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Sweet Dreams are Made of this

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The Prius drives like a dream. The kind you never want to wake up from. And makes you grouchy when you do. Next dream: To have Php2.3M knocking around that I’ve no better use for

One of the greatest things about driving a hybrid is you can drive it to hell and back and never have to worry about paying a humongous gas card bill at the end of the month.

And by ‘hell’ I mean Edsa.

The Prius is pretty. That’s probably why it has this huge rep as a girl’s car. Especially true of the Pearl White version. But this whole thing about a man’s car, boy’s car, mom’s car, I don’t get. It could be the hatchback, but you see so many of them on SUVs that it doesn’t make sense.

The only one I probably agree with is the station wagon. But that association is an American thing generated by so many formulaic Hollywood movies that show a mom (or potbellied dad) dragging overloaded grocery bags out of the car, and bratty kids along with.

You don’t see Hollywood depicting Mafia muscle aiming a .45 into the back of a station wagon to off a welsher, now do you? Well, maybe if the film was trying to be funny.

Anyway, the Prius—the white one, actually—was handsome enough to stop several men on their tracks to discuss the car. With each other, not me as I had my windows rolled up the whole time. Nice, decent men not carjackers who, according to gearhead friends, cannot tell a Prius from a pony.

Carjack-proof. Good-looking. Drives sweetly. On to the deets.

Cabin Space
It’s roomier than your standard subcompact. Compare: The Altis is 4,540 x 1,760 x 1,465 (mm), while the Prius is 4,460 x 1,745 x 1480 (mm). But, for some reason, it feels much roomier, almost close to a compact SUV—but much easier to parallel park. Plus it's a hatchback.

The trunk space can perfectly fit a host of differently sized shopping bags but falls short of accommodating golf clubs comfortably. You can always put your golf bag in the backseat. But for the kind of fuel economy the Prius offers, heck, I’ll toss my nephews in the trunk and my clubs in the backseat.

One reason for its girly rep abroad could be the Prius’ headroom. Not a problem in the Asian market, where most men are 6ft or under.

Fitting three, large, adult passengers though is no problem. I was actually able to comfortably haul four, full- grown adults to and from Binondo.

And the gas needle hardly even moved.

Of course the best thing about the Prius is you won’t feel guilty putting the pedal to the metal when trying to get away from pesky motorists who seem hell bent on (almost) hitting your front or rear bumper. This ecological wonder goes from 0–60 in under 10 secs. Officially. (Some test drivers say a few seconds over 10.) But in the relatively flat portion of Katipunan in front of McDonald’s, I got it to go from 5–50 in 5 seconds. (I was trying to get away from a trike that was threatening to mar my pristine bumper.)

Driving on SLEX one sunny, Sunday afternoon, I left all cars eating my dust. And then I had to slow down within the minute because I had overtaken everyone. (The overtaking speed is 110kph, but 120kph is allowed under a minute.)

Maybe the reviews that say the Prius Hybrid isn’t very fast were conducted on a German autobahn. For SLEX driving, it’s fast enough to keep you at a steady, comfy, law-abiding 100kph from Makati to Santo Tomas. Smoothly transitioning to 120kph, you’ll stay jiggle-free (step fast on the accelerator and you will feel the engine shudder)—pleasantly surprising for a midsize sedan and a hybrid at that. What’s more, I was running on low- octane, unleaded gas!

On the way back from Laguna, SLEX was rendered nearly invisible by unexpected torrential rains, with motorists from Santa Rosa slowing down to below the minimum speed limit of 60kph. The anti-fog system on the Prius actually works and the side windows, mirrors, and hatchback glass help visibility.

Right after exiting at Santa Rosa, cars had noticeably slowed down due to the pounding rain and all motorists had their hazard lights on. Like them, I initially slowed down to 50kph. Then I hit 60. Then 80. By this time there were only a couple of cars beside me. I tried the brakes, gingerly. Then I did 80 again and, there being no one in front of or behind me, I swiftly stepped on the brake pedal. The Prius decelerated without losing traction on the wet, slippery SLEX asphalt.

The first time I turned the engine on, I didn’t know I had. I waited for some sign of the Prius humming to life. Nothing. Then I gently tried the gas. It moved. Gee.

Give it some throttle and you will wake up the gas engine. The shudder isn’t a problem and simply tells you it’s awake. Or you can watch the fascinating graphic display. Take your foot off the accelerator and the gas engine slips gently into sleep mode.

The Prius’ dashboard screen will tell you that you are sitting on a fuel- efficient power plant masquerading as a 16-valve, 4-cylinder gas engine with two electric motors. One motor is devoted to recharging the battery, the other drives the front wheels.

The default setting leaves the gas off as you run on electricity. So if you accelerate slowly after a stop and go no faster than 20–30kph in Makati traffic, you won’t burn any gas.

After the 2009 Prius Hybrid Hatchback came out, it became the hottest selling Toyota after the Camry and Corolla. Those who’ve taken this sweet ride for a spin know why.

Print ed: 03/12


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