Piston Slap: Overhyped Hybrid Analysis Paralysis?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Mishie writes:

Hi –

I love your blog. Its been an invaluable resource in my efforts to purchase a car. I have a pretty long daily commute and I’m a bit of a greenie so I’m really interested in purchasing a hybrid. I’ve looked at a number of models including the new Honda Accord hybrid but I’ve hesitated in buying the model I really wanted – the Prius – because of reports of acceleration and braking issues. Do those issues still persist?

I’m also pretty partial to the Lexus RX450 but since its a Toyota, I’m guessing its plagued with the same issues. I’ve looked at the Ford Fusion (not entirely sold on its reliability), the Honda Accord (too new and no room for a spare tire), and the Hyundai Sonata (read about their braking issues also). Is there a reliable hybrid out there? I have very little aptitude for mechanics so feel free to respond as if I’m ten. LOL!


Sajeev answers:

Don’t worry, there are no stupid questions…provided they aren’t addressed to Sanjeev. But I digress…

That said, drop everything and go buy a Prius now! Are you letting recalls and the media frenzy around unintended acceleration stopping you? If on the remote chance this happens, put the vehicle in neutral and regain your sanity. Because unintended acceleration can happen to anyone. Try to kill the panic as fast as possible, and get the car under control with a flick of the shift lever. Okay?

And what of the Prius braking problems? Done. Over. They certainly replaced a bad part/design and “bled” the brake lines to make sure everything works correctly. For decades now, braking systems incorporate safeguards (like multichannel brake fluid distribution) to keep this from being a life threatening problem. And they don’t call it an emergency brake for no reason!

Stop worrying about problems commonplace in the car biz, or continue to worry and take the bus. Put another way: there are NO BAD CARS. Even the Smart Car isn’t necessarily bad. And while Land Rovers are unreliable wallet killers and Corollas are perfect to the point of boredom, the differences between a “good” car and a “bad” car are nearasdamnit to statistically insignificant.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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4 of 54 comments
  • Luvmyv8 Luvmyv8 on Jan 29, 2014

    I'm not a fan of the Prius myself- BUT simply because it isn't my cup of tea. There's nothing wrong with it, I just prefer more engaging cars, is all. The acceleration and braking problems aren't real. The Prius that you saw on the news from a few years back; a guy claimed that he couldn't stop his Prius and had the help of a California Highway Patrol Crown Victoria, brought the car to a stop. This was during the height of the Toyota Sudden Acceleration scares and of course Toyota wanted to investigate this particular case. This happened in San Diego and the Prius was brought to the dealership that I would be eventually hired at. My coworkers that were there at the time told me that particular Prius was roped off and no one was allowed to touch it. They brought in people who designed the car from Japan and anyone relevant. They pored over EVERYTHING on the car. Turns out it was indeed a hoax. The owner had a very questionable history and was in extreme debt trouble. He was trying to con Toyota into paying him off and getting a new car free. When Toyota discovered that nothing was wrong with the Prius with proof, the guy did indeed "go away". Also in favor of the Prius, I think the main HV battery has a longer warranty- I THINK. I sell Toyota parts and mainly when I see a bad HV battery, it's usually replaced under a warranty.... that being said, ask a Toyota Service Associate first! They should be able to give you details on the HV battery and warranties therein. Also on the Prius, they are 2 batteries; the main one is what I call the "HV" battery. It's roughly fuel tank sized and is generally underneath the car in the back. That's the expensive one. The second one is what is known as the "auxillary" battery. This one is small- (bigger then a motorcycle battery, but smaller then a conventional car battery) and is trunk mounted. The Prius is a good car and is certainly more reliable then a Volkswagen. Sure the VDubb would be a better driver, but there's too man VW horror stories..... that's what scared me off a Jetta GLI not too long ago.

  • LesM LesM on Jan 30, 2014

    "If on the remote chance this happens, put the vehicle in neutral and regain your sanity" There is no "neutral" in a Prius. The way out of that unlikely jam is to press the start/stop button for over 10 seconds, which should kill the engine. The Prius is a decent-enough city car, but I wouldn't get one for highway use. It's unstable in crosswinds and gutless on hills. It also has no front-end feel, which makes it a very scary ride in rain or snow. Also, the seats are typical Toyota: anyone over 5'10" has to drive with their knees in the air, which can tire you out quickly. There's a good number of cars that get over 40mpg highway and feel much more planted and relaxed on long runs.

    • See 1 previous
    • Eddy Currents Eddy Currents on Feb 09, 2014

      LesM, There is misinformation in your post. There is Neutral in a Prius. Move the shift lever to N and hold it there for .8 of a second. Shutting down the hybrid drive system requires a 3 second hold of the power button.

  • Tassos ask me if I care.
  • ToolGuy • Nice vehicle, reasonable price, good writeup. I like your ALL CAPS. 🙂"my mid-trim EX tester is saddled with dummy buttons for a function that’s not there"• If you press the Dummy button, does a narcissist show up spouting grandiose comments? Lol.
  • MaintenanceCosts These are everywhere around here. I'm not sure the extra power over a CR-V hybrid is worth the fragile interior materials and the Kia dealership experience.
  • MaintenanceCosts It's such a shame about the unusable ergonomics. I kind of like the looks of this Camaro and by all accounts it's the best-driving of the current generation of ponycars. A manual 2SS would be a really fun toy if only I could see out of it enough to drive safely.
  • ToolGuy Gut feel: It won't sell all that well as a new vehicle, but will be wildly popular in the used market 12.5 years from now.(See FJ Cruiser)