So I bought a Prius – a 2004 one, which is the first wave of the second iteration Toyota took to the market. And while I entered the flock of those “morons who think they’re saving the planet” (Jeremy Clarkson) I wanted to find out how much of a “moron” can a human being become after buying this car.
The former owner, an old man from Germany, kept the car in very good shape – not bad looking at all, considering its almost 10 years of age. I don’t really know how it looked when it was brand new, but I can say for sure it doesn’t look much worse now.
I had three fears before buying it, and here they are:
Fear #1: It would be so slow I can’t overtake a braking truck
Ok, so for Clarkson and all petrol heads, these cars are reeealy slow. Indeed, it doesn’t do zero to sixty in 5 seconds, but, hell, it’s not been designed to! My version, at least, has a 1.5L engine, and for that, adding the fact that it’s a family saloon, I can tell you – trust me – it pulls.
It pulls so well that an Audi Q7 3.0 TDI could barely keep up with me from 35 to 60 mph, with the car fully loaded with people and gear. Yeah, it does 0 to 60 in 10.x seconds, at times under 10, it depends on the battery’s state of charge (who cares, anyway?). But you know what? The Audi does 60 in 8 seconds, not a too-far-away figure.
And yes, it can overtake properly, because you don’t have to switch gears and the acceleration is constant. Moreover, at city speeds it’s a rocket. The torque of those 2 electric motors is just staggering – 400 Nm (295 lb.ft) of instant pull, from zero rpm. It feels very sporty – and I don’t have any interest telling you this other than passing the information.
Fear #2: The Prius can’t handle snow and slippery roads properly
I’ve been owning the car for about a month and a half, and this week it snowed. When I saw this, the first thing I did was trying to get into some trouble. I took the car on an empty road nearby and started testing it. Believe me, I did everything in my power to make this car understeer, oversteer, lose its grip with the packed icy snow – and I did succeed, eventually.
But You know what it did back? It stabilized itself in normal situations, where you’d have to avoid a rabbit on the road, with no other intervention. In out of the ordinary situations, it helped me stabilize, but it never spun out of control, the traction control system did its job accelerating, brakes felt like I was using them on a pretty normal road, when it was one so icy that I could barely walk on.
And, yes, it takes a bit of practice moving the car uphill from standstill – traction control can’t be shut off normally, but I guess any car would have that kind of trouble – with or without the smart electronics.
Fear #3: After 10 years of usage, the battery would likely be so weak it won’t matter
The car doesn’t yet have 10 years, and I’ve owned it for too little time to count, but I went as far as 4 miles on pure electricity. Stop-and-go traffic makes things worse, of course, since it eats up 50 amps just to get moving, but if you build up speed on gasoline, most of the city journey can be done on electric with as little as 3.7 liters in 100 kilometers, or 64 mpg, which, in town, is a real blessing (my old Alfa 156 used to drink at least 10 liters per 100 km – 23 mpg). Note that it’s still winter, and temps are not my ally in the MPG game.
So after all the reviews I’ve read, comparing to the actual reality, after almost 10 years and 160,000 km (100k+ miles), the battery is just fine – and I think it’ll be like this for another 100k miles.
What others say
By ‘others’ I mainly mean my wife, because she’s the other driver around, and I quote her: “it’s driving therapy.” My wife is an actress by formation, and she likes to work with kids, teaching them songs and poems. For her, a transistor is a bug, and a CV joint is a piece of iron she can dispose of, so she’s no techie, like me. And if such a non-technical person can appreciate something that has a ton of technology inside (even more advanced than most of the cars produced today), that means anyone can drive and enjoy it.
Everyone to whom I’ve presented this car have been purely enchanted by how it rides and feels, so it’s not just me.
And, if you know Mr. Clarkson, please tell him we’re not saving the world… we’re just helping promote better technology and better design. And, if somehow, by eliminating some of that smog above London or any other polluted city, we’re helping the air become cleaner, yes, it’s worth buying a Prius, even a new one.
About the price
How much do you think I spent on mine? $20,000? $10,000? No. I spent 4,700 euros which is about $6,000. And there are plenty of cars like this out there – some with more miles and some with fewer. Forums say Prii can go up to 600,000 miles without any damage to the battery or gasoline engine whatsoever. Some people didn’t even do a brake job, nothing, throughout their entire life. And that’s just because braking is mostly regenerative, most of the time brakes don’t mechanically activate… they’re that advanced.
Forget those morons who trashed a Prius and squashed it under a tank – save one today! I know I did, and I am happy.
Buy a second hand Prius! You won’t be sorry.