2007 Toyota Prius - Gripes

Don't get me wrong; generally everything is pretty neat. These are things I would change if I could - and in theory, most things being computer controlled, they could be changed by a software update or configuration setting.
  • The backup sonalert is inaudible from outside the car, where it might be useful, and serves only to annoy the driver
    Fixed! See t129900 at toyotanation.com
  • The "gear lever" is upside down. "up and left", corresponding to first gear on almost every car I've driven (including a Toyota Previa), is reverse on the Prius. Performing this near-instinctive action at traffic lights caused the car to back up in traffic; fortunately not far enough to hit anything.
  • The controls on the steering wheel are hard to see in the dark, and hard to use if the steering wheel is not dead level, i.e. the car is negotiating any kind of curve.
  • The default display (if the "revert to navigation" setting is selected) on the centre console has an animated graphic and is somewhat distracting.
  • There is no manual control to open the driver's window; the electric control will not work unless the power is on (or has been on in the last 40 seconds). Annoying if you've just sat down and closed the door, and someone is trying to tell you you've dropped your wallet.
  • When reaching for the power switch, ones hand tends to hit the wiper/washer control
  • Rear wiper only reaches 2/3 the width of the window. There is no wiper on the lower portion of the window.
  • The traction control is ineffectual compared to AWD (e.g. Previa 4WD) in ice/snow; however, apparently it protects the electric motors from excessive rpm if the wheels spin. It's also supposed to apply the brake to one spinning wheel, which sounds like a good idea, mimicing a limited-slip differential. (I guess if I really wanted AWD we should have got a Highlander, which has an electric motor on the rear wheels. But it ought to be possible to fit, say, a 15kW motor-generator on each Prius rear wheel. This would also give better fuel economy through regenerative braking on all 4 wheels - activating a friction brake on a hybrid is an admission of failure.)
    - a couple of threads on the toyotanation forum suggest that traction control is a liability in snow, even on the Highlander. And the Prius user's manual suggests that ABS is a liability on gravel (some major highways in Canada are still gravel). We need to be able to turn this stuff off if it gets in the way of driving.
  • The climate controls on the centre console have no tactile feedback. Compared to a traditional layout, it is hard to e.g. adjust the fan speed without taking ones eyes off the road. The position in the centre of the dash, as opposed to in front of the driver, makes this worse
  • The brightness of the centre console display does not reduce sufficiently at night. But one can play with the brightness and contrast.
  • The centre console display does not switch to the audio or climate view when an audio or climate control is selected on the steering wheel or centre console.
  • There is no tachometer
  • The tire pressure indicator is not split into separate outputs. It would be nice to list the pressure for each tire on the centre display
  • The "door open" indicator is not split into separate outputs. It would be nice to show which door is not properly closed.
  • Seatbelt and occupant sensors are only fitted for the driver and front passenger, where they are not needed. It would be more useful to fit them in the rear seats, to indicate whether children seated there have buckled up. The seatbelt sensor system cunningly sounds an alert if you place packages on the front seat, but fortunately it stops after a bit.
  • The radio has a message icon that lights up to indicate that a digital message is available on FM; however if the car is moving the message says that no message is available while driving. Why not just suppress the message entirely, or leave it to the driver's judgement. Or just display the message without someone having to mess about with buttons.
    (apparently Coastal Tech has a mod package for this)
  • The icons on the steerning wheel for "rear window defrost" and "windscreen defrost" are confusing. It's not clear which is which without looking in the book (or at the console). The shape for the front windscreen icon is upside-down, and both are shown with vertical "hot air" waves when in reality the rear window has horizontal heating strips. Interestingly, I saw the same icons in a GM pickup. Maybe we are just supposed to "know", like people who had never had a carburettor apart were supposed to know that's what a choke looked like in the original Mini.
    Steering wheel: Console: Actual shape:
  • The cruise control won't hold a constant speed downhill. This is written up in the manual, so Toyota evidently think it's a feature, not a bug. Wrong, IMO. The computer system has access to the brakes - it uses them for traction control - so it ought to be able to put the brakes on automatically to maintain constant speed in cruise control.
  • Judging from the number of warning stickers and notices, the airbags are potentially extremely dangerous. However, there is no way to disable them if they present a greater hazard to some occupants than a collision. Fortunately, I think we are currently robust enough to survive an airbag strike.
Good stuff:
  • Split rear seats that fold almost flat
  • Switch off when idle
  • Fitted all-weather mats (extra)
  • Regenerative braking
  • Quiet. Really quiet.
  • Low fuel consumption
  • Low emissions
  • Neat foldaway cupholders
  • Neat popup sunglasses holder

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