How To Get From L.A. To San Diego For Only $6

Maybe we're getting tired of the daily Uber expenditures, or maybe we actually have jobs that let us save up some hard-earned cash. Whatever the reason, millennials have, somewhat surprisingly, started buying cars in record numbers. With that in mind, we at Refinery29 thought it would be helpful to periodically check out vehicles that you might be interested in buying: options that are fun, filled with personality, and that fit your lifestyle. 

SUVs and station wagons tend to be the preferred models for millennial buyers, but there's a reason for that. More eco-friendly sedans are either cost-prohibitive or just not that fun to drive. That's about to change, though. The next-generation Toyota Prius, which goes on sale in January, is more powerful, more efficient, and a lot better-looking than its predecessors. 

Since launching stateside in 2000, the Prius managed to become the best-selling hybrid in U.S. auto history — and a staple in celebrity garages. From the get-go, stars from Cameron Diaz to Larry David to Rachel Bilson cruised Hollywood in the tree-hugging status symbol, flaunting their early-adopter credentials. But why might the fourth-generation Prius deserve a place in your garage? We investigate ahead.

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PHOTO: COURTESY TOYOTA.

"It Looks Less Like A Doorstop"
In its previous iterations, the Prius caught just as much attention for its clunky, insect-like profile as it did for its smaller carbon footprint. The fourth-generation model finally looks more like a sports car, with flashier styling, sharper angles, and fierce taillights. “It's evolved its quirky shape into a more futuristic look,” says Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst for car-shopping website Edmunds. “It looks less like a doorstop.” Inside, it’s roomier with a more elegant interior, including an option for lightweight, synthetic leather seats. We love that it's sleeker and more aerodynamic, and the larger windshield means better visibility while you're hugging corners.

Boston To New York On Four Gallons
The first Prius traveled 40 miles per gallon on a single tank of gas. The fourth generation will get closer to 55 miles to the gallon, according to Toyota. To put it in perspective, that means you can get from Los Angeles to San Diego on just two gallons — approximately $6 of gas. Or drive from Boston to New York on four gallons, a $12 ride that puts Amtrak to shame. Fill up the tank, and you may be able to make it from San Francisco to L.A. and back without stopping at a gas station for anything but snacks. 

Unfortunately, our few test drives around the track didn't really give us real-life insight into its fuel economy — but it didn't disprove Toyota's claims, either.

It Can Actually Accelerate
The original Prius took its sweet time getting from 0 to 60mph — a sluggish 13 seconds. The new Prius takes fewer than 10 seconds to accelerate down a highway on-ramp or overtake an irritatingly slow-moving vehicle in the right-hand lane. Engineers have also tinkered with its software to improve the feel of acceleration. We got behind the wheel at Japan’s famed Fuji International Speedway and were impressed by the car’s livelier driving dynamics and smoother acceleration. We had a blast zigzagging around the cone course laid out on the track — something we certainly couldn’t say for an earlier Prius model.

It’s More Comfortable On Long Rides
Toyota has made some changes to its sedan architecture that add much more comfort to long rides. The Prius’ new body is 60% more rigid due to the increased use of advanced steel and 30% more laser spot-welding points. The seat also lowers the driver’s hip point 2.3 inches to relieve hip strain during long drives and frustrating rush-hour gridlock. A lower center of gravity makes for better handling, too. But though its leather seats provide a dash of luxury, the spartan dashboard and white plastic center console remind you you're driving an economy vehicle.

Protection Against Fender Benders
The old Prius was bare bones when it came to the latest safety technology, but the most recent model is fully loaded with options. The new Prius has Toyota’s Safety Sense P pre-crash auto-braking system, which detects cars and pedestrians, and automatically brakes in some conditions, helping you avoid collisions. Using a millimeter-wave radar and a single-lens camera, the system acts like an intelligent driver, recognizing obstacles in your path. We were skeptical of how well this would work, but the Prius stopped short of hitting a cardboard dummy set up at Fuji International Speedway. 

The new Prius will also have Intelligent Parking Assist, which uses ultrasonic sensors to help you find parking spaces and slip into those pesky tight spots (the only kind you can ever find in cities like New York or San Francisco).

The new Prius goes on sale in January and starts around $20,000.