Blog : I polished a Prius… and I liked it

Andrew Elphick

Andrew Elphick polished an Enterprise Prius. Hmm.
Andrew Elphick polished an Enterprise Prius. Hmm.

I polished a hire car…

There I’ve said it, the secret’s out. I polished a hire car – I couldn’t help myself!

So now your thinking? Weekend treat? Unexpected upgrade? Killed my daily? Actually a bit of all three… Rewind to last weekend and the treacherously unseasonal weather – call it April power showers. Well yours truly, on the natural high that only a run of 12 hour night shifts can provide, attempted to re-create that famous scene from the Spy Who Loved Me where James plunges his Lotus Esprit, chrome Wolfrace alloys and all, into the Sardinian coast.

Well, exchange Sardinia for an Essex B-road, then swap those crystal clear blue breakers for breached river bank brown and you’re there. Annoyingly a FIAT Marea, a KIA Sedona, a Rover 25 and a BMW 5-Series have over the last ten years effortlessly ploughed through exactly the same spot, smeared with a negligible amount of standing water. However, the evil henchmen in GM’s Russelsheim lair cunningly decided that the best place for a forced air intake is as close to the ground as possible… yep… you can guess it…

Anyway, I’m awaiting the results of my aquatic experiment, but in the mean time a courtesy car arrived. Several of them in fact. Car number one was a rather smart black Astra, very nicely equipped and featuring three pedals. So I made a call, reminded all concerned my additional premium to ensure an automatic transmission equipped car. No problem, a rather smart delivery milage Corsa arrived, also in black, and sharing the same cubic capacity as a ride on lawnmower. So I made a call, reminded all that my additional premium guaranteed at least 1600cc. No problem, car number three procured. Eventually… A day later I went to pick up the two pedal Toyota I had been promised, but there was a surprise – a 61 plated Prius sat waiting in Enterprise’s back lot.

A Prius on AROnline!?!?!


Yep, an evil risible environmental joke, driven by people who wear hats and hug trees. You know the thing, no brakes (and no road tax neither).

Hey, I’m a car guy, so actually I got a little excited (to the extent I wound all the windows down to see if I could hear it pull away) to have the keys, no sorry remotes to something different. This is where it went wrong. Everyone knows the special qualities of a hire car – faster in all gears (including reverse) than a regular car.

As the hire depot is on the side of a dual carriage way, I had to deploy my size ten to the MASH position on the accelerator. So I looked over my right shoulder and my right foot selected MASH. Rather like a lift changing floors, there was a whhiirrrr noise to a heady 40mph. Just like a normal car and actually a lot quicker than one anticipated in all honesty. The only difference being the swap from whhiirrr to brummm at just below 20mph when the infernal combustion engine made itself heard. That was the problem I mentioned – this affront to all car enthusiasts the world over, drove like a car; a rather sweetly chassised one at that.


Actually, this indignant eco-slur to the world’s highways happened to be a rather good car – a broad power band (no woeful diesel-like, all or nothing power band), good visibility, plenty of adult space in the back, a taught yet comfortable ride, all very acceptable. It had to bite somewhere. So even though I had signed for a full tank I squeezed £9.08p of unleaded petrol in for a brim-to-brim mpg test.

Rather annoyingly the gloating pump reminded me that petrol happened to be 6 pence a litre cheaper (or 27 pence a gallon in old money) than diesel. Next it took a scientific hammering on the nation’s motorways, at speeds enough to keep up with the fast moving traffic, *cough* I mean 70mph. Well, 287 miles and three days later I visited my personal nemesis – the filling station.

Upon squaring  upto the unleaded pump I gently squeezed the trigger, all the way to the click, click, click – so the verdict? 29.999 litres or 43.5mpg real world brisk use. Or factoring the petrol to diesel cost ratio, more economical than my CDTi (which sits at 44-45mpg what ever the weather). That’s why, chuffed with this result, I went home, got my bucket out and gave my hire car a wash.

Then a polish. Then a wax. Even the little green Enterprise “E” on the tailgate. I know it’s not normal, but then neither is wanting a Prius…

Do this to a Vauxhall Vectra and you end up in a Prius. A fair swap? Elphick thinks so...
Do this to a Vauxhall Vectra and you end up in a Prius. A fair swap? Elphick thinks so…
Andrew Elphick
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  1. Why when it comes to cars that have any sort of green credentials does everyone have come over all Jeremy Clarksonesque? – glad to see you that you where eventually open minded enough to realise that it was not that bad.

  2. Out of interest, how accurate was the on board computer’s MPG figure when compared with your brim to brim Andrew? I never know whether to trust the car’s figure!

