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March 23, 2001: MPG

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Richard and I borrowed a car from the Toyota dealership last Saturday. We didn't have to pay any rental fees - we just let them copy our driver's licenses and then drove off as they waved goodbye. We got no hard sell - an unusual thing for an auto dealership; no fast patter to convince us we should buy. But that's because the folks at Toyota probably realize by now that there is no need. They can't keep these things on the lot. The car sells itself.

We drove the Prius last Saturday - Toyota's little gas and electric hybrid. We traded driver vs passenger every time we stopped the car on our many errands that day, taking turns adjusting the seat, fiddling with the controls, watching the digital display screen avidly, watching the little picture diagram of gas vs electric motor usage and excitedly calling out each increase in our miles per gallon ratio. We drove at least 200 miles in that car Saturday and by the end we were both head over heels in serious like.

The Prius looks like someone took a normal compact and squashed the nose and rear. It's a cute car - which scores points with me (the one who's dream car used to be a Volkswagon Beetle because it's so darn cute). It's also got most of the bells and whistles of the standard compact, plus an air conditioner where you can choose the temperature. This also scored big points with the one who can never get comfortable with AC in the car and keeps turning it on and off even on hot days. Um - that would be me there too.

We scooted around the greater Sacramento area in search of marble for the fireplace. Our stop at one home improvement store was futile, but as we were about to get into our little loaner car, another family stopped us. What the heck *is* it, they wanted to know. So we dutifully babbled all about how cool this car was, even popping the hood so they could check out the engine, letting them pile into the front and back seat so they could ooh and aah over the nifty digital display. The one thing which gets everyone (it got both of us - heh) is that when you're idling, the engine eventually stops. It just shuts off. It's more than a bit disconcerting because the normal reaction is to think that it's stalled, but it's simply that the electric motor has taken over. This little car is *made* for rush hour traffic, and toodling around town hitting stop signs and stoplights. Contrary to the regular compact, it's fuel economy goes up when it does lots of stops.

We took that car everywhere. We showed it off to all our friends and to my parents. We had one heck of a lot of fun with that car. And we gave it back the next day without buying one.

Like I said, we're head over heels in serious like with the car. The possibility of cutting our gas bills literally in half has an enormous appeal, plus the fact that's it's environmentally friendly is a big selling point too. But we're being good. We've got this house we're buying and very soon we'll be dealing with one whopping huge mortgage and, well, it just wouldn't be a smart idea to jump into car loans right now until we make sure we can afford it.

But in the meantime, we're still gushing. And looking down the road to when we'll be able to get it - one for each of us.

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