Good For: Pious commuting. Driving a Prius makes a statement about how socially responsible you are. Never mind how inefficient your driving habits are. I tried to walk the line driving around the Bay Area. Unlike the C-Max, the Prius is actually noticeably more efficient than other gas-powered vehicles.
Compromises: Toyota deviates from standard automotive controls with a goofy gear shifter that includes only R, N, D, and B. B sent me rummaging through the owner's manual, and is actually just like "L" on every other car, which changes the gear ratio to a much shorter one. According to the manual this actually decreases efficiency. Park is has been changed to a button, along with 3 buttons for Eco, Power, and EV modes. EV mode will not activate or quickly kick you out of it if you exceed the accelerator or speed parameters under which it operates. Generally speaking, I found it a lot easier to just watch the Hybrid System Indicator display and use the good old fashioned accelerator pedal to keep the Prius in the mode that I want it in. I was pleased to find a volume control for the keyless entry beeping among the menu of car settings. But this does not change the Toyota standard of not being able to lock the car with any of the doors or hatch open.
Overall reaction - Thumb down: The Prius has some efficiency advantages, but I'm not finding the benefits of a hybrid system worth the cost. There is the initial price of $24k for the base model, which takes years to recover in the gasoline bill versus other compact cars. It is also noticeably slower than any other vehicle I've driven in years. Power mode doesn't help with this, since it's just a psychological remap of the throttle curve. At wide open throttle power delivery is exactly the same. The problem is that pound for pound, batteries do not deliver as much energy as the combustable fuels. Is it worth having to haul around the extra weight of the electric motor and batteries all the time, just to recover that additional bit of energy?