    I think that efficient petrol hybrids may well be the future as diesel gets more and more expensive. These modern diesels are certainly quick, but their fuel economy is not what I would have expected given the high technology nature of their engines. My Dad was getting 50 mpg out of his Sierra GLX twenty years ago from its distinctly low technology 1.8 turbo diesel. Plus it had headlamp wash/wipe (a great feature – miles better than just headlamp washers), plush velour interior with rear headrests, XR4x4 alloys and an XR4x4 spoiler and it was in Diamond White with red bumper inserts – as a 16 year old I absolutely loved that car!

  3. You are sick… (ill that is). A prius is a lot of expensive and toxic chemicals wrapped up in a “green” con-trick. Driving sensibly I have has two fill-ups in the last two weeks where my Honda FRV 2.2 diesel achieved 54.4 and 53.6 mpg respectively covering more than 1,000 miles in the process.

    Want a Prius – no thank you! I’d have to grow a beard and wear sandals with socks.

  4. Tony did you read it? I’m no environmentalist, I’m just someone trying to get to work as cheap as possible! Hey in 94,95 & 2004 I purschased diesels NEW out of my own pocket… You’d love that instant heat too in the winter 🙂

    Anyhow Steve the computer claimed 43.8, my filling the filler neck gave 43.5 MPG, so fairly trustworthy.

  5. I can’t say I embrace the Pious concept- but at the same time I’m not anti them either- obviously they aren’t as ‘green’ as all that given how the batteries are made, but on the other hand there is a hell of a lot of development in progress into ‘greener’ batteries- and it is better to have cars like the Pious on the road gaining acceptance for the breed, and proving it can be done reliably.

    Without them it would be less likely that any forthcoming breakthroughs in battery technology would gain acceptance in the marketplace- the ‘naysayers’ would still be under the impression that electric vehicles (and their hybrid counterparts) inevitably weigh as much as milkfloats and have similar performance- much in the way that many Americans regard the concept of diesel cars.

    I don’t think we are there yet, in terms of electric vehicle development, but its a step in the right direction.

    Still don’t fancy one though…

  6. The Prius is an interesting car on many fronts. Socially, it ties you in with a certain kind of person but technically it is quite good. If you can get past the way people see you in it and see it as a car then it’s fine. It’s actually very good at being a transportation appliance as they tend to be cheap to run and reliable. Is it what you want to drive as an enthusiast? No, but that doesn’t mean it is a bad piece of machinery. Enjoy it for what it is then and you won’t be disappointed.

    Would I buy one for commuter duty? Well that all depends on how the numbers work out. If another vehicle is less expensive to run then logic dictates that I go with it and not the Prius. As one of the few Americans who read this site though, there are few other options available to me that offer the fuel efficiency and reliability of the Prius at a similar price. I don’t own one but have considered it as I drive 30,000 miles a year and it makes sense from a cost perspective. Europeans seem to be blessed with fuel efficient vehicle choices that we don’t get here. Small diesels and 3 cylinder cars, for example, are almost unheard of in the US market. The smallest VW we get is the Golf and the smallest engine we can buy in anything other than a Smart car is a 1.4 litre. Even then, nothing short of a hybrid has been able to beat 40 mpg in city traffic here since the 1990’s (the Geo Metro 3 cylinder, also known as the Suzuki Swift across the pond). That’s why so many people flock to these odd hybrid cars in the US- it’s the only choice we have.

  7. The famous road into Billericay? I could not even get close to the Buttsbury Ford during the (drought ) weather recently.

  8. Was it an Espirit you were driving from the GM ownership of Lotus, or a Vectra as per the photo? 😉

    Seem to recall the BX had a low air filter, though at least on it if you saw the obstacle you had a chance to raise the suspension!

    Have been tempted by the Honda hybrids, the Civic and Insight. I’m not sure if 70mph(+ 😉 ) runs are their natural home, more for pottering about town?
    Also, if you are getting diesel MPG from the hybrid, I’m interested in seeing what the PSA HDi-hybrids can come up with…

  9. “The Prius is an interesting car on many fronts. Socially, it ties you in with a certain kind of person but technically it is quite good.”

    I’d disagree with that. The goal is to reduce emissions and environmental impact – producing the thing involves more processes and finite resources, and noxious chemicals. The Pure EV range is walking distance. The fuel consumption in the real world is far worse than a decent up to date diesel. The handling is atrocious, and much of the interior fit and finish is a step back from Toyota’s previous high standards.

    It’s an icon for a particular ideology, but it’s far from a technically apt solution. The RX450h is far better as an example of real world applications for hybrid tech from Toyota.

    The Fisker Karma/Chevy Volt model, with a pure EV range measured in tens or hundreds of km and an IC range extender is far more useful, with a much greater impact on localised pollution, the ability to use ‘clean’ electricity, and in the case of the Fisker that vital cachet of exclusivity and “quality” that ensures owners will invest in proper maintenance and care, thus prolonging the lifespan of the car and reducing the effective impact of the manufacturing.

