Getting back to the original question, would I drive Prius - yes. I own two, an '02 and an '07, and am happy with both. Before I bought the '02 I'd never owned a car younger than my kids, but I had the money and really liked three things about the car: fuel efficiency, tailpipe emissions, and the all-Internet buying program. I bought the '02 Prius for MSRP on toyota.com, delivered a $500 downpayment to the local dealer, and two months later when the car came in from Japan I brought another check for the balance due, and that was that. I think all told I paid $22,500 for that first Prius, and about $25,000 (all taxes title etc) for the second in June of this year. Its like the Visa commercials, car $20k+, not having to hassle with the car dealer - priceless. I have spent possibly two hours in a Toyota dealership since, mostly waiting for some OEM air filters and ordering the second Prius. It is not a high maintenance car by any means.
Tailpipe emissions is pretty important to me - I want to minimize my footprint, and SULEV ('02) and ZEV ('07) help alot. I like the fuel efficiency of diesels, but don't know where they will fall on the emissions spectrum. Biodiesel sounds great, except I'm not sure I like the idea of turning over arable land to producing biofuels longterm.
In terms of fuel efficiency I compare the Prius to the car I would have bought, probably a Corolla or Camry (three previous cars were Corollas). I get 40-44 MPG on the older Prius, 43-48 MPG on the newer one. Going up and coming down Mt Rainier National Park I can easily top 54 MPG, no worries about engine braking etc. But mid-40s is typical, and by comparison to the Corolla I'm getting better mileage with less emissions. I haven't pencilled out to find out when I've 'paid off' the Priuses - there was a big $2500 tax deduction on the first, and I'll get another $750 on the second, but in terms of driving and gas consumption I suspect it will all even out. Both cars together use less gas on a monthly basis that my wife's Honda CR-V.
The car is very much a Toyota - quality construction, but nothing too fancy. Absolutely zero issues with either car, provided I take care of the basic maintenance. The battery doesn't worry me a bit, I've heard of Prius taxis with 300K+ miles with fully functional batteries, I'll have parked the '02 and grow blackberries over it before it needs a refresh. Granted I can't fit a 4x8 sheet of plywood in the back, but I have strapped 4x8 ply to the top, there's not much I miss carrying in a full size pickup truck. Its a good trailhead car, getting me and up to 4 Scouts (one on the smallish side) where we need to get, full packs in the back. Yet we will take the Scoutmaster's Suburban for bigger outings, its just that much roomier and easier to collect a trip fee to pay off the extra gas. No problems with power, lots of front end torque that gets you off the line before most others, plenty of freeway speed.
Is it the car of the future, or some kind of only way to deal with the high price of gas and tailpipe emissions? How the heck do I know. But it does more than any other car along these lines I could locate at the time, and I was happy to buy both of them. As I once pointed out to a Detroit zealot, the difference between what Toyota achieved in the Prius and Detroit avoided doing at all was immense. Maybe the best thing about the Prius is coming to a stop light, and the engine just turns off. Silence - call it my aha moment. The newer one is a bit like driving Jean-Luc Picard's Enterprise to the '02's Capt Kirk's Enterprise - I miss driving the '02 actually. My daughter drives it now, and we're happy that she's in a relatively crash safe and fuel efficient car.
I won't cast aspersions on anyone who disagrees about the Prius, to each their own. I seem to hear some snide stuff from diesel proponents, sometimes from people who don't own a diesel but hold up the promise of diesel as some kind of anti-hybrid antidote. Really, what's the difference? Most Prius owners I've met are engine or tech geeks, they bought for economy or the whole tech package - they would be happy to see a competitive technology that does the hybrid one better. I don't think there are that many hybrid zealots, but you may have tough time convincing anyone who owns a Prius that next year's or the 09 diesels are really going to turn heads away from the hybrid. Me, I still have some questions on tailpipe emissions that diesel hasn't answered yet - but I hope they do, and the first diesels come in at a competitive ZEV / SULEV. And I may look at buying another car if Toyota puts out a plug-in hybrid, because my driving pattern would really benefit. I do think there's some wrong info put out there, which has been pretty effectively debunked by smarter folks than me. If anyone has a grudge, you might read up on the CNW study and how its been debunked. http://priuschat.com/Prius-vs-HUMMER-Exploding-the-Myth-t31938.html