Province Commuting Challenge: Englightening week in Prius c

Laura Mattiello knows all about a scary commute.

No, not the distance she travels from her North Vancouver to her job as an executive assistant in East Vancouver, but rather a close encounter with an arachnid during her participation in the Province Commuting Challenge.

“I’m absolutely terrified of spiders and when I saw it creeping across the steering wheel I threw my coat at it,” Mattiello says of the unwelcome passenger in the Toyota Prius c, adding it was during a stop at a red light, not while she was in motion. “The next day I brought a can of Raid with me in the car just in case.”

Fortunately there were no more spider sightings, though Mattiello did do some online research and discovered that nearly a million 2013 Toyotas have been recalled due to spider webs clogging air-conditioning drainage tubes. The Prius c is not on that recall list.

Apart from that frightful event, Mattiello found her week with the Prius c quite enjoyable — and enlightening.

“When I got in the car my very first thought was ‘Is it on?,’ ” the 32-year old says. “It was roomier than I expected but then again I’m only five-foot-two. Overall I thought the interior was fairly bare bones. I liked that gauges were mounted high on the dashboard as it meant for easier reading.”

Unlike previous participants in the Commuting Challenge, Mattiello was very well-versed in most aspects of the 2013 Prius c, noting that she felt it was targeted to people like herself who were interested in owning a hybrid compact car.

“I also knew that it had amazing fuel consumption, which at the time made it a contender for a future car purchase,” the proud owner of a 2008 VW Beetle adds.

There were still surprises, some good, some not so good during her weeklong evaluation.

“I knew the engine would be quiet but I was so surprised when I turned it on and didn’t hear a thing,” she reports. “Also, when I was waiting in traffic, having the Prius shut off the motor was surprising, I wasn’t expecting that.”

Mattiello also liked how easy it was to drive: “I felt like I could steer with a couple of fingers. It also was very light, the gas and brakes were much more sensitive than they are on my Beetle.”

But not all was positive. She said she found that, at times, the acceleration left her wanting.

“It made for some interesting merges onto the highway on some on-ramps in the city,” she explains. “On my commute to and from work, I encounter a lot of hills and when I would take the Prius c up the hill, especially the Cut, it sounded like it was arguing with me about having to go up a hill.”

Despite her disappointment in some performance aspects of the Prius c — after all, she is accustomed to the spirited drive of a Beetle — Mattiello couldn’t help but be impressed with the economic value of the compact hybrid.

Weekly consumption5

“My fuel consumption was great, I think I hovered around 5.5L/100km, which is about half of what my Beetle gets. I liked how it displayed the cost of fuel per trip. I saw that my trip from Coquitlam to downtown to West Vancouver only cost me $1.83, and that a 10-kilometre commute to work, only 86 cents!”

Like past participants, she was fully engaged with the ‘eco score’ display: “I tried to keep it to at least a passing score. I found that the trick was a slow and gradual acceleration and stop.”

So, does she see the day she’ll be swapping her Vee-Dub for the smallest member of the Prius family?

“It’s a nice compact-sized hybrid but I don’t think it will be my next car,” she admits.

“It’s a great car to drive around in the city and because of its size it was so easy to park.

“On the highway it gets great mileage but I found it a little bit noisy; not the engine but the wind coming in the cabin. Also, you tend to feel and hear every pothole or bump that you go over. At the end of the week, the lack of acceleration and overall oomph really made me miss my Beetle.”

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About Andrew McCredie