[The views expressed in this article, "blog", are those solely of the author -- meant for entertainment purposes only -- and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of KHOU-TV or its parent corporation, TEGNA.]
My gas mileage in the new Prius I tested was amazing. I got over 130 miles-per-gallon (MPG) tooling around Houston, doubling its EPA-estimates. But despite that win, the car still gave me a low socre. As I was turning it off, the screen popped up with the eco grade of, "B". 84% out of a 100%. Yes, the car graded me, just like in school and I didn't like grade. I gave an A+ performance but still only got a B.
A new car is suppose to make you feel amazing. This car made me feel average. Even though I achieved the impossible, I still feel bad for not driving to its unrealistic environmental expectations.
So, I decided to grade it! (All in fun, of course.)
Why is a weather guy reviewing a car? This thing is like the cultural icon for, "environmentally friendly." It's right up my alley as a meteorologist.
Yes, I recently got my hands on a 2016 Prius to test around town. It only needs a fill-up once every two weeks for the typical 40mi round trip suburban commuter. With today's gas prices, that's only $40 a month. (Take that you old pickup truck!)
Sounds good. I'm in. Let me take her for a spin.
So I did. As soon as I reached my destination, the odometer showed that I'd achieved an *amazing* 131.4 MPG! OMG.
No joke. I wasn't limping either, but going with traffic at 35-40mph down Allen Parkway. The handling wasn't as numb and awful as I expected either. It shifted through the gears imperceptibly of any shifts and it was smooth in its acceleration as a golf cart. (Only slightly faster, might I add.)
That performance is almost enough for me not to care about how bad the Prius made me feel when it decided to grade my eco driving abilities. Prius should do everything it can to make you feel good about yourself. After all, you're driving a questionably attractive and arguably underpowered car in the name of the environment. You're saving a few bucks at the pump. Go you! But, being graded by the car company and getting a lower grade after doubling its expected MPG's, I actually felt worse than I would have if I was driving my truck!
Reading down the list to explain my grade, it told me what I did right and what I could have done better. (Apparently despite getting 131.4 MPG, I could have done 20% better. Really?? Not unless you have a death wish on Houston freeways, driving that slow....)
So, I just (presumably) spent $27,000-$30,000 (depending on options) to feel ... average? I was not good enough for you, Prius?!
Hey man, this is 'Merica. This is where every kid gets a trophy. I want my darn trophy! I got 131.4 MPG in a car that is suppose to only get 52 MPG. Why not, "Congrats! You're saving the planet one drive at a time."
The MPG's were outstanding but the braking was unpredictable. I slowed for a squirrel in a semi-urgent but not, "emergency" braking motion and the car frighteningly lurched into a trunk-over-hood dive. Even the cloth hatch-back cover launched toward the sky, blocking my rear-view. I think my cell phone hit the windshield from the cup holder in the center console. It was way too dramatic for what I did. Once they lock up, you're going for a ride.
Pulling out of a driveway from a stop, through a small puddle, the traction control kicked in to keep those little eco tires gripping. One front tire peeled out with a, "screech", as if I was burning rubber while the other felt like an ABS brake was engaging. I was only applying the softest, "eco friendly" acceleration.
I also felt invisible. I had several cars change lanes right into me despite the bright, daytime LED running lights. They didn't almost hit me out of disrespect, but because they genuinely didn't see me.
So, here's my conclusion:
- I don't like to be judged by the car that's suppose to make me feel good. Don't grade me on my eco, if I'm already getting over 100 MPG.
- It's EPA rated at around 52mpg but routinely pulls 60mpg in stop-and-go Houston traffic. That's awesome. It serves it purpose as long as you don't have to do any creative driving. It's the ultimate commuter car if performance doesn't really matter to you.
- The Prius doesn't look bad. I'm more of a Lexus IS 350 kind of guy if we're going for dramatic Japanese car-maker styling. To me, the rear of the new Prius an acquired taste.
I grade it a B-.
80% out of 100%. Prius graded me personally at 84% on the eco scale after I'd more than doubled it's EPA-estimated millage and deserved an A+, so my assessment of it is only fair.)
The Prius demands you trade your ego for 'eco', and as boring as it still may be despite its improved handling, it will be the car that pays for itself over the long-run with low cost of ownership. I thus begrudgingly recommend it if you commute during peak hours it's not a bad choice.