretty kind to the planet too.
Lexicon word of the day: belabour.