Claiming environmental superiority, low gas mileage and the quietest ride outside of a bicycle, the Toyota Prius is a car that inspires rabid, cult-like legions of fans. They create websites, message boards and even Facebook pages to celebrate their love of a car. Not since the original Ford Mustang has a car inspired such loyalty.
As this week's cover story demonstrates in vivid, cutting detail, the Prius isn't all it's cracked up to be. With a safety record that includes dangerously random accelerations, defective brakes and mysterious stalling, the Prius has a dark underbelly that's very rarely seen or mentioned in the media, much less among their legions of fans.
Add to this the fact that the Prius is downright aesthetically unappealing, not to mention followed by a "cloud of smug" everywhere it goes, and you have the potential for some very ugly Prius backlash. Below are some of our favorite embarrassing moments in Prius history (with our cover story at number one, of course).
2. There Is Nothing Appealing About This Car: Jeremy Clarkson reviews the Prius on BBC's long-running auto show, Top Gear. Among his assessments of the car are such gems as "I'd rather look at the back-end of a baboon" and "In a desperate bid to keep costs down, they seem to have made it out of tracing paper." His final verdict on the Prius? The only thing it's good for is target practice, which is amply demonstrated in the video below.
3. Hybrid Cars Cause Smug, And That's Way Worse: South Park took the Prius to task as only Matt Stone and Trey Parker can. In the 2006 episode "Smug Alert!", the show mocked the smugness and self-congratulatory nature of Prius owners, the arrogance of whom makes them even enjoy the smell of their own flatulence. In the commentary below, Stone and Parker discuss how the idea for the episode came from acquaintances of theirs who drove hybrid cars to "set an example for the little people, and they were so fucking smug about it, it was unbelievable."
4. Save Your Hippie BS For The Winter Months: On the equally popular animated series Family Guy, the long-running joke is that the family dog -- Brian -- drives a 2004 Prius with a Kucinich '04 bumper sticker. The car was chosen to suit his somewhat smarmy, pseudo-intellectual yet ineffective personality, which the other characters on the show frequently mock. His Prius was first introduced in the episode "North by North Quahog," and the show continually finds ways to work the gag into other episodes as seen below.
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5. And Then You Push The Power Button...: The mere existence of the video below is embarrassing, as your vehicle should never be complicated enough to require a YouTube tutorial on how to start it. The man behind the video commented that he created the short clip "to show my family how this was done. I rented this car from Hertz and it took me about 10 minutes (and some help from a Hertz guy) to get it started the first time." Engineering fail at its finest.
6. Stopping Global Warming Has Finally Gotten Cool: Grand Theft Auto video games have a long tradition of satirizing popular culture, and the Prius certainly doesn't get a free pass. In the commercial below for GTA 4, a spoof meta-commercial for the "Karin Dilettante" calls out the car's notoriously high price tag: "Expensive, but the earth is worth it!"