10-plus years, 4 Priuses and a love-hate relationship with two Toyota dealers

One of the minor quality problems I've encountered in my 2010 Toyota Prius was adhesive oozing from between the two parts of the stylish shift knob, above. My Toyota dealer replaced the knob, but other quality problems with the car were never resolved.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

I've owned new and used Toyotas for nearly 30 years, but in the last decade, I've been loyal to the Prius, a sophisticated gas-electric hybrid from Japan's No. 1 automaker.

I remember my initial visit to the service department at Parkway Toyota in Englewood Cliffs for my first Prius, a 2004 in one of my favorite colors, burgundy.


After a routine service, I was driving to my apartment in neighboring Englewood when I started smelling oil.


I parked the car, lifted the hood and found that the oil cap on the gasoline engine was missing, and oil had splattered all over the engine compartment.


I also found one of mechanic's tools in the engine compartment. 


I drove back to the dealer, where the service department topped up the oil, screwed on the cap and cleaned up the mess.

I bought my next three Priuses from another dealer.


Air-pressure challenge

The Prius' full-hybrid system was a technological tour de force when it was introduced to the United States in 2000, and the second-generation four-door hatchback (2004-09) had a unique profile.

But other differences were more subtle, such as the recommended inflation pressure of 35 psi for the front tires and 33 psi for the rears, as displayed on a plate affixed to the Prius door jamb.


The Prius is equipped with noisy, low-rolling-resistance tires to maximize gas mileage, and for whatever reason, Toyota specifies pressures that depart from the standard 32 psi in all four tires of other models. 


The 35 psi front/33 psi rear pressures were also recommended in two 2007 Priuses I bought and the 2010 Prius I drive now.


But Toyota service advisers haven't seemed to notice, and they have routinely returned my Prius with 32 psi in all four tires, as Hackensack Toyota did this month after my annual synthetic oil and filter change.



Nagging quality problems

I've experiences minor quality problems in my 2010 Prius, including flaws in the driver-side leather door panel and leather rear-seat cushion.

The door panel was replaced twice for free after the leather wrinkled, and the rear bench cushion was changed because of seam and stitching defects.

The second new door panel also wrinkled, but by then, my 3-year warranty had expired.

Oozing adhesive led to replacement of the shift knob for the continuously variable transmission.

But despite repeated visits, Hackensack Toyota's service department was unable or unwilling to silence an annoying rattle from the right side of the dashboard and a groaning or creaking noise from the cargo cover supports in the hatch area. 


Toyota was unable to fix an annoying creaking noise from the hatch area of my 2010 Prius despite several tries. The noise is loudest when the outside temperature falls to about 40 degrees or below.

Recalls and service campaigns

We owned two 2007 Priuses, and I traded one of them in to buy the 2010 I drive now. My wife still drives the other 2007.

All three Priuses have been affected by service campaigns and recalls to replace various items, including headlights, a water pump and a brake booster assembly.

One of our Priuses also was involved in a class-action settlement over unintended acceleration, but I didn't receive any money.

Suffice it to say, Toyota quality isn't what it used to be.

But the major systems in the cars, including the hybrid power train and battery pack, have operated flawlessly.

Limited navigation system

All of our Priuses have had Toyota's optional navigation system, but the one in the 2010 model was annoying, often sending me in circles to my destination.

In March of this year, I paid $169 for an updated  2013 navigation DVD that came in a case marked "North America" that showed a map of the U.S. and Canada.

But in June, when we drove to the International Jazz Festival in Montreal, we discovered our navigation system ended at the Canadian border.

Expensive cabin filter

The Prius is equipped with a cabin air filter that requires cleaning or replacement periodically.

In April 2012, Hackensack Toyota charged me $49.95 to install the filter, including the $24 price of the part.

In December 2013, the price went up to $59.95.

This month, I refused to pay the dealer $26 to install a $24 part, and decided to try to install it myself.

I bought the Toyota cabin air filter from the dealer's parts department.

Three weeks later, I still haven't found the time to install it.

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