Driving Impressions

By January 26, 2000

Overall, the driving experience is not that different from a regular small car. If you drive it normally it is a relatively spirited small two-seater coupe. It is not a sports car, but it is perfectly capable of keeping up with traffic. The big difference is that you end up getting between 50 and 60 miles per gallon without trying to drive in an economical fashion.

On the other hand, if you start to learn new habits and follow the small arrow on the dash that tells you when to upshift or downshift you’ll end up getting 70 or more miles per gallon. At first driving the car in the most economical mode is disconcerting. The engine stops running when ever you come to a stop, as long as you put the gearshift into neutral and don’t leave it in gear with the clutch in. As soon as you select a gear the engine restarts instantly and the car moves off again.

On the highway one has to get used to the perception that the engine is lugging. It seems as if it needs to be downshifted into a lower gear most of the time. In fact it can be left in the higher gear as suggested by the upshift light without any problems as the electric motor adds torque as needed.

The car handles quite nicely with a good ride for a small car. It has really skinny low-rolling resistance tires that make it look under-tired. Handling and the car’s looks would be improved with fatter tires but economy would be adversely affected. The steering feels solid with some road feel and is not over assisted. The manual gearshift (no automatic yet) is smooth. The bucket seats are quite comfortable, although a large person might find them a bit small as they hug one’s body quite nicely. All but the tallest people will find plenty of room in the cockpit.