I've had a 2005 Prius for just about 6 months now, and I thought I'd throw in my experiences.
1. MPG. I commute 25 mi each way: 2 mi getting out of my suburb, then 23 mi highway. This is in California, and I've trained myself to just hop on the freeway and do 65 mph. I'm getting about 46 mpg, although it's trending up very slightly. See: http://scrye.com/~tkil/prius/gas.html
Having said that, I drove my old car a bit with my new habits, and I got 30mpg without difficulty (when before I'd been getting 22mpg). So consider that you can likely get 33% better milage just by becoming a more moderate driver. Prius is cleaner emissions-wise, but the normally-aspirated Subarus are very good performers in this regard as well.
2. Power (part 1). Merging onto the freeway is no big deal, nor is climbing moderate hills (getting out of Mission Valley up CA-163 off I-8, for those that know San Diego well.) The two powerplants together deliver 110-130 hp, which is not that different from my previous car (1995 Subaru Legacy L sedan, 140 hp AWD). Merging, passing on two-lane roads, no problem.
3. Power (part 2). You're not going to win drag races with this, but I've discovered quite a bit of satisfaction in driving better (concentrate on the road/traffic, not one particular car -- often gets me where I want to be sooner than the asshat tailgating everyone) and in getting better milage than the guy next to me. Trite, yes, but it means that my competitive nature isn't being taken out in illegal / dangerous / wasteful ways. (I certainly used to, even in cars that weren't really designed for it -- which is a part of the challenge, isn't it?) And watching people put 100$ worth of gas into their tanks... I just cringe.
4. Comparisons. The Prius' base size and CVT compare well to a base Camry with AT. They're remarkably similar, and the premium for the hybrid is only about 2k$. Let's assume 30mpg for the Camry and 45mpg for the Prius: 2k$/(3$/gal)*15mpg = only 10000mi to recoup the extra cost for the hybrid. (I can't do math, apparently. At 3$/gal gas, it's 60k mi to recover the cost; at 4$/gal gas, it's 45.5k.)
6. Other benefits. Hybrids can now drive in HOV lanes throughout California even when solo. I think that other states (Virginia?) are following suit.
7. Diesels. California has more stringent emissions standards than the rest of the nation (except those states that choose to adopt California's). The diesel fuel sold in the USA has too much sulfur in it as a fuel lubricant; this causes any diesel engine to emit sulfur oxide, a pollutant (which causes acid rain among other problems). Low sulfur fuels will become available soon -- I don't recall, though, if California laws are just going to get more difficult before then. Anyway, that's why there are no new diesel passenger cars in California. There are some loopholes for cars with 7500+ miles on them brought in from other states, and if biodiesel were more widely available, it is intrinsically low/zero sulfur (it turns out that formulation of biodiesel provides sufficient if not superior lubrication than sulfur.)
8. Style. The Prius at least has a purity and clarity to its design. If you want to poke fun at manufacturers, how about Dodge (Ram pickups and Magnum wagon -- big penis cross on the front there, eh?). Others have already picked on the Aztek. The current Mustangs are the first ones to look good in 20-30 years, and that's only because they're copying cues from Mustangs of that era. The list goes on (and it is of course completely subjective.) I prefer minimalism in design; even my previous car was fairly plain, and I feel its style aged gracefully: http://scrye.com/~tkil/photos/2005/2005-04/2005-04-29-suby+prius/
To sum up: I'm extremely happy with my car, and I plan to have years of trouble-free driving with it. Whoever labeled this news story "dumbass", I'm curious what you're referring to -- Toyota styling (which is, as noted above, completely subjective)? Or the fact that there's a recall (in which case there are multiple recalls effecting more than a million vehicles each, against which 75k seems pretty trivial.)