Sunday, June 30, 2013

2010 Toyota Prius IV

So how does it feel to own and drive a hybrid? It's an interesting change but quirky at the same time. For this purchase again we had to go to Utah since Cali car dealers are not too friendly towards out of state buyers when those buyers aren't going to pay CA sales tax for said car. Utah has always been cool with allowing me to drive away without paying sales tax. Additionally I got a sick-ass price on a Prius IV when I was hunting around for only a Prius III. Goes to show that if you shop around enough and are willing to fly out to pick up a car, good deals can be had.

So back to the car. Well first thing's first: we're averaging 49.8 MPG with mostly city but sometimes mixed driving. That's insane. In the old Fitmobile we were only able to get it up to 40 MPG once on pure highway driving that was flat and straight. So yeah the MPG stuff for this hybrid is quite legit.

The car has 3 different driving settings: Eco, Normal, and Power. Eco mode causes the car to have a much reduced throttle response in that you have to press your foot down further to get the car to move. Normal is normal I guess, and Power-mode will engage the gas engine very frequently to get the most power from both the gas and electric engines. There's an EV mode, but it can only be engaged under specific conditions. I've discovered that if you drive like a turtle in Eco mode, this is essentially the same thing as being in EV mode without the button.

I've also noticed that I'll get a 2-3 MPG increase if I drive in Eco mode vs Normal mode so I usually just leave it in Eco. I really haven't noticed a downside from driving in Eco mode other than needing to get used to the throttle response. All the power from both engines are still available, you just have to press the accelerator down further or faster.

Handling is pretty crappy as you feel like you're driving a boat. Same goes with the seats. Even though the Prius IV we got has leather seats, they are not bolstered or shaped correctly so you tend to slide all over the place because you feel like you're sitting "on" the seat rather than sitting "in" the seat if that makes any sense at all. The quality of the interior leather, plastic, and trim = regular Toyota quality which I would put on the same level as Subaru but better than Honda.

For the steering wheel controls they are sorta futuristic since you can gently press down on a button and the HUD display will change to show that you are pressing a specific key. It's sorta like a digital camera in that there are 2 finger-pressure settings for focus and to actually take a picture.

I thought that I would like this feature, but after using it for half-a-year, I think that I enjoy having a more positive, tactile feel that only comes from a real plastic button or switch. This newfangled rubber stuff doesn't cut it. Additionally, while driving I really don't have time to look at the color changes on the HUD to verify that I'm pressing the correct button if needed.

The right-side steering wheel buttons control the HVAC system in a really crappy way. The center button changes the system from internal to external circulation. How often does a normal person even make this change? How about 5 times a year maybe. The other two other buttons control the temperature. I'll add in as an aside that automatic climate control sucks ass. I really want to know who really uses this feature because on all 3 cars I've owned that have had this, no manufacturer has implemented it correctly.

Ideally in a manual-control mode, the two buttons for temperature should be for fan speed up and down, and the circulation button should be replaced with the AC on/off switch. That would be the optimal setup for the right-side steering wheel controls.

The heated seats in this car aren't that good and their placement is awkward. They heat up but then turn off themselves off and then will later heat up again. I don't know if this is an energy-saving feature or something, but it feels odd and inconsistent.

The headlights on the Prius are quite dim at night time and I don't think it's because I've been spoiled with the Xenons from the Infiniti. It totally feels like they give out the same lumens as an amber streetlight in a bad part of town.

The hands-free Bluetooth in this car is very quirky and stupid. You have to push a button and say a ladder-list of commands to make a simple phone call. It should be as easy as: push button, say "call x" , and it dials. But in this car there are at least two additional steps in the middle in order to make a call. The logic is stupid. Additionally the Bluetooth version is not high enough where you can stream music from your phone. Supposedly the Bluetooth version that comes with the Nav package is able to do this. My bad...should've done a bit more research.

The rearview in the car isn't that bad, although it does have a weird 2-tier thing going on since the hatch is so slanted. The rear windshield wiper is pretty worthless when it actually rains since it can only clear off maybe 20% of the rain from the rear because of the curvature of the window.

The rear hatch goes up way too high and hits my garage door which is annoying as well. This should be adjustable. The rest of the rear trunk space is normal and useful. One successful Ikea trip with a small bed completed.

The doors have a very flimsy feel when they are shut; probably worse than the Fit. Not sure if this is because of the material or design. But one cool thing is how the keyless entry works. All you have to do is have the keys in your pocket and then you just need to put your hand in between the handle and the door and it'll auto-unlock. No button to push or nothin'; that's pretty slick.

In terms of maintenance, I've changed the CVT fluid on this car as well as the oil and both air and cabin filters. After all this, I have three complaints. The first is that there's this wretched plastic engine splash shield that uses these plastic nubbies instead of bolts. This makes the prep work time prior to doing a task go up quite a bit because taking the nubbies off suck. They also break quite often so I had to order a bunch of extra ones off of Ebay. The item numbers are: 90467-07201 and 90467-09227 if anyone is interested. It would be OK if the shield was of good quality but it's not. There's also an engine oil flap in the middle of the shield that is partially broken on my car because of crappy quality and design, so yeah I'm annoyed.

