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Heels On Wheels: 2015 Toyota Prius Review +VIDEO


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HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel


INTRO TO THE PRIUS VEHICLE
The Toyota Prius is the hybrid segment’s stalwart vehicle, guaranteed to get you 50 miles-per-gallon with an added bonus of decent space and technology. And with a Prius “v” offering a configurable second row for more cargo space, the smaller Prius “c” and a Plug-in hybrid version, the Prius reaches beyond a one-size-fits all hybrid mentality.

I drove a 2015 Toyota Prius with the 134-horspower 1.8-liter DOHC VVT-I four-cylinder engine and Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system featuring four driving modes (Normal, Power, Eco and EV). The Prius comes in four trims labeled simply as numbers (they skip number one). My top-of-the-line Prius Five came with the following standard equipment: SofTex-trimmed and heated front seats; eight-way power driver’s seat; 6.1-inch touchscreen with a backup camera; an upgraded JBL audio system; Bluetooth technology; UBS and auxiliary input jack; rear spoiler; LED headlights and fog lights; push-button start; cargo tonneau cover; seventeen-inch alloy wheels. Price as described came to $30,005 without options.

Other manufactures do put out excellent competitors – the Nissan Leaf, Honda Fit EV, Kia Soul EV and especially the Ford C-MAX come to mind – but none have had Toyota’s level of success; enough to “hybrid” its own hybrid lineup and create a lineup from one vehicle DNA.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: While the Prius has a pleasing enough interior and certainly keeps up on modern connectivity, it’s blaringly basic and even more so on the Five level trim. While it’s great to see the little luxuries like driver’s power seating, the SofTex has a cheap feel and the bulky use of center console space draws attention to overall sub-par materials. My test drive also featured a pricey $4,320 Advanced Technology Package that included navigation, Entune, a better split-screen configuration, JBL GreenEdge speakers, and some safety technology like Lane Keep Assist.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The 2015 Prius is a Top Safety Pick with The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) with ratings of “Good” in all areas omitting small overlap front which earned an “Acceptable.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Prius an overall score of 4-Stars. Toyota’s Star Safety System is standard and includes VSC, anti-lock brakes, EBD, traction control and an advanced airbag system. You need to pay extra for Safety Connect (emergency roadside assistance), the pre-collision system and the Advanced Parking Guidance System (APGS).

Cost Issues: A base Prius Two starts at $24,200 – you don’t get much more than the car for that. My full-loaded Five with the Advanced Technology Package and better paint totaled $34,999. Having recently also tested the Ford C-MAX, it has a starting price of $24,170 for the base SE – with the extras it taps out at $35,365.

Activity & Performance Ability: While you certainly sit comfortably in the Prius and enjoy its smooth acceleration paired with on-point braking, visibility remains a challenge that could be fixed with the right safety technology. There is an annoying interior beep made for the benefit of the driver when in reverse – I don’t so much need to know I’m backing up, but would appreciate a feature like Rear Cross Traffic Alert that could do some real good by detecting on-coming cars in this common driving situation. I found the C-MAX and Honda Fit offered better visibility.

The Green Concern: With the same cargo configurations as many compact crossovers, at 50 miles-per-gallon combined, the Prius leads the pack in green traveling. The Ford C-MAX Energi version has a fuel economy of 88 miles-per-gallon – yet the Prius Plug-in version gets 95 miles-per-gallon equivalent.




FINAL PARTING WORDS
The Toyota Prius makes a convincing vehicle choice at 50 miles-per-gallon combined – and while its almost blasphemy to criticize, you must appreciate and be prepared to work with the exterior and interior dimensions as each offers particular limitations. Mainly, visibility issues that can interfere with your mobility comfort, a now-iconic design snafu that puts you immediately in touch with why the driving world glares at you. My recommendation is to go with go with a lesser-leveled trim as well.

©2015 Katrina Ramser

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