With the adaptive cruise set to 105, a clear and sunny four hours ahead, a little Rise Against on the stereo, and the A/C keeping your correspondent crisply chilly on a 30+ degree day, a smug sense of satisfaction arose while driving the new-for-2016 Prius.
An on-screen display flickers away in the lower edge of your vision, with arrows connecting the motor, engine and wheels, back and forth, as electricity is generated, stored, dispatched, and blended with gasoline power.
Used for a cruise, Prius is comfort first, dense and solid, and not excessively squishy. It’s a more comfortable ride than the Honda Civic Touring. Highway steering feel is decently locked-on, slightly heavy, and a touch on the quick side. The gooey, syrupy steering I noted in past Pruis test drives isn’t in attendance, and the steering and handling balance now feel like somebody spent some time fine-tuning one off of the other.
Squeeze the throttle to beat that Buick to the end of the passing lane, and the Prius oozes by, smoothly, responsively, and with virtually no audible sound from beneath, as gas and electric output are ramped up and blended. It’s not fast, but it glides ahead, smoothly as can be, the instant you request it. From lower speeds, the electric torque meets heavy throttle inputs with a surprising forward leap that calls the market’s latest punchy little boosted four-cylinder cars to mind, but without the lag. Many compacts aren’t this smooth, or quiet, or fast to respond.
But you cruise, surrounded by tall windows, with the high-tech control consoles and display screens mounted low, to preserve your outward view. It’s relatively quiet until beyond 110 km/h, and the seats are thickly padded, and the cabin spreads widely around you. And even some 100-plus kilometres into a drive, the gas gauge still reads FULL.
So it’s comfortable. Relaxing. Easygoing. Nicely dialed in. A comfy cruiser that’s excellent on fuel. Not to mention, feature content is highly relevant, and pricing is reasonable, too. And Prius steers, accelerates and rides with the same characteristics as virtually any other well-done mid-sized car.
Even getting in and out is a cinch. Front doors are big, and open widely on SofTex leather seats that enable easy sliding in behind the wheel. Rear seat space is adult-adequate, though a smaller door opening and declining roofline create a more confined space with limited outboard elbow room, and headroom quickly diminishing for those over 5’11”.
A downsized and powered-up battery facilitates a full-function cargo area, complete with a box-like space that’ll fit four suitcases, a week’s worth of groceries, or a weekend’s worth of camping gear for a couple. There are folding seats, in case you need to bring a ladder with you, or if cases of Cottonelle are on sale at Costco.
A wireless cellular recharging pad sits front and centre in the gloss-white centre console, itself serving as the cabin’s central showpiece. Your writer wonders how long the gleaming finish will survive daily use, and though it’s a unique looking bit of kit, some passengers said it reminded them of a bidet. The shifter is a little weird, too, and looks like the joystick on a video game controller. It’s all a little quirky in some facets of style and functionality, but the designers have done a bang-on job of keeping Prius’s high-tech new digs looking remarkably tidy, organized, and simple.