Review for the Prius Hybrid 2015
By Kathy Chin Leong

NewProductsFeb15-1.jpgIt's cool, it's sleek, and it is indefatigable. I am talking about the new Prius Hybrid 2015 rated at 50 miles per gallon. Today we are taking this puppy to the shores of Carmel-by-the-Sea. It retails at $30,000 with all the trimmings such as the leather seats, satellite radio, and the seat warmers" and gps system.  I wish this model came with a sunroof, but it does not. 

Like most of the new cars out on the road today, this one has a press button start, rear view camera, and cushy seat warmers.  Unlike other cars, the knobby gear shift represents  new way to shift.  A separate park button rests above the gear shift, so you simply press it when you want to park.  Then you use the knob to shift in reverse  and drive, always returning to neutral between gears.  

Data geeks will get giddy, for there's info on the dash. For instance, the Eco savings record tells you how much you are saving per month.  It has a proximity indicator that beeps when you are too close to the front of an object. It shows your ongoing gas consumption, how many miles per hour you average per gallon, and more.   Unusual here is the front view projection on the windshield to remind you how fast you are going so you keep your eyes on the road at all times. 

On the steering wheel you can control the climate, set up Bluetooth, and set up radio volume. And when you do this, in image appears on the dash so that you do not have to look at the steering wheel.

On the car, you have to get used to the dead silence when you go extremely slow or come to a halt, for your gas engine turns things over to the electric, its silent partner. That silence can be a hazard to pedestrians, and so when you back up, there is an unrelenting and loud beeping you and others can hear in reverse mode. The fact that the beep  continues to sound the entire time you are in reverse mode can be quite annoying.  

On the winding freeway, this handles nimbly and has the power to accelerate and go up hills with ease with no lag.  This model comes wiht a 4-cylinder engine, and 4-wheel disc brakes.  

Interior comforts are a delight. The driver seat maneuvers forward and back, up and down, and has an excellent lumbar support feature. The passenger seat has manual controls.  Seats are wide with excellent cushioning so you can drive for hours on end without a sore bum.  I said before, you get bun warmers,  but they do not reverse temperature to cool you off in the summer.  There are two sets of glove compartments, a storage unit between the front seats, and cup holders on the doors.  However, there is no space to stash  maps. You get four cup holders in the front, so you can have lots of liquids at your fingertips. I guess folks do not use maps anymore, but I do! One design element is the gap under the gear shift that is used for storage. With a couple of cigarette lighter outlets for recharging for your phones and one USB, you don't have to get nervous about not having an outlet.  The dashboard of info is set further in the front, so it is further away from you.  

By trying to save energy, there are some sacrifices. There is no automatic hatchback trunk lift, nor is there a button on the lift to automatically close. On the dash, not all the buttons light up, so you know design choices were made carefully. 

You can press one of three buttons near the shift to maximize fuel.  In EV mode, you are driving entirely on electricity and so it's not appropriate for freeways. It is ideal for city driving. In Eco mode, you get to a certain speed, and you cannot accelerate faster than that.  And finally in power mode, you can accelerate quickly, and you get the racing sound to match. It is equipped with two engines, an electric and a gas.  Now, don't confuse this one with the all-electric Prius that has one engine and must get plugged in and has a generator to charge up the battery engine. 

While driving this car, I discovered a few new features I never heard of before.  On the steering wheel the design engineers put in the letters LKA on a button. What the heck? Turns out that it is Lane Keeping Assist. Let's say you are in cruise control mode and in a lane with discernable lines, if you drift, the car will gently guide you back in the center. Pretty nifty, eh?  

NewProductsFeb15-2.jpgThe profile of the car is low and elliptical with a sports car look and feel.  With much glass surrounding the interior, I felt somewhat like I was riding in a fishbowl. The back hatch has a horizontal molding diving  between two  panes of glass which I found distracting.  There is a wiper for the top part.  I do not know why this was designed this way. So it is a matter of taste in your design preferences.  
However, this scarlet paint job dubbed Barcelona Red was mighty fine, and it definitely got approving nods when I drove it around town.
Or maybe it was the sexy 17-inch alloy wheels or the rear spoiler or the LED headlights. Who knows? 

Bottom line: This car is a breeze to drive, and although I am not totally thrilled with the design, the Prius delivers ease of use and comfort along life's highways and byways.
Prius Hybrid Model Five
Price: $30,000

Powered by WSI Inc. in partnership with Monte Gifford Design.