14 July 2014

A review of my 2014 Prius V

It has been almost exactly one month since I started driving my new Prius V. I've driven to and from work, around town, and gone on a lengthy roadtrip - from Alabama to Indiana and back. So, time to put down some detailed thoughts!

So to start with some background, I have a 40-minute mostly-highway commute to my current job. My previous car was a 1998 Saturn wagon. My main reason for buying a new car was to see if I could cut down on the amount of gas needed to get to and from work. Prius is still topping the charts for miles per gallon, and Toyota has a longstanding reputation for making good cars. Therefore, I wanted a Prius. (I don't buy cars to make political statements and I don't care what people think of other Prius drivers. I am not them.)

But I didn't want the standard liftgate Prius. It's pretty obvious from the outside that there is no way I'll be able to see out the back of that from the inside, which is kind of important for things like left turns and lane changing. Style is great and all, but not if the back window is a slit. :p

Then one day I saw the Prius C. Same super high MPG, but with an actual back window! I test drove it and overall liked it, but the engine felt really wimpy, which was disappointing (though perhaps not actually surprising). It also felt much less like I was in a barrel, which was my impression from sitting in the liftgate Prius. I started making mental plans to buy one anyway despite the engine being less powerful than the Saturn.

Then my next-door neighbor argued in favor of the V. He used to work at a Toyota dealership and in his opinion, the price tag on the C is not worth the amount of car you get, and the V was the best option. I looked it up. Lower on the MPG, but lots of features and more space for when I need to do house moves or buy furniture and etc. Better engine than the C. I got one.

Things I like

It has millions of cupholders. Finally, I own a car where I'll never run out of places to put cups.

Technologically, it's a big step up from the Saturn, which has manual rolldown windows and a cassette deck. (Do they even make cars with manual windows anymore?) It has a big entertainment console with many buttons.

I can open the driver door without having to pull out a key. The manual indicates that this should also be possible for the other doors (I'm particularly interested in doing that for the back), but I haven't figured out how yet.

It can make tighter turns than both the Saturn and the 1988 Plymouth Voyager before it (and for that matter, the 1985 Camaro before that). This was something I definitely looked for in the newest car - after 20 years, I am tired of not being able to do u-turns.

The built-in braking safety features has already helped me avoid a head-on collision. Idiot was trying to pass several cars while he had no actual room to maneuver, and I had to come to nearly a full stop on the highway (from 60).

The moonroof that I paid extra for. I open that in the evenings when it's cooler, because I like being able to see the trees overheard as I'm driving along. I foresee some stargazing in my future (not while driving). A note: the actual roof doesn't open to outside air - it's just the shades that slide back and forth.

The back seats are independently adjustable like the front seats, instead of being basically a bench. It's unlikely I'll personally ever enjoy these, but nice to have for my passengers.

The dashboard is low enough for me to not feel like I'm in a car made for much taller people. (I'm not that tall.) It's a nice change from when I last drove a minivan. Getting in and out in general is very carlike rather than vanlike.

For the front two-thirds of the car, it's a lot bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside.

It has a rear outlet for plugging in electric coolers. That will certainly make long-distance food transport more convenient.

Fuel Efficiency Observations

I probably should've expected it, since the V's MPG is rated lower than the C's, but I am still buying more gas than I was aiming for. In the Saturn during a normal workweek and weekend activities, I would have to get more gas every 5-6 days. In the V, I'm refueling about every 10 days.

Interstate travel doesn't really save any more gas than in a standard car. When driving between Alabama and Indiana, I had to stop for gas the same number of times as I did with the Saturn (which is actually no slouch in the fuel efficiency dept). On the other hand, I did drive faster than I normally did in the Saturn. On the other other hand, based on the graphics on the V's console, fuel efficiency is actually the same at 80 mph as it is at 70 mph, which is never the case in normal cars....

I was hoping that the electric-only would really shine during traffic jams. I mean, on paper, you wouldn't need to use any gas at all as you coast along at low speeds, right? Unfortunately, the battery loses its charge quite fast, and then the engine has to come on to recharge it. You conserve the most energy at a full stop, and you have to coast at a speed of 8 mph or higher for the battery to charge. In all the traffic delays I was in on my roadtrip, we spent a lot of time doing 5, which seems to be the worst for battery drain.

The car is at its most fuel efficient when driving around in a city without going faster than 30 mph. At that speed, it spends most of its time running off the electric motor and hardly at all on the gas engine. I sadly don't live in such a city. Most of the time I'm going at least 40.

The V can compete with pickup trucks when the light turns green. It just isn't very fuel efficient when I do that.

Things I'm not as fond of

The back compartment is actually smaller than the Saturn's, with a higher floor. There's a pull-cover device that can be used to keep people from seeing your stuff, but when it's set up, the bar reduces the depth. The higher floor also means that it's harder to get large bulky items in and out (did I mention I'm not very tall). The Saturn also has a wide flat surface on the way in, which is great for sliding things, that the Prius V doesn't have.

It is still really hard to see out the back. The rear right blind spot is gigantic. It makes lane changes a major problem, and I spend a lot of time wishing that there was more window and less wall in that back corner. And here I thought that rear visibility was a step down when I went from the Voyager to the Saturn, but by comparison, the Saturn is much better than the Prius. Maybe ten years from now when I'm ready to buy the next car, someone will have made a hybrid with fuel efficiency like the Prius, but with real back windows.

The car came with three years of free Entune. I tried to use it during my roadtrip. Unfortunately, it requires Internet access via my phone, and my phone is old with a weak antenna. There is no such thing as signal in the hills of southern Tennessee. I don't spend a lot of time needing Internet features in my car on a daily basis, so likely I'll just let that expire when the time comes.

01 January 2014

What was the best part of 2013?

Someone on Facebook put that question out there as his status, and I couldn't actually think of any one thing that really stood out as "best."

I can think of lots of things that were good, but they mostly weren't individual events.

I can also think of lots of things that were bad, many of them actual events, but nothing that stands out as "worst."

I guess overall my life chugged along nicely. :)

Single most eventful event? Well, I finally decided it was time to quit Battle Pirates, after 2.5 years of devoting nearly my entire life to the community of people that had built up around the game. The game itself had stopped being much fun a long time ago, but it took a while before I was ready to try to leave my people. That was Dec 28. So far I'm still holding strong. I can't call it best or worst yet, because it isn't done happening.