Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Today I drove a Prius

I'm generally quite happy with my 2005 Honda CR-V, but with gas prices and global warming heating up, up, up, I've contracted a major case of hybrid lust. I got to stoke that yearning today when I headed out with some co-workers for a few hours of retail reconnaissance. We rented an electric blue Toyota Prius and took turns driving it. It's really different...in a good way!

First of all, there's no ignition in which to put a key. With the key fob inside the car, you just press the power button on the dashboard. It's like turning on a computer. There's no sound since the engine isn't turning over, but the previously invisible speedometer appears at the far end of the long dashboard, right under the windshield. A touchscreen above the CD player also flickers to life, and you can use it to see if you're using the battery or the gas engine, monitor your fuel efficiency, change the radio station or adjust the climate control.

Driving the Prius was fun. I'm no automotive expert, but it seemed to handle nicely. I quickly adjusted to the unusual gearshift and gauges and I found myself trying to maximize my MPGs. The back window is small, so visibility out the rearview mirror is poor. But you don't have to worry when backing up--the touchscreen is connected to a rearview camera that displays everything behind you!

I also sat in the backseat, which is just as spacious as that in my small SUV. There are the requisite cup holders and plenty of spacious storage caddies. The hatchback trunk offers a lot less cargo room than I'm used to, but once we're out of double stroller territory, I would happily downsize to a car like this.