a peek inside the fishbowl

01 Jul, 2010

An update on the Prius

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Oh! Things!

Before I launch into this post I need to confess something first.

I never drove the Prius before we bought it.

It’s crazy and kind of stupid, I know. Mark test drove it, with the salesperson crushed in the back with Emma and Sarah, and me in the passenger seat. The second time we test drove it – when Toyota deemed us to be more serious – the salesman didn’t tag along and we were allowed to take it out on our own. Again, I sat in the passenger seat and just watched (and asked the important questions).

I was nervous about driving it. It looked scary. And weird. It had a pushbutton start! And no real key! And there was a strange joystick-like gear shift thing that didn’t work like a gear shift! And it’s so quiet you can’t tell if it’s on or not! And most importantly, what if I crashed/scratched/blew up a car we didn’t own?

I regret my lack of nerve during the testdriving stage. I am better than this, and I don’t like fear getting the better of me. Letting fear control my life is a big mistake, a dangerous habit to fall into because FEAR can edge out REASON and take over my life and affect its outcome. But that is neither here nor there.

I am happy to report that I have now driven the car (more than Mark has) and I absolutely love it.

WHAT A RELIEF.

There are a couple of general misconceptions floating around that I’d like to address for a moment.

1) The Prius is expensive.
We snagged a deal at our Toyota dealer that included a few rebates. Bottom line, all in, once we get our rebate we will have paid just over $27,000. I have a pretty good feeling this is in the same price range of many minivans and SUVs out there on the market today. For some reason there’s this idea out there that you have to be rich to buy a Prius. Newsflash! We’re not rich! We needed a new car* and felt really strongly that our choice needed to reflect the times in which we are living. We want to live small. It had to be fuel efficient. We wanted to do what we could to minimize our carbon footprint. Every dollar we spend is a vote for the kind of world in which we want to live.

* Certainly, it can be argued that if we REALLY felt strongly about our environment we’d give up our car entirely, and rely on Vrtucar or OC-Transpo to get around town. We’re not in a position to give up our wheels completely.

2) It’s a wienermobile.
By “wienermobile” I mean “nerdy” or “girly” or “pantywaist.” Automobile marketing to woman and men is wildly different. I find it totally hilarious that marketers have convinced everyone that MEN need MANLY cars and that everything else is wimpy and weak. Men’s vehicles are equated with speed or capacity to haul. Manly cars are fast or dirty (or both!); they’re marketed as speed machines designed to hug curves tighter than Pamela Anderson’s T-shirts, tough mud-splattered pickup trucks or 4×4 SUVs slicing through old growth forests. Because the unspoken truth is that every man is harbouring a 12-year old boy inside of them.

Women’s (read: MOM) cars are quiet and comfortable, with focus on cupholders, storage, and entertainment to keep the kiddies quiet. I find this mildly insulting although I do appreciate the need for cupholders.

The Prius can’t easily be lumped into either of these categories. Should we make up a name of it? Eco-geek? Eco-chic? :) It’s not utilitarian like many cars out there (I would classify our old Mazda as a utilitarian car – low on style but gets you from A to B). The Prius is neither a sexxxy sportscar nor is it a big bully on the road or a couch on wheels. It is comfortable; a mid-size sedan that feels like you’re sitting in a cockpit when you’re driving it. And it’s smart, oh so smart, and thoughtful. The Prius makes it’s own statement. But then again, doesn’t every car make some kind of statement about its owner? (I want to know, what does your car say about you?)

We reflected long and hard about the kind of car we needed. This is what we knew:

  • We are a family of four (plus one small dog)
  • We have always been a one-car family
  • Most of the driving we do is in the city
  • Fuel efficiency and emissions are important to us
  • We never have the need to transport more people
  • We seldom have the need to transport large amounts of stuff

In short: it is the perfect car for us.

Driving the Prius is a dream. As I mentioned in my other post, I feel like I’m gliding around the city when I’m behind the wheel. When we stop at a light (or are stuck in a jam) the car is perfectly silent. I’ve taken to turning the radio off, that’s how much I enjoy the quiet. It’s downright relaxing to sit at a stoplight. It has done wonders for my mental health.

