Not especially surprising, in its recently announced Top Picks, Consumer Reports has named the Toyota Prius as its top “Green car.”
From the publication that touts itself as bias-free as possible, the opening description of the Prius is a bit revealing as to implicit preferences or, if we may phrase it even more benignly, it suggests Consumer Reports observations are not neutral, and seem to suggest predilections of pros and cons in a given vehicle.
“The Prius is the most economical five-passenger car that doesn’t have to be plugged in,” wrote Consumer Reports in its first sentence.
This is true, but one might as easily have phrased it as the Prius is the most economical five passenger car that cannot be plugged in.
That is, ought one portray the inability to plug in as an implicit benefit that one “doesn’t have to” do, or as a drawback?
Whether this was an intentionally loaded phrase, or not, we will say that one person’s drawback may be another person’s benefit. Also true is the Prius must still be driven to the gas station and filled up, which compared to plug-in electric cars that do not have to, is an expense, and an extra chore that requires fuel and produces emissions – although said fill ups will not have to be done as often as with other cars, to be sure.
We point this out not to nitpick, but we’re being sensitive to any implications that plugging in is a drawback as surveys and other opinion makers have said it can be a negative feature, when plugging in could just as easily and validly be painted as a positive, and inability to plug in could be painted as a shortcoming.
Certainly the implication that that plugging in to electricity is undesirable would be contested by many plug-in car owners who find it more convenient to charge at their own home thereby avoiding the gas station. What’s more, plug-in cars return far higher economy – albeit usually with less range, more expense, and longer refueling times, this is true.
So for sure, plug-in cars do represent a trade-off, and do have other perceived drawbacks one might more validly observe, but the actual plugging in is arguably not one of them.
In any case, Consumer Reports was intending to positively portraying the Prius, and found it to average 44 mpg overall and 55 on the highway.
The ride in the Prius is “firm yet steady,” observed Consumer Reports, and handling is “sound and secure, but not particularly agile.”
While the publication praised interior room as improved over the previous generation Prius, it said road noise is pronounced and some controls take some getting used to.
Reliability of the non-plug-in car in question, and the plug-in Prius also are “well above average,” said Consumer Reports.
Thus the Prius is not perfect, one can see, but it does a solid job, and has been pronounced by the influential consumer-oriented publication as the top green car.