The second thing is that the oil filter is one of those actual filters instead of a disposable one that is all encased. This means that you have to take off a plastic housing and then remove the old filter and replace it with a new O-Ring and filter. It would've been much easier and cleaner to just use a normal, fully-encased oil filter.

Third thing is that the Prius does NOT utilize a regular 65mm filter wrench. It uses a freak 64mm one with 14 pleats. And this of course is an OEM Toyota/Lexus custom part, so I would recommend buying it off of Amazon prior to doing an oil change. I found this out the hard way and wasted time going to Napa, Autozone, and Oreillys before giving up and going to the dealership to pay full price. Fuckers...

Yeah I also ran across a video on how to replace the spark plugs in this car and it's a bitch. You have to take apart the windshield wiper assembly and a bunch of long plastic pieces to get to where the spark plugs are...annoying as fuck. Good thing is that I won't have to mess with this until 100K or so but still...I'll definitely be paying someone to do that job. Why can't they design a car that can be easily worked on?

One super annoying thing was that whenever you put the car in reverse it would make this beeping sound that was constant and very loud. It was oh so annoying and many people online complained about it. I was able to get rid of it by buying this OBD2 Bluetooth Module off of Amazon and connecting it to my phone and DLing an app to send it codes. I followed the instructions found on this site. Lots of trouble for having something so unnecessary built into the function of a car.

The regenerative braking is cool from the technical perspective as it takes kinetic energy and turns it into back into stored electricity. The brakes themselves have a disconnected feel to them as it isn't using the actual hydraulic brakes until the brake pedal is pressed down harder or after the car has slowed down considerably. Honestly I don't know when the real brakes kick in but you can kinda feel it when they do. The fact that the gas engine shuts off when the car is stopped gets me every time as well. Love that shit.

So in a nutshell in terms of driving, what I noticed is that if you drive the car like a regular car, you'll get high 40s MPG, but if you drive it like it's an "energy-savings/efficiency" game, you can make it past 55 MPG easy. This is maybe why some of those Prius drivers out there suck so bad because the're are doing this. I only play the game of "putt putt home at 30-35 MPH" when nobody is behind me. There's something very satisfying about cruising along with only the electric motor humming.

So yeah the car is excellent for what it is, a commuter-mobile. The only amenity in this car that is worthwhile is the Homelink garage door opener since everything else "cool" is really only a letdown like the quality of leather, heated seats, and Bluetooth.

If you drive it and remember that it's only a method of getting from point A to B and you're OK with the price, then all is good. But most people will certainly not "care" about this car as if it were something special because it doesn't feel special. It only feels efficient and slightly futuristic. Yeah I always find it interesting to go back and forth between the Prius and the Infiniti. It's such a night/day difference between an econo-box and a performance sedan. Guess which one I'll vote to drive every time my wallet (cost of gas) isn't involved...

Update: 7/7/2013

  • On the bottom of the car, you know how I mentioned that there was a splash guard shield for the engine? Well when I went to perform the oil change I noticed that the oil change flap was ripping since it's all very thin plastic for the pivot line. Well the day after the oil change was completed, the pivot side of the flap ripped off and was scraping against road. I had to jack it back up and remove the plastic pins that were keeping the opposite side still up, thus removing the whole flap. Stupid design. I guess in hindsight I should've just removed the whole shield instead of using the flap but WTF is the flap for if you can't use it? Yeah I looked it up on the forums and it's a common occurrence where it's hit or miss for Toyota will replace it or not. Since they already gave me a hard time when I tried to get them to pay for some other bottom plastics replacements, I doubt they'll be accommodating. So yeah, bad design and crappier service.
  • This weekend I drove the Prius long distance for many-a-hours with 5 adults in the car and a trunk full of luggage and groceries. My MPG went down to 43.3 from my normal 49 MPG for the trip. Acceleration was significantly slower and used a bunch more from the gas engine. I also had to re-calibrate my own stopping distance for deceleration. Still not bad MPG for a loaded car, but food for thought.

Update: 4/17/2015 - AC Foul Smell Removal

Update: 6/25/2017

  • So since moving down to 114 degree weather, I have discovered one more thing about Prius and probably with hybrid cars in general. The system really doesn't like the heat. When it's super hot and the Prius has been sitting there, the engine doesn't turn off and the hybrid system doesn't kick in. This is a very noticeable thing since the hybrid engine is usually the primary and the ICE engine is only a helper when needed, but yeah something about the heat disconnects the system for a long while. When you get is a very underpowered ride. The ICE engine strains to accelerate and keep up with traffic and the engine noise is super groaning. It's weird that the hybrid engine is totally nowhere to be found as opposed to just working less... I'm going to guess this happens to other hybrid cars as well. MPG plummets to around 36-38 MPG when driving in this mode. This is down from the average 43 MPG which is the de-facto average now that the car is 7-sum years old.