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Why doesn't my wife's Prius like Ohio?

Posted by John Paul  September 26, 2011 03:20 PM

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Q. My wife has a 2005 Prius, until 2008, she got 50+ mpg. Then we moved to Ohio and her mpg dropped to 40 miles per gallon. This year we moved back to Massachusetts the Prius mpg jumped back up to 50 miles per gallon. My 2009 Toyota Sienna has been getting about 22mpg both places. Her driving habits have not changed significantly. What could be causing the difference in her car, but not in mine?

A. Fuel economy can vary due to temperature, altitude and driving style. Ohio and Massachusetts are actually fairly similar. The average temperatures are within a couple of degrees of each other. The altitudes certainly vary, but in my opinion not enough to affect mileage. Gasoline formulas can vary from state to state, but again not enough to cause a 20 percent difference in fuel economy. The only logical conclusion is your wife’s driving style had to change in Ohio.

Q.Yesterday I discovered your column, perhaps it was a sign. I am in a dilemma about my car, a 2009 Toyota Corolla; I am having trouble with visibility. I have raised the driver's seat as high as it will go, and I sit on two pillows; but the front hood and the left and right front bumpers are not in my range of vision. As a driver, I want to see more, but I’m also only five feet tall. The left side mirror blocks my view at times and the windshield pillars, at times are also in my way. I am seriously considering trading this car for another with better visibility. I am considering the Honda Civic and the Honda Fit as replacements. Many of the newer cars look much like what I already have, do you have any suggestions?

A. You certainly are correct that some cars are better suited to shorter drivers than others. Many people I talk to are happy with the Honda FIT and the Ford Focus, the seating tends to be what is referred to as “command” seating giving the driver a better overall view. You might also consider a small SUV such as the GMC Terrain or Honda CRV. These vehicles sit a bit higher and offer a better view. Readers, do you have a suggestion for a short statured driver?

Q. Love the column and I'd really appreciate your take on a question I have. I have a 55 mile round-trip commute each day, but I have a need for (and enjoy the security/utility of) a full size four-wheel-drive truck, especially in the snow. So, with gas prices threatening the $4 and up per gallon again, gas cost are an issue. I've done the math on carrying two vehicles; a truck and a very inexpensive commuter car. Figuring for gas savings, increased insurance, excise, maintenance, even a very inexpensive second car doesn't save you much. Small trucks don't really offer that much better MPG than the full size ones, and if they do, they are tiny and underpowered. I'm really stumped, and I think a lot of people feel the same way. The full size trucks, while gas guzzlers, really fill a need, and I really like the size/mass safety of them. Please give me your thoughts on this, or some suggestions. Are the Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Frontier good compromises, especially given their high resale values?

A. Today a full size pickup truck with its abundance of creature comforts can easily replace the family car, while still able to make trips to the home improvement store. Recently I drove the Ford F150 with the V-8 engine and easily averaged 19 miles per gallon in a mix of city and highway driving. Ford is ramping up production of its new EcoBoost V-6 engine. This engine is more powerful than the V-8 and offers 20 percent better fuel economy than the current 5.0 liter V-8 engine. The Tacoma and Frontier are both fine vehicles but the fuel economy is no better and in some case worse than some competitive full size trucks.

Comment from: Nancy C. about daytime headlight use. I feel the same way; people need to turn their headlights on! Daytime running lights (DLR) give people a false sense of safety, since there are no lights on! What's the point if the person behind you can’t see you? In my opinion auto lights are just as useless, I work in large dealership with florescent and LED's lights where auto lights will turn on, but will turn off outside with dark grey skies! I own a Subaru-no DLR's and I leave them ON all the time. Tell your readers to do the same!

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
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