I can trace my first attempt at reviewing a car to when I was a college freshman in English 1301. We were assigned to write a review of something, anything; a film, music video, styling product. I chose to write about a Toyota Prius. It didn’t have to be factual, just follow the format for a review style essay. In my paper I wrote, “The interior of the 2010 Prius is as inviting as a hospital’s waiting room.” My professor thought it was funny, but felt it was too harsh and asked for a rewrite on my second draft. She also mentioned that I had a knack for writing and should think about joining the school newspaper. That was the pebble that fell down the mountain and snowballed. Now I’ve come full circle, getting a chance to review the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime as a professional writer.
INTERIOR: First impressions of the Prius Prime’s interior were that it reminded me of a Tesla. Crisp, clean seats that were plush to the touch in a futuristic shade of white, while an 11.6 inch HD multimedia touchscreen dominates the center of the dashboard. A 4.2-inch multi-information screen rests on top, housing the speedometer and keeps track of the vehicle’s vitals. The interior is a nice place to be if you enjoy technology. Even though it was my first Prius I had no trouble figuring out how to make it move, as the joystick-looking gear shift had an endearing quality to it. And I almost wished it was a manual because I wanted to move it around all day. Park was a small button next to the gear shift, which took some getting used to but I (ultimately) found it to be very convenient.
The driver gets a projected heads-up display on the windshield to avoid having to look to the side to read the speedometer. Granted, the numbers are large enough that one can see it without having to move their head. Next to the speedo is a graphic of the Prius letting you see how the gasoline engine and battery packs work together to propel you along. The massive touch screen infotainment center is user friendly if you have used a tablet in your life. Plus, the Prime offers Qi-wireless charging, allowing you to place your Qi-compatible smartphone flat on the surface for easy charging while you drive. A nice touch.
EXTERIOR: It is easy to label the design of the 2017 Prius Prime as a love-it-or-hate it kind of vehicle, as it’s had mixed reviews since the new body design debuted last year. But I think it looks radical, especially in this Blue Magnetism (aka Teal) color. It made all the curves, edges, and lines pop, and make the Prius look like a product of its time. I even mentioned that it reminded me of the capsule car from the Jetson’s. Bubble top, with sharp rear fenders and a wedge front end. I found that wherever I went people wanted to ask me about the car due to its looks: How many MPG’s I was getting? Does it need a special charger? How expensive is it? The 2017 Prius Prime also has a spoiler, technically. The pointed end of the hatchback works as a spoiler and the wave rear window design is meant to improve aerodynamics.
I would highly recommend leasing or buying this car in a bright and exciting color. Don’t go for black or grey; you won’t be able to see the lines of this car and it will look like a pointy arrow with a bubble top. Toyota has made a mistake in not offering more color options for the Prius Prime. Only six are available and four of them are different variations of grey or white. That’s boring!
SPECS AND PERFORMANCE: The 2017 Prius is powered by a 121 horsepower, 1.8-liter four cylinder gasoline engine, two electric motors, and an 8.8-kilowatt lithium battery. When driving on electric EV mode the Prius is capable of 22 miles of range, which you can quickly burn through if you have a heavy foot. Thankfully, the Prius is a plug-in so charging it is as easy as plugging in a toaster. The charging cables are in a trunk and can charge the Prius Prime in 5.5 hours using a standard outlet plug, or in two hours with a 240-volt outlet.
Is it fast? No, but you shouldn’t call it slow…with a 0-60 time under 11 seconds. The Prius Prime offers three driving modes: EV, HV, and EV auto, which controls the efficiency of its drivetrain. HV will use its battery at low speeds and switch to gas when it reaches highway speeds. EV auto lets the Prius worry about switching between electric and hybrid to be as efficient as possible. EV is labeled as DRIVE MODE and offers you three selections: ECO, NORMAL, and PWR. PWR mode, which is the closest option to a sport mode on the Prius, allows you to use all the power available for acceleration and performance. Put your foot down and you can hear the engine make a humming noise that could be considered cute and will bring a smile to your face when you feel the car accelerate faster than you expected.
The Prius Prime offers a Predictive Efficient Drive, which means it’s smart enough to remember your daily route and stopping patterns. This is so it can then give you suggestions on when to brake to maximize your driving efficiency. Not to mention the Prius will give you a score from 0-100 based off how efficiently you drive and offer tips to improve your score.
Toyota says that the Prime is capable of averaging 54 mpg. During my week with the Prius I averaged 45 mpg, and $12 worth a gas nearly filled the tank up when I was down to my last 70 miles of range. That’s the beauty of having a small gas tank with a fuel efficient engine. Pricing for the 2017 Toyota Prius starts at $26K, while the model used for this review was priced at $36,305; that figure’s very reasonable when compared to its competition.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The only thing I did not like about this car was that the hatchback was heavy to close, even though it’s made out of carbon fiber. I was surprised it didn’t come with a button to close the hatch automatically. The hatchback also opens wide which means the door is way up in the air and could create a height issue for certain (shorter) people.
All my oldest friends thought I had suffered a head injury when I said I liked the Prius. The truth is this little hybrid warmed its way into my heart by being comfortable, stylish, efficient, and (dare I say it?) fun to drive. It has a low center of gravity and rear double wishbone suspension to keep it on the road in the turns. I could picture myself owning one of these for daily use and keeping my gas guzzler muscle cars for recreational use. Granted, maybe this was a summer fling and I was just enchanted by the mystique of this car. However, there is a growing subculture for electric and hybrid vehicles. The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is definitely cool enough to make a scene at their silent car meets.