Toyota Hybrid Tour

July 14th, 2007 by Potato

I took the opportunity today to head up to the Toyota Hybrid Tour at the Bass Pro Shops mall off the 400 (just north of Hwy7). Man, nobody would have found that place that wasn’t already looking for it. It was way around the north-east corner of the mall. I had exited onto Bass Pro Mills Drive like my map told me to, and there were no signs or anything to indicate where it might be (but I did see roadside signs for a mattress and piano sales). In fact, it would have been closer to get off at Rutherford. The size of that shopping district (it’s not really one continuous mall) was pretty amazing though, I had never been up there before.

The preview of the event I had seen (can’t remember where now) had pavilions with videos describing the hybrid technology, and flags, banners, and all sorts of promotion. This was much more low-key: 4 staff members in a tent, 6 cars standing by to be shown off and test-driven, and that was about it. It actually worked out pretty well like that, though. Since this is an event not linked to any particular dealer, there was absolutely no sales pressure. They didn’t care if I was interested in buying or not, they didn’t try to get my number to call me later for a follow-up sales call, they didn’t try to sell the car at all. They just wanted to show me how the technology worked, where all the secret compartments were, and give me a few minutes to press all the buttons and see what it was like. If you’re at all interested in the Prius or Camry Hybrid (I didn’t see a HiHy, but they might have had one out on a test drive) then by all means go up and take a look: they’ll be there until 5 tomorrow and Sunday (July 14 + 15). After that, I think that’s the end of the run for Ontario.

After seeing the Civic Hybrid, I was fairly pleased, but there was a significant question surrounding the trunk space. The Prius, it was clear, had a bigger trunk than the Civic, but how big it was exactly was tough to say. Looking around the internet, there are pictures of the insane amount of things people have stuffed in there, particularly of large things that the hatchback and folding seats allow one to carry (water heaters, clothes dryers, fridges, lumber…). That showed off well how versatile it was, but versatility is a bit different from gross carrying capacity. I wanted to know what would fit with the seats up. Of course, there are other owner stories showing a completely stuffed hatchback for a road trip, with the cargo going right up to the roof and blocking the view out the rear window. Those weren’t hugely helpful, since as a safe (read: paranoid) driver, I’m hesitant to block my rear view with cargo, and have only done so a few times on my current car. They also didn’t help me see how big the trunk was relatively speaking since I didn’t know how big the owner’s luggage was. The Prius is rated as having 456 L (16 cu.ft) of cargo space, compared to just under 300 L for the Civic hybrid, and somewhere in the neighbourhood of 370 L for my Accord. The Prius is often Tardis-like in its ability to fold space and become larger on the inside than it looks on the outside, but that cargo capacity looked too good to be true, and I figured it must be measured up to the windows.

So, one burning question I had when going to the hybrid tour was how the actual (that is, non-visibility blocking) trunk space compared to that in my Accord. To test this I grabbed some collapsible laundry bags that Wayfare loves (we’ve got like 5 of them now) as well as a big green transport bin. My Accord trunk fit two “full” (opened/expanded) laundry bags, the green bin, my backpack, and had space to spare: some laptops or small items could have gone on top of everything, there was some room on either side for more stuff, and in the back cut-in part (perhaps I’ll have to MS-paint up a diagram of my trunk’s layout) there was just enough room for a small-ish backpack beside the rearmost laundry bag. Note that my backpack isn’t shown in the picture because I took it out to get my camera. You can see where it would fit though.

Large green box and two laundry bags in my Accord

Then I went to the Prius, and was at first fairly disappointed that I only got the green bin and a laundry bag:

Prius trunk this isn\'t laid out well...

But of course a tiny bit of intelligent packing showed that two bags and a green bin just fit. This is low enough that it wasn’t blocking any visibility out the rear window, but just barely (due to the angles, some stuff could be put closer to the rear headrests, but not closer to the window). There was a bit of a nook to the left of the green bin, but not so much on the right side (I believe the jack or an enclosed cargo compartment is on the right).

Prius with a large box and two laundry bags

That’s a fair bit smaller than my trunk, but workable, especially since that isn’t the sum total of the Prius’ trunk. There’s also the hidden compartment in the floor, shown here with my backpack for scale. It’s bigger than I thought, but not very deep; my backpack was too full to let the door close on it. Of course, the door can be taken out (I think) and leave a single, somewhat awkwardly-shaped cargo compartment. Combined, the total cargo space is close enough to that of my Accord that it will work for me, so that’s one fear assuaged (and when the need calls, I can fill it to the roof, block the view, and get more space than the Accord; plus for most things, the higher/shorter trunk of the Prius would be more useful, as there have been times when seats folded or not, I just couldn’t get something like a chair through the low hole for my trunk).

The hidden compartment in the Prius trunk with my backpack for scale

The test-drive consisted of a loop around the ring road that enclosed the Vaughn mall. Plenty of stop signs, accelerating to 50 km/h, and a few turns; but no highway test. It was reasonably fun to drive though (of course, my Accord is one of the best-driving/most fun cars I’ve had, just about as good as my BMW); I was afraid there wouldn’t be much of a road feel. Of course, since there was no road in that area 2 years ago, it’s all brand new asphalt that’s smooth as glass, so it’s kind of hard to judge road feel (especially at relatively low speeds). The side/rear visibility was decent, much better than I had been lead to be afraid of. However, I wasn’t happy with the forward visibility. I found the A-pillars were pretty thick, and the left one seemed to cut too far to the right for me. I was half tempted to lean over to drive with my head in the centre of the car. Of course, I got the same feeling from the Civic and the Buick Envoy I drove on PEI, so it may just be that all modern cars have blocky (safe?) A-pillars that drive me nuts from a visibility standpoint. I’d probably get used to it. (I hope). The very unique and minimal dashboard display up high near the road was a different implementation than the one in the Civic (which I really liked), but I have to say I liked this one almost as much. Just something about not having to track my eyes down as far to check my speed. Of course, the minimal display meant that everything else is run through the touch-screen, and I’m a little leery of having to use a touch-screen interface while driving, especially at night (I’d hate to have the bright screen ruin my night vision). There are steering wheel controls for most things though, so I may not be too bad off.

I went there with two specific questions nagging at me, and pretty much got them answered (though before buying I’ll probably rent one to take a longer test-drive on the highway). I was a little too focused though, and totally should have spent more time playing with the car and the buttons — it was pretty slow, and they weren’t pressuring me to get out of the car (just to park it), but I felt bad for taking their time and left. I didn’t even go to the consumption screen on the MFD to see what the fuel consumption was like under my real-life driving test! D’oh!

I didn’t drive the Camry Hybrid (I didn’t want to like it, since its trunk is just as tiny as the Civic Hybrid), but did sit in it just for a minute to have a peek. For the nearly the same price (in the demented Canadian market), you definitely get a lot more car with it. The interior was very plush with attractive plastics and steel/aluminum/metal-looking-plastic trim.

After all that excitement, I took my current car for gas and a routine tire pressure check… and one tire was down to <15 PSI. Damn.

One Response to “Toyota Hybrid Tour”

  1. Rez Says:

    Photographs deserve comments; that’s just the way I roll. But because that’s a lot of words to read about a subject I don’t really have much interest in, all I can say is: 5 doors rule. :)