Pondering Prius: Psychology and the Toyota Prius V, Part II

Sections: Fuel Economy, Powertrain

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The eco display on the 2013 Toyota Prius V

That bar to the left? Probably best not to pay too much attention to it, lest you drive yourself– and your fellow motorists– insane. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

I mentioned in an earlier piece that my first instinct upon receiving a 2013 Toyota Prius V tester was to go easy on the gas to keep the power meter on the dash well in “Eco” territory. I also thought that might be the wrong strategy for peak fuel efficiency. Was I right?
In short, yes. Or at least that is how it seemed, based on how my fuel economy scores improved after I decided to largely ignore the power meter on the left end of the Prius V’s centrally mounted gauge cluster. I went from an average of 39.8 MPG during the first couple of days driving the Prius V to an end-of-test average of 42.9 MPG.
This would appear to validate my initial inclination that the trip computer’s minute-by-minute fuel economy tracking will result in poorer fuel economy averages if you drag out the acceleration process at every traffic light by trying to keep that power consumption meter out of its upper reaches. Treat the Prius V as you would any other car, keeping the pace with other traffic, and you could very well be rewarded with a better overall fuel economy average because you spent less time accelerating, when the Prius V, like any car, gets its worst fuel economy.
Getting into the hybrid hatchback fresh off a week in a Lexus GS F-SPORT that practically begged me to do illegal, irresponsible things on public highways, I’ll admit I found myself calling the Prius V a slug more than once, especially early in my test week. However, much of that assessment surely came from going too easy on the car. By treating the throttle like I would that of any other car during everyday driving, I found the Prius V to be capable of keeping up the pace with most any traffic I found myself a part of, and maintaining 65 MPH came easily enough. The only thing I never quite got over was the car’s tendency to shed speed quickly on hills. There were two ways to avoid this: Build sufficient momentum before reaching the hill so the Prius V didn’t bleed off so much speed that it became a trigger for road rage among following drivers, or give it more gas than felt natural to maintain speed up the incline.
There’s another vehicle I’ve driven that had this same propensity for losing speed on uphill stretches– a bicycle. That’s fitting, because among compact crossovers and wagons, Toyota’s Prius V is probably the next-most fuel-efficient method of travel to something powered by pedals and carbohydrates.
Disclosure: Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas…though we only managed to burn half that tank in a week’s worth of driving.
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