My New Prius: Love at First Drive

A good car, like a good man, is hard to find. And like men, what you want changes over time. I’ll never forget my first. A sexy, fast, dark, Italian … convertible Alfa Romeo Spyder Veloce; unreliable and expensive but so much fun. Not the type of car you’d want to settle down with, but certainly Mr. Right Now for a young girl. Once I became a mom, it was time to trade for something safer and more dependable. I went through a string of cars and SUVs looking for THE ONE. Larger sports cars, SUVs, sedans, all of them had their advantages and disadvantages.

Today’s criteria—safe, sporty and as eco-friendly as possible—is what attracted me to the Toyota Prius. It isn’t the only hybrid out there, but we had an instant attraction. The other hybrids either sacrificed trunk room or gas mileage where the Prius had both in spades. If you want to be “greener,” it’s all about the mileage and this is where the Prius outperforms the competition.

Regardless of what car manufacturers say, actual mileage is always less than what is advertised. If you want to see what the true gas mileage of any car is, go to My Prius routinely averages around 49 miles per gallon; that’s 600 miles between fill-ups of my whopping 12-gallon tank. Even at this rate, the Prius still has the best mileage of any car on the road today. The SUV I traded only got 16 miles per gallon. Last year, I spent about $4,500 on gas. If I drive the same amount this year, my bill should only be $1,500. That $3,000 savings is either going to be a great vacation or an IRA contribution.

Savings at the pump alone are worth the switch to a hybrid, but the Prius delivers in other areas as well. I consistently loaded up the back of my SUV so I was a little concerned about giving up much-needed space. With a hatch-back and rear seats that fold down in a 40/60 split, so far I’ve been able to haul everything I’ve needed to. Suprisingly, the Prius has 14.4 cubic feet of cargo space. It also has incredible leg room in both the front and rear seats.

Safety was another important consideration. In addition to the front air bags, the Prius has front and rear side air curtains and it scored a reassuring four-star rating out of five for the driver and the passenger in front and side crash tests. The Prius is designed to crumple on impact and it even has a black-box crash recorder that saves information on speed, braking, seat belts and more. All combined, the Prius is the safest car I’ve ever driven.

I think it’s worth the extra money for the option package that includes Bluetooth wireless capability for your phone, XM radio and a navagation system. These additions make car-trips more enjoyable and finally eliminate the all-too-common “we should pull over for directions” argument.

The easy-access buttons on the steering wheel let you manage the most used functions for the stereo, climate control and the LED screen that displays GPS information and mileage information.

In writing this article, I wanted to be balanced and report the bad with the good, but so far I haven’t noticed anything about this car that disappoints me. Maybe we’re still in the honeymoon phase. But with out-of-this-world gas mileage, hands-free cell phone capability, a navigation system, a smart key system and 14.4 cubic feet of cargo room, why should the honeymoon ever end?

2008 Base Model price: $20,950 for the standard model.
2007 Crash Test Ratings: Four stars out of five.
Seats 5.
600 miles on a 12-gallon tank of gas.
14.4 cubic feet of cargo space.
Exhaust emissions are so low, the Prius has earned both the SULEV (Super Ultra Low
Emission Vehicle) and a PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) ratings.

For more information or to subscribe at the introductory price of $10 a year, go to . Positively Green magazine launches in 2008. This quarterly women’s magazine will cover every aspect of green from eco-friendly vacations to green fashion to green health. With articles that don’t just explain the problems, they outline solutions for busy people who want to make the change but don’t have the time to research solutions.

By Kelly Magill, publisher, Positively Green