Province Commuting Challenge: Teacher gets a hybrid education

You wouldn’t be wrong in noting that comparing fuel economy of a compact hybrid to a hulking SUV is a bit of an apples to oranges proposition.

But the idea behind the Province Commuting Challenge is for 10 readers scattered across Metro Vancouver to do their weekly commute in a hybrid — in this case a 2013 Toyota Prius C — and compare its performance, comfort and fuel efficiency to that of their own daily commuter.

And also to report on the weekly and annual savings of such a switch.

In the second instalment, high school chemistry teacher Ian Wong, a Yaletown resident who commutes 75 kilometres a day between home and Coquitlam, parked his 2006 Land Rover LR3 HSE for a week and jumped in our Prius C tester.

His initial reactions were positive.

“Well, I’m surprised I fit,” the 6’2”, 280 pounder said when first getting in the compact hybrid. “That was one thing I was worried about.”

Wong said that he had looked at a Prius in the past, probably when fuel prices spiked and the weekly bill for his Land Rover bounded upwards.

But he finds the utility of the LR3 fits his lifestyle.

“We do a lot of skiing and golfing, so the car is also my gym locker,” he explained. “I have golf clubs, and skis often left in the car. So we’ll have to see how the trunk space works out for accessories.”

Once underway on his first drive, his appreciation for the Prius C grew.

“I thought it would feel a lot smaller when I was driving it, but it’s got lots of legroom, and my seat is not even all the way back.”

He also noted how quiet the ride was.

“And it doesn’t drive like a hybrid. I haven’t really noticed when it switches from one mode to the other,” he observed. “It will be interesting to see how it handles on the highway, especially with the fuel economy.”

A week later we caught up with Wong to pick up the tester.

“It reminded me of driving a small car back in my university days,” he said of the driving experience. “The turning radius is amazing; it will fit in any parking stall and you seem to have lots of room, whereas with my Land Rover you kind of need a wide spot.”

As to fuel economy, he couldn’t help but sing the C’s praises.

“I averaged about five litres per one hundred kilometres, and my Land Rover gets 17.3 litres per hundred kilometres. So it would save me about three thousand dollars a year.”
Weekly consumption2

Ever the scientist, he also developed a new theory: “If you see a Prius pulling away slowly, it’s not because it doesn’t have power, it’s because the driver is playing this video game that’s on the dash. Every time you start and stop you get a score out of a hundred.

“I’m a teacher, so the fact that it’s educating you to try and drive a little better, or conserve energy is nice.”

He also noted he paired up his phone with Toyota’s connectivity software with no problems, and “when you put the (rear) seat down there is quite a bit of room. The golf clubs could fit.”

So, will he be trading in the Rover for a hybrid anytime soon?

“I enjoyed the test week,” he admitted, but added, “It’s given me a new appreciation about how nice my current ride is.”

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About Andrew McCredie