A hybrid car with a battery pack powerful enough to sustain electric-only driving at city speeds and for a rather prolonged time can mean nothing but heaven for smog haters all over the world. In theory, you can drive for about 10-15 kilometers (6-9 miles) at speeds of up to 50 km/h (30 mph) using nothing but electric power from the NiMh batteries under the luggage compartment.
As in most other "practice beats theory" games, in real life this can't be reproduced number for number, mostly because traffic in the city isn't as smooth as some Toyota marketing guys would lead you to believe. Plus, during our city test drive we also encountered lots of snow and cold weather, which might have downgraded the battery's life as fell. Still, even so, in an evening without too much traffic and a taking a few shortcuts through some back roads, we managed to drive the Prius in EV mode for about eight kilometers (five miles).
We can't say that official numbers can't be reproduced in real life, but it does take some skill since the all-electric mode also has some downsides. For example, even if you've previously selected all-electric mode, you'd have to be really careful with the acceleration pedal, gently depressing it like it's a soft part of your body in order for the ICE (internal combustion engine) to remain shut down and use no fuel. Moreover, the air conditioning unit, the headlights and the audio system should be used as little as possible in order for the batteries to preserve their juice.
During our city part of the test drive, the closest we got to the official fuel consumption was 6.2 liters per 100 kilometers (US 37.9 mpg), while the total average was 7.3 liters per 100 km (US 32.2 mpg). Each of these are simply outstanding figures for a car this size which is filled with gasoline at the pump, but both are rather far from the official 4 liters per 100 km (US 58.8 mpg). In the Prius's defense we should probably say that the driving conditions during our test were snowy and with really bad traffic, to say the least.
As for the overall visibility, there are good parts and there are bad parts. The exterior rear view mirrors are huge, while the window area is enormous for a car this size. On the downside, the vertical part of the split rear-windshield doesn't have a wiper and gets dirty the most due to the Kammback design of the rear.
As for the optional Intelligent Park Assist System our test car was fitted with, it also has advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are obvious – you can park without touching anything but the brake, be it lateral or reverse parking. After selecting reverse, the back-up camera becomes active and you can virtually select using arrows on the touchscreen the place where you want the car to automatically park.
The disadvantage is mainly the fact that the whole process takes forever and you're probably better left parking by yourself. Second of all, believe it or not, except for the two parking sonars on the two frontal corners of the car, our Prius wasn't equipped with parking sensors. This pretty much means you can easily bump your car against others in the parking lot if you don't approximate the correct size of the space you're about to occupy.
All in all, apart from a few visibility disadvantages, the Prius is one of the best city grocery-getters we've tested so far, managing to impress us at almost every sub-chapter from the city part of our test drive. Continue reading
Hold on, Lou Cheeka would like to say something...
Ha! You thought you got me with this one, right? To tell you the truth, you actually got my neighbor Elrod, who is now repenting in his barn for all his sins. He's a... let's say simple fellow, who believes in sorcery, God and stuff like that, so upon seeing the Prius move without making any sound he probably though it was powered by witchcraft.
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