We’ve been driving the same car since 1997. To paraphrase Rick Steves, we’re making do with the old car, leaving us with more money to stretch our travel budget. And it is still working great, so we really don’t need a new car — yet. We have been saying for several years, however, that when we do get a new car it’s probably going to be a Toyota Prius.
So when the nice folks at Toyota offered us a week-long test drive, we thought it would be a great opportunity to see if a Prius really will be our next new car. When they dropped off the car we were pretty excited to see that it was a top-of-the-line 2015 Prius with all the extras.
For starters, we noticed it’s really quiet. When you drive a 13-year-old camper van and an 18-year old sedan, quiet is not part of your driving experience. The first time Jeff turned on the Prius, he promptly turned it back off again. When I asked him why he did that, he said, “because it didn’t start.”
Um yeah, it did. It just didn’t make any noise when it started!
We took some friends on a trip to the Columbia River Gorge for one of our test rides, and they said there was plenty of room in the back seat and that they were very comfortable. We found the front seats to be quite comfortable, too. (Erin was loving the heated seats.) Our friends enjoyed helped us figure out what a lot of the Prius’s bells and whistles are, and there are a lot of bells and whistles — even a pollen filter!
We finally figured out the navigation system, which is pretty nice to have on the console instead of on your phone (which is the setup we currently use). The system is a little complicated at first, but would probably be pretty easy once you got used to it. The navigation system also projects onto the windshield — not with the same level of detail as the console map, but it shows arrows with upcoming turns and projected distances. Very handy. And the speedometer also projects onto the windshield, so you can monitor your speed — or feel like you’re driving a sports car (or playing a video game) — while you drive!
Other nice road trip features included cruise control and Lane Keeping Assist. The cruise control has a sensor that detects how close you are to the car in front of you and automatically maintains a certain distance between you and that car. It automatically slows and speeds up your car as the distance between two cars changes. It allows the driver to select between three different distances. Lane keeping assist uses a camera and the lane lines on the road to make sure you do not veer out of your lane. If you begin to veer out of your lane, the car starts beeping and the car applies a slight steering torque to correct the error. We, of course, tested these features and they really work!
The Prius was plenty roomy for the two of us. We took a road trip to the beach and we were able to fit two roller board suitcases, a backpack, our bocce balls, and a cooler in the hatch area and were still able to pull the hatch cover over! It would have been nice if the cover were a little bit longer so there was a little more give. It sort of felt like we were stretching it to its maximum, and I’m not sure how well it would hold up if you did that repeatedly. If you didn’t want to put the hatch area cover on, or if you folded down the seats, you could easily fit a large suitcase, two smaller suitcases, a cooler, and a couple backpacks, and still be able to see out the rear window while driving.
Gas mileage seemed to consistently be about 50 mpg based on the Prius’s dashboard display data. It’s fun to watch the displays, to try to keep it in electric vehicle mode for as long as possible, and to actively monitor fuel consumption. Geeky fun, admittedly, but that kind of fits us! For people who like to road trip, getting that kind of mileage is great for stretching your travel budget.
All in all, the Toyota Prius seems like a great around-town and road trip car for singles, couples, and small families, and it will definitely be high on our list of possible cars when we do go to purchase our next vehicle.
However you’re getting about town, enjoy your next travel adventure, whether it’s for a week or a weekend!
Disclosure: Toyota provided us with a one-week test drive of this vehicle. All opinions are our own.
[Update: we bought a new 2017 Prius in November, 2016 and we love it!]