July 24, 2009
When I was in Baltimore last week Thursday, I rented a car for the day so I could meet with my coworker without inconveniencing her or her husband by making them drive me around. Because it was no more expensive than a regular car, I got a Prius so I could see what the competition was up to. The Hertz agent sent me off to the car without any sort of special instructions for operating the hybrid (or the EZPass, which needed to be slid out of the box it was mounted in to use, which I didn’t realize until I’d gone through my first toll, so I expect any day now a MD state trooper will show up to haul me in), but fortunately I’m a fairly bright person and managed to figure out the key with no sticky out part, the power button, the parking brake button, and the shifter that works more like a paddle. What I never figured out and had to Google when I got home was the B on the shifter. My first thought was “Backwards”, but there was an R for that, so my next thought was “Battery”, but what about the battery I could not imagine. Turns out it’s B for Engine Braking, pretty much the equivalent of “L” for Low, which my Fusion sensibly labels L.
Even though they’re both in the mid-size category according the to EPA, the Prius felt smaller inside than my Fusion doesâ€”maybe because a lot of the interior space in the Prius is in the hatchback area versus surrounding the driver and passengers as in the Fusion. Ergonomically, I didn’t mesh that well with the Prius; when I had the seat back far enough from the wheel, I couldn’t comfortably reach parts of the touch screen and felt like binoculars would come in handy to read the speedometer (which displays way up near where the bottom of the rather steeply raked windshield). This particular Prius wasn’t equipped with a navigation system, which I really, really could have usedâ€”I got rather lost going through Baltimore even though I had plenty of maps. I missed the leaves and vines my Fusion grows (the Prius seemed only to grow a graph, with little green cars and half cars scattered on it from time to time), and I probably would have missed its sound system, too, but I never turned on the radio in the Prius because I was too busying trying to not get lost again. Where the Prius did excel was mpg; I got 50.6 average for my 137 mile trip, and that was with much air conditioning, as the temperature climbed from 81 to 95 degrees F in the time I was gallivanting around Maryland that day. That means I used half a gallon less gas than I would have making a similar trip in my Fusion, based on the averages I’ve been getting here at home in similar weather.