A strange thing has happened. It’s actually become fun to drive. But it’s a different kind of fun. It’s not “how fast we can go” fun. Thanks to the car’s unique dashboard design I’ve started playing “how low can we go” kind of fun. Like a video game.

I’m not the first one who’s made this connection. I love this line from this review: “Earth geeks and mileage freaks will spend hours away from World of Warcraft coaxing ever-high fuel economy out of the 2010 Prius.” It cracks me up (mostly because it’s true!) even though I don’t play W.o.W.

Driving in the Most Economical Way Possible has become a game to me, and the dashboard is entirely to blame. The only way it could be more addictive is if Toyota installed a tetris game right into the dashboard. (You can see a photo of the display here. Scroll down to “More Subdued Efficiency Displays.”)

As for the lack of traditional car key? It’s practically the thing I love most. There’s a key fob (that’s not the part I love, the fob is actually a little too big and awkward for my taste) which contains a sensor. I keep it in my purse. In order to unlock the car I don’t actually have to do anything with it. It just stays in my purse, and when I get near the car and touch the handle it magically unlocks. And when I sit down (with the fob/sensor still in my purse) the car starts at the push of a button. COOL.

I am oddly proud of our choice of family car, and I can’t say I was proud of our last car. I didn’t feel anything about it. It was just a car, after all. The Prius is a state of mind.


17 Responses to "An update on the Prius"

1 | Ginger

July 1st, 2010 at 3:15 pm

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Oh I want one so bad. I have wanted one since they first came on the market years back. We will probably be purchasing a new car sometime next year. Right now we are sans car payment and that is heaven! But I don’t know if it will work for us. We haven’t completely ruled out a 3rd baby yet and if the boys don’t play sports over the next year I will be HUGELY surprised. Sports mean equipment and maybe needing to take other kids or whatever. I don’t want a mini van…I don’t want to be the mini van mom. And the idea of an a true large size SUV makes me cringe with gas prices and environmental concerns. But maybe if we don’t have a 3rd child I will get my Prius. I really REALLY want one!

2 | Beth

July 1st, 2010 at 8:22 pm

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I have a 2008 model and absolutely love it.
Just so you know, if the 2010 is anything like the 2008, you will *absolutely* need winter tires. I think it must be due to the combination of it’s light weight and low rolling resistance tires, but the first day in the snow I pulled up at a stop sign and sailed right on through despite braking. Eeeeek – luckily winter tires sorted that out!
Enjoy!

3 | coffee with julie

July 2nd, 2010 at 8:18 am

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I’m so glad the new car is working out so well. Unfortunately I need a new car now too… unfortunately because I can’t stand shopping for a new car!

I really admire you and your family’s commitment to the environment when it comes to transportation. As for me, we do bike and walk everywhere we can, but I simply can’t imagine squishing my whole family and our stuff into a Prius. Although the thought of even a small SUV makes my heart sink a bit, I have to admit how tempting they are in terms of convenience — particularly cargo space since we do a lot of camping and travel. Not sure what I will end up deciding but I must make a decision soon! Gah!

4 | andrea

July 2nd, 2010 at 8:38 am

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I hear ya. We camp and travel too – maybe not as often as you do though Julie.

Options for us are: (1) rent a van (2) get a roof rack – they have them for the Prius! (3) swap cars with friends for the time we’re gone.

Good friends of ours have agreed to #3 the next time we go camping!

5 | coffee with julie

July 2nd, 2010 at 2:41 pm

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Oh, roof racks are a must already in this family! It has to hold the canoe, afterall :)

6 | Annie

July 2nd, 2010 at 6:07 pm

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I really appreciate the update on the new car… We are in the market (the clutch is definitely going on our current car – yikes!!).

I love all of the points that you made in “misconceptions #1” – it hit the nail on the head for many of our concerns and thoughts…

I will actually forward the link to this entry to my husband so that he can read it… Our biggest barrier to buying the car tomorrow is the 75 pound dog we have… He sort of fits in the hatch (can’t sit upright without his heading being up on the glass. He would have lots of space if he lay down, though he would always have to lay down…).

I really just wanted to drop this note to say thank you so much for your thoughts and comments re: the Prius.

So, THANK YOU!!

