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One day of the gerbil-powered Toyota Prius is enough

Hertz made me drive a Prius. Never again.

300 Gerbilpower Matt Asay

If you live in Silicon Valley, you dream of the day when you will be rich enough to slum around in a Toyota Prius. Today I got to live the Prius dream. I just hope the gerbils powering the "engine" get a rest tonight.

Hertz screwed up my reservation and so "upgraded" me to a Prius. Having lived in the Valley for a few years, I was used to seeing socially conscious, ecologically smug entrepreneurs driving around in their gerbilmobiles, but this was my first chance to drive one.

It turns out that I wasn't missing a thing.

Not only does the Prius look like a gerbil, but it drives like one. I was actually worried that the gerbils would get hungry, but they seemed to do fine (though I burned a lot more gas in one day than I would have expected, and only drove 100 miles or less).

The worst thing about the Prius, however, is that it constantly reminds you of how socially conscious it is with an obnoxious display that shows the cogs turning (read: gerbils running). I managed to turn it off while I was driving, but it kept coming back whenever I restarted the car (by yelling "Giddyup!" at the gerbils).

It does have some nice touches. For one, it's cool how fast the engine starts. You push the start button and drive. While it's a bit disconcerting at first to not here the engine when I'd come to a stop (the gerbils didn't even breathe heavily), I got used to it.

What I couldn't get used to, however, was the terrible visibility in the rearview mirror or how easily the side windows fogged up. That, coupled with the distracting display panel and the poorly positioned hand controls on the steering wheel (changing the radio station from the steering wheel is an exercise in frustration) meant that I couldn't wait to get rid of the car. Hopefully next time Hertz will give me a Ford Fiesta or Toyota Corolla.

At any rate, if you drive a Prius, I apologize. It might make you feel good about yourself but while you might be saving the environment you're killing gerbils en masse. And to think they've sacrificed so much for such paltry performance....