Another family day out in the Prius

I picked up the Prius for a family outing on Saturday, keen to see whether the smugness often referred to by the likes of Jeremy Clarkson would descend instantly or only over a period of time. But we took it about 75 miles, between the Sussex coast and mid-Kent and back, and I quickly forgot to check.

There were four of us – two large, two small and we’ll all had a pretty good time. Being a bit of a motor ignoramus, I don’t tend to notice makes or models of cars on the street, so I wasn’t sure how much of a novelty a Prius was likely to be. As it turns out, I didn’t get many stares (though I now wish I had tried out the auto-parking, as Tamsin did – missed a trick there). Indeed, I noticed on a couple of occasions that pedestrians walking in front of the car were slow to notice me, and wondered whether this was because they couldn’t hear it – from within the car, it’s very quiet.

I’d never driven a car with sat-nav before – it’s always seemed like a bit of an admission of failure. I’m man enough to survive on intuition, perseverance and blind luck, aren’t I?

But after realising that it doesn’t constantly chat as you continue along the same road (makes sense really) I started to enjoy the real-time map on the dashboard, and the calm robot telling us where to go. And our childish attempt to annoy it (by taking what we know to be a shortcut) didn’t faze it one bit. My four-year- old daughter wanted us to make it talk more.

For some reason, I was surprised that the car is an automatic – having associated them with the poor fuel consumption of the large car I’ve got. But managing the transition between gears, and the power from the petrol engine and electric motor on a hybrid vehicle is perhaps best left to electronics.

Incidentally, it wasn’t at all obvious to us when the car was in electric mode and when petrol-driven – until we were at a real crawl, when the silence is noticeable. The transition must have been pretty smooth.

If I’m honest, the ride itself, mainly along well-worn A and B-roads in the Weald of Kent, was not the smoothest I’ve ever had. On one bit with sectioning in the road surface it was quite bumpy. But the car’s zip was impressive – getting out of a sometimes hazardous junction onto a fast road near our house was much less stressful than usual, with a car that accelerates smoothly and quickly. And on corners where I’d have been reluctant to push it in my old Polo, the Prius felt much more assured.

We didn’t have to take much with us – the usual day-out family gubbins; spare clothes, the correct soft toys, more spare clothes – and it was obvious we could have carried a lot more had we needed to. As someone who’s recently moved from a three-door car, I’d say that the Prius has more than enough room as a family vehicle.

The kids both enjoyed the car’s turn of speed (best hump-backed-bridge tummy-dip ever). My partner enjoyed the leg-room, on-board gadgets and quiet ride. I enjoyed telling my dad that I’d made 60 miles per gallon. Ah – THERE’s the smugness.

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