I was asked the other day about what was the worst car that I had ever driven? Despite having driven quite a few shit boxes, there is only one credible answer: the Toyota Prius. I kid you not, this car is a bigger pile of crap than that BMW picture from the other day. If this is the future of motoring, then I for one am getting a bus pass. Yes, I would rather take the bus than drive a Prius! However, there is more to it than mere dislike of the car. You see, this so-called “eco-darling” is actually an environmental disaster and is more likely to kill you than most modern cars, in even a minor accident.
In order to build your Prius in Japan (where industrial clean air laws are on about an equal footing with the likes of Mexico), the somewhat toxic nickel-metal hydride battery has to come together. This is a multi-part process, and it starts in picturesque a strip mine in Ontario, Canada. From there that nickel ore is smelted in what is called the “Super-Stack”, which is a huge producer of acid rain, the cause of large surrounding environmental degradation, and puts large amounts of harmful particulate metals into the air of northeastern North America. The smelted nickel is then shipped to Europe for refining, and then on to China to be made usable for the battery. Only at this point does it finally reach Japan for final assembly, so quite a journey has taken place (quite the “carbon footprint” isn’t it?). This battery is then charged with 300 volts, which runs through a big orange cable under the car to the electric motor up-front. I have been told by more than one firefighter that the risk of electrocution is so great that they fear for their lives when extracting people from a Prius after an accident, and they’re wearing protective gear! You are in the car presumably wearing your normal clothes, and there is still the risk of a punctured fuel tank in this or another car involved in a crash. High voltage electricity and volatile petroleum distillates do not mix without explosive consequences, so no I would personally thank you to even a “free” Prius.
Not only is the Prius an apparent individual environmental disaster and an alleged “death-trap”, it also pretty-much sucks at being a car. The interior consists of what appears to be indifferently assembled cheap plastic (they now make a Lexus version, so it had to get worse than even the appalling previous generation Prius for branding purposes), all of your critical information is in the center stack, the transmission controller looks and feels like one of those knock-off X-Box controllers, and there is absolutely no head room. I am about 5’10’’ and have to literally haunch over to see out of the steeply raked front windscreen (getting in the back is physically out of the question without reverting to some sort of yoga pose). The brakes are disconcerting in that they are a bit crap until the regenerative braking takes over (a process that is about as smooth as a beginner snowboarder performing the edge-catch/fly-swatter fall to stop maneuver), and the electric steering rivals an epidural for most numbing thing ever experienced by mankind. It’s all just complete crap, and the headlamps, even on the high-beam setting, do not let off enough light to safely drive the posted speed limit at night. Wet or even moderately slippery conditions make the car practically un-drivable due to the fitting of low rolling resistance tyres. This means that they have no grip since by design there is as little adhesion to the road surface as possible. The fact that a VW Golf TDI gets better mileage, costs less, is a far better car, and has none of the drawbacks of the Prius makes me wonder why anyone would buy the Toyota? Of course, we all know the answer to that question (hint: Toyotas are only purchased by idiots). If you own or are even thinking about purchasing a Prius, please consider voluntary sterilization. The world no longer needs ditch diggers like we did in the past. Machines do that job now.