Toyota Prius 1,8
It's as quirky as it is quiet, but living with a Prius is anything but a task
WHEN it comes to ecoconscious motoring, most of us associate hybrids with considerable concessions in packaging and driving characteristics in the pursuit of saving both fuel and the environment. But after a year doing duty as a long termer in our eet, the latest Prius has proved that behind its less-thanconventional looks sits a car that can be both frugal and ful lling.
The Prius is the rst model to be spun off the TNGA modular platform and has been packaged a little more sensibly than its forebear. The new platform’s improved structural rigidity sees it serving as a particularly good anchor for its Macpherson-front/ multilink-rear suspension setup, manifesting in an exceptionally well-damped ride that drew positive feedback from the team.
The essentials of the Prius’s parallel-hybrid powertrain remain essentially intact in the new car, with the main developments being a more ef ciently reworked electric motor, numerous revisions to the 1,8-litre Atkinson-cycle petrol engine to improve fuel- and thermal ef ciency, and a move from the previous car’s nickel-metal hydride batteries to more compact and ef cient lithium-ion units.
Driving the Prius with little regard to the measured approach normally reserved for eco-conscious motoring isn’t as jarring an experience as you’d imagine. The hybrid innards whirr quietly away, providing a neat little electrically assisted shove off the line at the traf c lights and managing the interplay between internal combustion and electric motors with little in the way of perceptible mechanical feedback. Even in this less considered approach, the fuel economy refused to breast the 5,0 L/100 km mark.
When driving long distances at motorway speeds, however, hybrids tend to ip the script. Where petrol engines are operating at their most ef cient, hybrids tend to gulp a bit more petrol than usual due to the vehicle often being heavier and this was evident in a reading of 6,1 L/100 km on the trip computer during a 500 km sojourn up the east coast.
The propensity for CVTS to render smaller petrol engines somewhat constipated in both tone and overtaking zeal is unfortunately present here, with hard acceleration unearthing some mechanical harshness in the
otherwise quiet powertrain. Passing slower-moving traffic also requires some careful judgment to make up for the modest 90 kw on offer. Playing a little gentler with the throttle, however, unlocked some really impressive figures; a 42 km round trip over winding roads with reasonably steep climbs registered 3,8 L/100 km on the outward run and 3,6 on the return.
Toyota’s marketing folk have tried to emphasise how much more fun the new Prius is to drive and, while it’s pleasant enough to pilot and not as ponderous as its predecessor, it would be something of a stretch to describe it as dynamically rewarding. But that’s hardly the point of the Prius.
The raft of drag-cheating features, hybrid powertrain and softly sprung stance don’t lend themselves to a vigorous driving experience. Instead, they conspire to lull you into adopting a more leisurely and measured approach. Where with previous long-termers I paid little mind to what my throttle foot was doing in town driving, I was instead delicately balancing on the Prius’ accelerator in the hope of the drivetrain-information display marking my progress with the battery-borne arrows and the gentle whine of electric progress. I was braking just as gingerly while sniffing out as many downhill stretches to top up the battery and, for once, quietly cheering every clot of traffic on arterial roads that saw the Prius’ petrol engine closing up shop when crawling along.
The novelty of silently rolling forward under electric power alone (when the battery charge allows, and only below 40 km/h) never wore thin during my 12 months with the car. That said, quite a few blissfully unaware pedestrians received one heck of a start when the Prius crept up on them, so a touch of caution is required.
Perched on the new platform is a body that, with its combination of daring sheet metal cuts, fins and flares, is anything but pedestrian. It certainly managed to divide opinion among the team, with some visibly cringing at the skewed sheet-metal-to-
The novelty of silently rolling forward under electric power alone never wore thin
clockwise from above
All those bizarre cuts and curves lend themselves to a drag coef cient of just 0,24 Cd; luggage space is meagre for such a large vehicle; electric propulsion in town kept the fuel consumption impressively low.