of Windshields and Rollbars

To help us determine what car we should purchase once we are in California, today Gavin and I used our ZipCar membership to drive a Prius. We had originally planned to use it to drive our dining room table to its new home with Jenny and Paul in Quincy, but Jenny had to work today (IT works weekends when the network is not in use anyway), so we opted to drive down the Cape.

I really don’t know where we drove or what we saw. We got out a few times, saw a light house near a golf course and generally enjoyed the beautiful weather.

We found the Prius in its designated parking space, opened it with the ZipCar Card, inserted the key and pushed the “power” button and nothing happened. After a few frustrating minutes we realized you have to push down the brake and press power at the same time. Good to know.

The Prius is a nice car, larger than the Matrix (the other contender), it is also a hybrid (= good gas mileage). It handles well, stops quickly, corners nicely, and has leg room. On the down side, it has the world’s worst rear-windshield (Toyota seems to have acknowledged this, they have a camera system to help you back up).

The rear-windshield is divided in the back by a large something (roll bar? extra structural support? who knows). The obstruction sits squarely in the center of the windshield and shows up nicely in the center of the rearview mirror –I tried adjusting it, but it persisted. The obstruction was especially noticeable if the car behind you has it’s headlights on, they peek over/under the bar or are completely blocked by it (great fun in tunnels). It was also a little scary on the hills –when the car is in just the right spot, you can’t see it in the rearview mirror (but it does show up in the side mirrors).

The rather “cool” dashboard gizmos are also not with out fault. On sunny days the little screen is hard to see and I wouldn’t want to adjust it while I was driving (that’s what Gavin is for, but he won’t always be along for the ride).

On the upside the dashboard does tell you exactly how fast your driving, and the little display can show you your fuel consumption and battery whatnots. Gavin seemed to enjoy playing with it (it made beeping noises and had colors), I found it a nuisance (and I was driving so I wasn’t going to mess with it).

It was also nice to drive the Prius without a constant stream of propaganda from a sales person. At first Gavin extolled the greatness of the Prius, pointed out all the neat things (I agree, some of them were pretty neat), but as the day went on, the “oh cool” factor wore off.

We are planning to drive the Matrix next weekend to take our table to Jenny and Paul’s to make sure we give both cars an equal chance (although we did drive the Matrix to Maine and back that was a few months ago). Then we will compare and contrast the options, and eventually make a final decision.

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