Ever got stuck behind one of those pesky hybrids and wondered why they’re driving ever so slowly? Have you ever considered that maybe they’re playing a game? When we were handed the keys to a 2018 Toyota Prius, that’s exactly what we did – turned our mundane driving experience into a game that involved a jar, a wad of single dollar bills and the lightest set foot that even a tortoise would get road rage at us.
You see, like a video game, the Prius contains all sorts of fun graphical electronic displays that let you know how your driving is, how economical you’re being and there’s even a score chart – oh dear. On the main screen of the Prius, there is an animated acceleration graph with a scoring system – the goal for our game was stay within the Eco Range of the acceleration graph without passing into the “POWER” zone. This lived up to be a real challenged because the “POWER” Zone was easy to cross at the hint of mild acceleration – the game was, every time we crossed the “POWER” zone, a dollar went into the Power Swear Jar. Simple enough.
As we march through the end of 2018, not much has changed on the Prius since our last encounter back in 2016. Minor modifications made to the top trimmed Four Touring, seen here incorporate the much larger 11.6-inch touch screen infotainment system with Navigation – similar to the one found in the Prius Prime Plug-In. Changes were also made back in 2017 to the Prius line-up that offered Toyota Safety Sense as a standard feature on all seven models including the base priced $23,475 Prius One. Featuring Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Forward Collision Warning with Autonomous Braking and Automatic High Beams – the Prius is now on par with the Honda Insight in terms of standard safety amenities.
Realizing that the Prius gets a bad rap for what it is, it is a very comfortable, airy car to drive. The cabin feels very open thanks to the ergonomics of the interior layout. The simplicity of the dash leaves everything feeling modern with little touches of premium details – like the Prius logo in the air vents. Our topped trimmed $30,565 Prius Four Touring felt every bit of its price tag with soft touch materials on every surface, the seats were leather, and there was a handsome array of features including heated seats, climate control system, upgraded 17-inch wheels and handsomely used LED fog lights.
So back to this game… Since our goal was to be as economical as possible – we didn’t bother exploiting the whole 121-combined horsepower from the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Its 10-second to 60 mph mark isn’t something the Prius consumers are looking for either, we gather. Since our commute to the office consisted mostly of city streets, we tried mostly utilize EV mode as much as possible – this turned out to be even harder than staying in the ECO Zone. EV mode works up to about three-quarters of mile under extremely light acceleration and it absolutely refuses to go over 25 mph. The Prius will still automatically enter EV mode as long as we’re at cruising speed; however, as difficult as a task that was, 50 mph always seemed to be highest speed we could get the Prius to enter EV mode automatically.
Setting off from stop lights proved to be the most challenging. Avoiding the pesky POWER Zone, we got honked at, flipped off, and cut off more times than we can count – needless to say, due to our own safety and road politeness, we put a $20 in the Power Swear Jar and maxed out the power. Keeping score, the Prius is always happy to let us know how we’re doing economically. Some days were better than others – if this was high school however, we’d be failing our EV course. Ouch. We mostly averaged a score of 45 out of 100. As you’ll see in the photo below, we were having a good day being in the high 70’s.
At the end of seven days, despite all of our efforts, our fuel economy was sliced due to some highway travels. With an average of 54 mpg in the city, we managed to see 48 mpg combined after 300 miles of highway activity. We didn’t mind however, the Prius still continues to impress us with its confident driving characteristic, poise handling demeanor and comfortable ride quality. Unlike the previous generation Prius, the fourth-gen is capable of providing an enjoyable driving style while saving money at the pump – just as long as you don’t have a Power Swear Jar. We cashed out $57 dollars at the end of the week – most of those are I-O-U’s.