Our cars: Toyota Prius+ - May
Week ending May 31
Driven this week 419 miles
Toyota Prius+ review
We no longer have to take our bulky travel cot with us when we visit my father-in-law, and that's freed up a lot of luggage space. So, for the first time, we managed the bank holiday trip back to Norfolk in the Prius+, rather than my husband's estate car.
We did have to remove the tonneau cover as this sits just 29cm from the boot floor and would otherwise have given us a very shallow load area. However, this allowed us to take a three-wheel Mountain Buggy Swift pushchair, three 70-litre hold-alls, three extra-large supermarket bags of toys and food, a large box of Duplo, our swimming kit, the family's wellies and a few other bits and bobs, too. There was no need for any stuff to travel in the back seats with the kids, either.
The real test will come in a few weeks, when we head to the Isle of Wight for a whole week, but as we plan to swap our buggy for a smaller model, I reckon we may just manage.
By Alex Newby
Week ending May 24
Driven this week 52 miles
For months I've put up with the fact that most of the contacts on my iPhone couldn't be selected from the touchscreen in the Prius+; they appeared in pale grey instead of white, and wouldn't respond to my touch. The actual phone numbers didn't appear next to the names, either, as they did on the contacts that worked. Re-pairing my phone, and upgrading it from an iPhone 4 model to a 4S, didn't make any difference.
This week I finally found time to ask my local Toyota dealer about the problem, and I'm kicking myself for not going there sooner.
Within minutes a salesman discovered that the 'missing' contacts were all ones that I had put in the 'other' box in their entry on my iPhone. I'd done this through sheer laziness, simply because this was the first box given, rather than put them in the dedicated box for 'mobile', which is where the Prius+ downloads numbers from.
So, problem solved - well, sort of. Now I have to go through all contacts and reassign all those 'other' numbers, which could take some time...
By Alex Newby
Week ending May 17
Driven this week 610 miles
Disappointed by an average of just 40.8mpg from the Toyota Prius+, I've been making a point of driving as efficiently as possible to see if some additional effort on my part will help improve my fuel return.
As well as accelerating and braking really smoothly, and anticipating the situation as far ahead as possible to avoid slowing down or stopping unnecessarily, I've had some tips from Toyota's driving efficiency expert, Steve Croughan. In particular, Steve has recommended that I choose a speed I'll be able to maintain in the given road conditions; then, having reached it, very slightly lift my right foot off the accelerator to tell the Prius+ to switch from the petrol engine to battery power.
After this, a light touch with the right foot should be enough to keep the car rolling along using battery power alone, at least until it becomes too depleted or a change in the road conditions require the petrol engine to kick in.
It's a technique that takes a bit of getting used to but it seems to be paying off, with the car's trip meter reading an average of 53.3mpg at present. I can't help but wonder if the warmer weather has helped, too (all batteries struggle in the cold, after all), but there must surely be some relationship between my new driving methods and the Prius+ lower fuel consumption.
By Alex Newby
Week ending May 10
Driven this week 167 miles
The arrival of some sunshine brought the first outing for the Prius+'s rear sunblinds, particularly because my little boys can't dodge the sun's rays while they're strapped tight into their car seats.
The blinds proved very effective, but not such great quality: having been pressed into service for the past two weeks, the passenger-side blind appears exhausted, and refuses to retract into the door when not in use.
Leaving it hanging down over the car door isn't an option because it'll tempt my two-year-old into some sort of misdemeanour, so it will have to stay in place over the window until I can get to my local Toyota service centre – not such a welcome feature on gloomy days.