It ain’t easy be­ing green

Edgy and futuristic, the new Prius is no match for its sta­ble­mate, the Camry Hy­brid

Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring - - NEWS -

THERE are lots of rea­sons why you and I should like the lat­est Toy­ota Prius.

A to­tal re­think, re­work and revamp of the petrol-elec­tric cham­pion brings all sorts of ben­e­fits, es­pe­cially for fans of hy­brid driv­ing.

And there is lots of ex­tra bling, in­clud­ing an in­duc­tive charg­ing sys­tem in the bright white cen­tre con­sole that means you don’t have to plug your phone — cur­rently only Sam­sung is com­pat­i­ble — into a socket for a boost.

Toy­ota says the 1.8-litre petrol en­gine now op­er­ates at 40 per cent of ther­mal ef­fi­ciency, which is im­pres­sive for any­thing with petrol power, while the var­i­ous hy­brid bits and pieces are smaller, lighter and more ef­fi­cient.

I’ve yet to hear of a pri­vate Prius owner who has needed a bat­tery re­place­ment, with sto­ries of taxis that have run for more than 350,000 kilo­me­tres with­out prob­lems, but the bat­tery in the car is now tucked un­der the back seat to give a worth­while boost in boot space, to a healthy 502 litres.

A re­design of the dou­blewish­bone rear sus­pen­sion also lib­er­ates more boot space and smooths the rear-end ride while im­prov­ing grip.

Other things I like are the ex­cel­lent heads-up dis­play, which beats ev­ery­one in­clud­ing BMW for clar­ity, and the gi­ant in­fo­tain­ment screen.

The Prius has not been tested for an ANCAP safety rat­ing, but there is an im­pres­sive bat­tery of ac­tive and pas­sive sys­tems in­clud­ing ac­tive cruise con­trol, lane-de­par­ture alert and auto high beam, while the i-Tech I’m driv­ing also gets blind-spot mon­i­tor­ing and a rear cross-traf­fic alert in ad­di­tion to the rear-view cam­era.

But I have three ques­tions. Are peo­ple re­ally con­vinced about hy­brid cars? What do they think of the body­work on the Prius? How does the Prius line up against the Camry Hy­brid, es­pe­cially when the big­ger, lo­cally-made car is avail­able from $26,990 drive­away and the base price for the im­port is $34,990?

On the first front, Toy­ota says it has sold 50,000 hy­brids in Aus­tralia. But only 18,000 are Prius, a num­ber that’s topped by the Camry, and that’s over three gen­er­a­tions since the first one landed in 2001.

On the price line, the Camry is a clear win­ner. It also has a big­ger cabin and is a much nicer drive, par­tic­u­larly on bumpy or grotty country roads.

And the styling? I’m no judge of beauty, but sev­eral friends aren’t at all taken by the new look. The de­sign seems ex­treme and edgy for the sake of it, like the over­done de­sign work in Ja­panese manga car­toons.

I’m spend­ing my drive time in a fully-loaded Prius i-Tech with sil­ver pearl paint­work, which takes the price to $43,440. That’s an ouch for me, but I like the leather seats and the sun­roof and the sound sys­tem is good.

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