Is the Toyota Prius difficult to drive in the snow?

I'm considering a Toyota Prius, but while scanning various blogs and websites I see that the Prius has trouble in the snow. Can you tell me if this is true? I live in Colorado and would love a Prius but have a job like the mailman...rain, snow, sleet or shine. And my job requires lots of driving!

Jennifer G. Parker, Colo.

We road tested the Toyota Prius last winter and got some snow time with the hybrid. Senior editor Joe Wiesenfelder gives details in his review of the Prius:

“Mother Nature even threw some snow at the Prius, and in that situation it performed fine. The only drawback is that my car's traction control was a bit intrusive. The electronic stability system definitely made for safer travel, but the electric motor's high torque easily spun the drive wheels. Every time traction broke, the system would intervene, keeping the car in control but resulting in halting acceleration.”


A concern for hybrid drivers in the winter isn’t only the snow and road-holding, but also temperatures that greatly affect hybrid’s gas mileage. Hybrids are less efficient at colder temps, as Wiesenfelder explains:

 “A major drawback of the Prius and all other hybrids I've tested is their winter performance. Cold temperatures decrease battery capacity, just as they do for the average 12-volt battery (which is why older batteries that were OK in summer may not start the car when it gets cold out). As a result, the engine must run at first to top off the battery and then more often throughout use to keep it charged. The mileage hit is not small. We're talking several mpg on average. Chicago's maddening weather actually came in useful in this test because I drove for days in temperatures below freezing and at times near 0 degrees. The trip computer said I was getting between 30 and 40 mpg in mixed driving. Then the temp shot up close to 60 degrees, and suddenly I was getting more than 50 mpg without even trying.”

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Answered by Joe Bruzek on February 4, 2009 in I'm Just Wondering | Permalink

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