Toy­ota Prius 1,8

It's as quirky as it is quiet, but liv­ing with a Prius is any­thing but a task

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

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.

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