7 | andrea

July 2nd, 2010 at 8:44 pm

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You are welcome:)

I think it’s important for people to think long and hard about what they realistically use a car for before buying one. Just because we’re parents doesn’t mean we need to buy something big.

The only time we’d need a big car is our once-a-year camping trip. So why get a mini-van just for that?

8 | coffee with julie

July 3rd, 2010 at 7:58 am

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I should have mentioned that I’ve appreciated your details on the Prius too! You are the first person I know to buy one so it’s so great to hear your reviews and response to it.

9 | andrea

July 3rd, 2010 at 8:11 am

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Thanks Julie –

I looked back and read what I wrote. It’s really not much of a review, is it? :) I’m missing all of the important technical info which makes this car such a compelling purchase: the way the engine/battery works, its shape and aerodynamics, the lighter materials used in its construction etc. But I guess if people are interested in that stuff they can read about it elsewhere. A lot has been written about it!

I forgot to mention one interesting thing I like about it … the back seats fold down flat. So I am travelling alone after having bought a coffee table at Ikea (or whatever!) I’ll be able to fit it in there no problem. :)

(Toyota should be paying me for being a Prius advocate, shouldn’t they!) :)

10 | Lee

July 3rd, 2010 at 5:59 pm

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I have a question about something I heard, which could very well be a misconception.

Did you or your readers come across anything that talked about how green or not the production of the Prius was? I’d heard that they’re dirty to make (the components are shipped many more miles than for regular cars, the things needed to make the components are made in less than green ways etc) and that you’d have to put a LOT of kilometres on the car to break even for the carbon debt of the manufacturing process.

I’m curious as to whether or not there is any truth to that.

11 | Jen_nifer

July 3rd, 2010 at 7:58 pm

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How comfortable is it to sit in the backseat of the 2010? We tried the 2009, and I sat next to my son in the backseat, as I often do, while my husband drove. I didn’t find it comfortable enough to green light the purchase. Perhaps that’s an issue with most fold flat seats?

The driver’s seat and front passenger seat were plenty comfortable.

12 | andrea

July 3rd, 2010 at 8:56 pm

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Lee: I hadn’t read about any particular case of greenwashing or that the Prius had”dirty” components when I was researching this car … and I read a lot about it in some knowledgeable publications. It’s possible that components are made/shipped far and wide, but aren’t all car parts like that nowadays?

I’d also love to know if those rumours are really true (I’ve looked and haven’t been able to find anything substantial) or just the grumblings of the oil lobbyists who want to plant doubt into people’s minds.

I hate to steal a joke from a bumper sticker, but Bin Laden hates this car. With reason. :)

Jen: The back seat was comfortable. I’m not sure if the 2010 model underwent some changes in that area or not, but it was fine, and the kids haven’t complained.

13 | Lee

July 4th, 2010 at 7:23 am

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Andrea: I think this is the article that was quoted to me a while back:
http://www.wired.com/science/planetearth/magazine/16-06/ff_heresies_09usedcars

I don’t know how credible the source is or how much the manufacturing process has changed since then.

I hope it’s not true because I love the idea of hybrid electric / electric vehicles! I wonder how the Chevy Volt is going to impact the market http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Volt

14 | Mark

July 4th, 2010 at 11:27 am

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The internet is rife with opposing opinions so you can always pick the one that fits your belief. With regards to that Hummer vs Prius study, it’s been disproven by proper scientific studies. Here’s a good summary: http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200711/mrgreen_mailbag.asp

15 | Chantal

July 4th, 2010 at 9:52 pm

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Cool! I can’t wait to see you sailing by my place some day soon (cause I won’t hear you right!) ;)

16 | Lee

July 5th, 2010 at 11:59 am

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Mark: Thanks for the link! Good to know that what I heard isn’t the truth!

17 | Miss Vicky

July 5th, 2010 at 11:50 pm

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I confess I am a little envious of your Prius. I’m so glad you are enjoying it. We’ll be getting a new vehicle this summer, but the new gig requires that it be union-made, so the Prius is a no-go. And I will be saying goodbye to my much-loved Matrix, as we’ll likely go up in size (we do haul stuff, drive on highways and the dog we are sure to get in the next while will likely not be as compact as yours!) so I will need to make myself feel better by ensuring that we remain a one-car family.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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