Yesterday the Los Angeles Times ran an article about the fact that, in response to soaring gas prices, smaller cars are outselling light trucks (which include SUVs, pickups, and minivans) in the US for the first time since 1996. Last night I was going through old magazines that we’d just tossed in a bag before moving. I found the September 2006 issue of Westways (the California Auto Club’s magazine), with a cover story about the new breed of small cars, wondering when the market would shift in response to the high prices. Now there’s timing.

On a related note, 9 months of driving a Prius has given me a somewhat different perspective on “good” and “bad” mileage. When I see averages of 38–48 MPG over the course of a tank of gas, and can get up to 60 MPG on straight, flat stretches of freeway, advertisements touting 25–30 MPG just don’t sound that enticing.

Spotted this driving back from LA on Saturday, after Wizard World.

Truck full of tires… changing its tire!

Well, I guess they don’t need to worry about finding the spare!

We both just sort of stared at it for a second or two. Was that really what we thought it was? Then I grabbed for the camera, snapped a shot that didn’t come out well, and handed it to Katie, who had a better view from the passenger seat.

Fortunately the traffic was terrible (now there’s something you don’t say very often) and we were able to get a shot instead of zooming past.

Sign: ICK SI NS (normally QUICK SIGNS)

According to Katie, this actually said “quick sins” the previous time we drove past it!

This shot almost cost us our new car. The sign faces the freeway, and rather than stick Katie with shooting from a moving vehicle at night, I tried to find a good angle from the parking lot. We saw that the lot extended far enough to see around the corner, and headed for the end of the lot. As I prepared to turn into the last space on the end, a truck came zooming around the corner of the next building over, a Carl’s Jr. with a drive-through and absolutely no visibility. Clearly they weren’t expecting to see anyone in the lot at 10:00 at night. Fortunately we both stopped in time.

Also, I now know that the horn works.

I’ve been driving a 2007 Toyota Prius for a little over two months now. My old car was a 1997 Nissan Sentra that I’d had for years, so just driving another car is a change. Then factor in the switch from a plain gas engine to a hybrid

Thoughts on the Car

Very smooth, very quiet ride. Lots of nifty little conveniences, like the fact that it remembers different volume levels for radio vs. the line-in jack (for the iPod). Far roomier inside than it looks. Oddly enough, I think it may be wider than the old car.

Not big on the hatchback, though I’m getting used to it. Cargo space is limited, though it makes very efficient use of the space it has. Lots of extra little compartments, hooks, etc. Cup holders are a bit too loose* for most purposes, including my travel coffee mug (yeah, big deal, I know).

Driving it

I’ve found myself changing the way I drive. I used to focus on maintaining stopping distance. Now I’m focusing on making the most efficient use of acceleration. The Prius dashboard displays the point MPG, and a graph of 5-minute averages over the past half-hour. It makes you acutely aware of which actions are most efficient. Continue reading