    Turning a Prius into a plug-in hybrid cost upwards of $30,000 a couple of years ago. An Ampera is only £29K or so after subsidy. Even the plug-in revisions to the Prius that Toyota were planning only extended the range a small amount, 11 miles total up from 2. And that’s best-case – so if you’re green enough to walk/cycle in summer, your short commute in miserable winter is going to need that IC engine after all.

  10. I polished a hire car once, it was quite scratched and I was bored at home waiting for them to collect it. It was a Vauxhall Astra too so nothing to be proud of!

    A Prius makes some sense around town as it can pretty much drive around on EV mode but get out of town and onto the motorway and bomb along and the mpg plummets. I see loads on the motorway all in lane 3 and I think so you bought a Prius why?

    It’s reasonably clever tech I agree but my BMW diesel will easily do 65mpg, it looks pretty cool whereas a Prius just doesn’t. Sorry.

  11. Im in the amperas corner myself and my 163 BHP volvo S60 D5 manual does 63 mpg stood on its head 2001 MY 277k on the clock,i think that is a low carbon footprint in the real world as well in terms of build/longevity ratio.

  12. For those who asked, not quite the famed Buttsbury wash, but Mountnessing road on the approach. Saying that dad my dad killed a sherpa’s conrods through the wash in the late 80’s!

    I will note @ the mpg remember like for like automatic, because as a commuting tool that’s my preference.

  13. “I see loads on the motorway all in lane 3 and I think so you bought a Prius why?”

    They are surprisingly fast on the motorway though.

  14. went in mates prius to xford for mates stag do! did its job but doors sounded tinny!! smallish boot too won,t be running to nearest toyota dealer,notunless there bringing back the toyota crown!!

  15. “doors sounded tinny!!”

    They’re a lot like these Bluemotion, Bluetec, ecotec what ever monika the various manufacturers give their fuel efficient cars.

    In order to make them very fuel efficient they strip out any non-essential weight. It’s a lot like the old Citroen AX’s, they were flimsy, plasticky and tinny, but really really good on fuel.

    All car doors are tinny, from the fact they’re made of tin (sheet steel or ally usually), in order to make a tin door clunk shut like a Rolls-Royce is simple, just stick heavy bitumen or rubber sound deadening pads on the inside of the metal skin. The more you use the more solid (and heavy) the door becomes, think about a solid Oak door compared to a modern hardboard sandwich one.

    Takes fuel to haul around the extra weight of that sound proofing though.

  16. I don’t think that’s the totality of car-door engineering. Thickness of frame, rigidity of structure, quality and mechanism of sealing. You might remove the resonance of the “clang” on a Mk 2 Fiesta door by adding a sheet of bitumen to the door panel, but it’s the core engineering of the door that makes it clang in the first place.

    Audi used a frame with an unstressed skin for ages, IIRC. Still shuts solidly.

  17. “I don’t think that’s the totality of car-door engineering. Thickness of frame, rigidity of structure, quality and mechanism of sealing. You might remove the resonance of the “clang” on a Mk 2 Fiesta door by adding a sheet of bitumen to the door panel, but it’s the core engineering of the door that makes it clang in the first place.”

    No there is more to it than that, but it is the main reason the Prius and other low emissions cars feel tinny in general. Ripping out dense sound deadening saves a lot of weight. Of course if you made the door skin from cast iron sheet then it will shut much more solidly than thin sheet steel. Most of the noise from a tinny car do is the resonance of the skin, as it just amplifies the noise of the catch.

    The Rover 75 is a good example of how sound deadening can transform a car, Pre-project drive cars had more sound insulation, owners comment on how the later cars didn’t feel as good or refined. The main reason was skimping on sound deadening to save money – but it made the car seem cheaper.

  18. A neighbour (years ago) had their AX broken into once – the boot lock was literally cut around with either tin-snips or possibly kitchen scissors!

    Had a ride in a Prius as a passenger once and I found its acceleration quite surprising. The guy who owned it changed for an Octavia 1.9 TDi – for better “real world” economy…

  19. “he boot lock was literally cut around with either tin-snips or possibly kitchen scissors!”

    It’s quite thick plastic, so scissors wouldn’t do it, but easy to crow bar them open, the rear window also formed the top half of the tail gate so breaking this mean there was only the lock to hold the boot on.

  20. The Prius is great – the Mrs’ one is very nice to drive. The most effective part is the “Field of Smugness” generator which is located just behind the front bumper I believe.

    Don’t knock it until you try it 😉

  21. I think the smugness that is part of the problem,this car must have a poor carbon footprint compared to an old j reg 106 or something in terms of manufacture of batteries and mining of rare earth metals,that goes for any hybrid.

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