Over the months of driving the Toyota Prius, I have become pretty familiar with it and this has led to feelings of ambivalence. Sometimes I feel that 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' and other times 'familiarity breeds contempt'.
To be frank, I'm beginning to get bored with this car. I admire its green credentials and applaud the technology that will reduce harmful emissions into the atmosphere.
But, over the past few weeks the fuel consumption has disappointingly dropped below 50mpg while our long term Volvo S60 managed to achieve 53mpg. Also, I am beginning to find the constant barrage of fuel consumption information coming at me from the display irritating and I long for more response from the throttle instead.
Here at Fleet Towers, we get to drive some spectacular cars but this isn't one of them and I am having trouble maintaining my initial enthusiasm.
The other problem is, it just isn't fun to drive.
Apart from the highly impressive (and expensive) vehicles we test, such as those from Volvo, Lexus and Saab, we also get some more unsophisticated models to trial, including entry-level hatchbacks and saloons. I've driven all these cars and despite the fact that they are on a par with the Prius pricewise, they do at least have a fun element to them. If this road test was represented by a swingometer, it would be on a constant roll!
Despite my criticisms, I still find the Prius incredibly comfortable and very easy to drive because of the high seating position and the automatic gearbox. And thanks to its lazy driving style I never get stressed whether I'm in a traffic queue or cruising in the outside lane. If I put myself in the position of a fleet driver with a choice of vehicles including the Prius, I would have to consider very carefully where the bulk of my driving would be done.
If I was tearing up and down the motorways of Britain with tight deadlines to meet, this is not a car I would choose. But, if we're talking about urban driving, heavy traffic and stop-start queues, this car would have to be near the top of my list. So, you see - ambivalence. Sometimes I love it and sometimes I hate it. But, that said, the Toyota Prius should be a prime consideration for both driver and fleet manager, if only because of its unique ecological stance.