The world has changed from a decade ago. Global warming is now considered climate change, we’ve obtain satellite images of Pluto, and Toyota is attempting to make the Prius cool. Mind you, we’re using that last term loosely.
But with gas prices coming back down to an industry acceptable standard, hybrids are becoming obsolete. Especially when Automakers are engineering their cars to pull out high 30 mpg’s from regular gas engines, and if we take it one step further, diesel engines are seeing mid 40 mpg figures. So why would anyone want an ecobox hybrid anymore?
Well, to keep buyers interested Toyota has certainly taken the Prius to the next level… a Performance level. Try not to laugh. Like the geeky kid in school we used to make fun of, the Prius has always been that odd duck that we always picked on. Sure its styling is a bit goofy and that grille makes us think of the French. It’s something that doesn’t really attract us enthusiast type to say the least. But once we heard there was a Performance Package, our ears perked up and our head cocked like a curious puppy.
Adding $3100 on top of our already expensive top spec’d $30,005 Prius Five, the Performance Plus Package has a lot of convincing to do before we get bored and move on to the next shiny thing. Without the Performance Package, the Prius is pretty basic looking – our top trimmed Prius Five (not to be confusing with Prius V wagon) brings in snazzy LED headlights and halogen fog lights as well as some premium 17-inch alloys. Once you lay 3-grand on the table the Prius gets vivacious adding in lower ground appearance upgrades like a front spoiler and air damper, side skirts and 17-inch Forged wheels. We’ll probably lose our street cred for this, but it makes the Prius look pretty good, even in this plain jane Classic Silver paint.
Even with the Performance Package we’re still stuck with the traditional Prius 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine matted to an electric motor making for a combined 134-horsepower. We tried timing 0-60, but got bored half way through. There’s no doubt the acceleration has the ability to overtake other drivers or pull out onto a busy street, just be sure to time it accordingly, it takes a while to get there. Transfer from gas to electric is relatively robust in the Prius, you can feel the engine kick on and off from electric mode and because its not very quick, we found ourselves dipping more into the go pedal.
But more on that Performance Package; now, it’s more than a pretty face – there’s some stuff going on underneath like lowered, stiffer springs and a rear sway bar. We said don’t laugh. We may joke, but the joke is kind of on us… not really. The Prius now shows decent handling capabilities – not track worthy, but there are noticeable differences. The rear sway bar allows for abrasive maneuvers and those stiffer springs help with flat cornering – its fun to toss into a corner and feel the agility of the sway bar holding its end of the bargin, if only the Prius was quicker out of the corners, this thing would be much more fun. Unfortunately, but not surprising the steering is very loosey goosey, more of a suggestion wheel than anything.
There is a problem though with this Performance Package, those lowered, stiffened springs… yeah, they make your Prius driving experience very uncomfortable, it’s absolutely terrible. It bounces around worse than a roller coaster and driving down normal roads feel like we’re driving on a teenagers face. At least the comfort of the interior cabin helps drown out the annoying road noise from those 17-inch wheels.
After several years into its current generation, the Prius is starting to wear its age with hard plastics and rough textured materials. The textures are groovy in a sense, but no longer look appealing on a car that’s pushing $40,000. On top of which there are certain features like the cup holders and seat heaters that feel like an afterthought. However, the interior setting is surprisingly well appointed with comfortable, leather seats and room for your peers, the controls are nicely laid out, and the speedo is wide open for your passenger to see that you’re being economical. With our equipped $4320 Advance Technology Package, the Navigation comes off old school even though it was updated in 2012 with Entune Apps, the quality of the display is poor and the back-up camera is clearly from the early millennium. But not all the features are bad, like the Pre-Collision Alert, Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist (which requires to be activated every time you start the car), and a Heads-Up Display.
As we have known in past several years, the Prius is all about the fuel numbers and even with the Performance Package it makes a mere near no difference as EPA rates the Prius at 51/48/50 (city/highway/combined). Since we couldn’t figure out the complicated trip computer system, we had to record our figures the old fashion way and showed that we averaged roughly 43 mpg combined and 450 miles of range during our 7-day adventure using regular fuel.
Hitting the 40k mark, the Prius is quite expensive. Maybe we were sticker shocked, maybe because we got uninterested halfway through our testing, but that Performance Package just doesn’t do a very good job making the Prius more appealing. Especially when you can get a Lexus CT200h F SPORT (which we really liked) for around the same price or the Volkswagen Golf TDI Diesel with a lot more thrills at nearly $8,000 less and roughly similar mpg’s.
|Price (As Tested):|
|2015 Toyota Prius Five:||$30,005|
|Remote Engine Start:||$499|
|Plus Performance Package:||$3,100|
|Advanced Technology Package:||$4,320|