It ain’t easy being green
Edgy and futuristic, the new Prius is no match for its stablemate, the Camry Hybrid
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.