Prime time for plug-in Toy­ota Prius

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Plug-in hy­brid tech­nol­ogy that de­liv­ers an ex­tended elec­tric driv­ing range and co­in­cides with ris­ing fuel prices and Toy­ota’s new Drive Happy pric­ing regime make it prime time for this Toy­ota Prius.

The Prius Prime is the first new ve­hi­cle Toy­ota has sold in New Zealand to of­fer plug-in hy­brid ef­fi­ciency — although the mar­que sold pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion Prius plug-ins as part of its Sig­na­ture Class used car op­er­a­tion. The Prius Prime — based on the gen-four Prius — ar­rived in New Zealand ear­lier this year. With a new dual mo­tor hy­brid drive sys­tem and dou­bled 8.8kwh ca­pac­ity lithi­u­mion bat­tery it of­fers a claimed elec­tric driv­ing range of 63km and com­bined cy­cle fuel con­sump­tion rated at 1.0L/100km.

Con­nect up the Type 2 charger ca­ble to charge the bat­tery from a 230-volt/8-amp house­hold sup­ply — the slow­est so­lu­tion — takes an es­ti­mated 4 hours and 30 min­utes

My ex­pe­ri­ence with the Prius Prime didn’t vary too much from those num­bers. A com­bi­na­tion of daily city driv­ing and overnight charg­ing meant my first four days of Prius Prime Time ex­pe­ri­ence was com­pleted with­out us­ing a drop of petrol. Some­thing in the re­gion of 50-55km of driv­ing seems like the “real world” range from a fully charged bat­tery — and with a small amount of charge re­main­ing the plug-in at home 270-minute charge time matched the Toy­ota claims.

With its in­creased elec­tric range — I had man­aged about 22km for a full charge dur­ing a Sig­na­ture Class Gen-3 Prius PHEV drive — and with pump prices at record lev­els the Prius Prime has a lot of timely ap­peal. And that’s en­hanced fur­ther by Toy­ota’s Drive Happy drive-away pric­ing which puts the Prius Prime at $48,490 in stan­dard trim and $49,990 with op­tional leather up­hol­stery.

With about 150km of emis­sions­free and quiet city driv­ing com­pleted I pointed the Prius Prime at the open road and made a Tau­ranga-auck­land re­turn run. Start­ing out with a fully charged bat­tery and adding a fur­ther 450km to my drive brought the con­sump­tion av­er­age to 3.0L/100km. The av­er­age con­sump­tion claim of 1.0L/100km seems achiev­able if you can com­bine short city jour­neys with reg­u­lar recharg­ing while mak­ing an oc­ca­sional longer run.

But the main ap­peal of the plugin ex­pe­ri­ence is when­ever a longer trip is re­quired the range anx­i­ety can be parked be­cause the Prius Prime has a 43-litre fuel tank and op­er­ates like a Prius hy­brid with re­gen­er­a­tive charg­ing that keeps enough charge in the bat­tery for a per­for­mance boost from the com­bined hy­brid sys­tem.

The Prius Prime isn’t a per­for­mance car but it drives in a 1798cc, 16-valve four-cylin­der in-line, fuel in­jected petrol and plug-in hy­brid elec­tric drive 72kw at 5200pm (90kw hy­brid com­bined) 142Nm at 3600rpm 4645mm 1760mm 1470m 2700mm 1550kg 43 litres Al­loy, 6.5 x 15-inch Bridge­stone Ecopia 195/65 R15 ra­dial

re­laxed style and has an elec­tric torque boost that helps it up the Kaimai Range and for over­tak­ing re­sponse. There’s no­tice­ably more urge avail­able when the Power drive mode is se­lected.

Low rolling re­sis­tance Bridge­stone Ecopia tyres in a rel­a­tively nar­row 195/65 R15 size for a 1550kg car are the lim­it­ing fac­tor to the Prime’s dy­nam­ics. There’s more chas­sis rigid­ity than pre­vi­ous mod­els but you don’t need to carry very much cor­ner speed be­fore it seems like you are ex­plor­ing the nar­row tyre grip lim­its and the steer­ing has a light and life­less feel.

Per­haps the main lim­it­ing fac­tor in the ap­peal of the Prius Prime is its four-seat con­fig­u­ra­tion. There’s no cen­tre rear seat belt and the rear seat is di­vided by a stor­age and cup holder unit. I think it re­stricts the

prac­ti­cal­ity of what could be one of the most fuel-ef­fi­cient fam­ily trans­port so­lu­tions.

Stow­ing the bat­tery pack means there’s no spare wheel aboard the Prime and there’s a shal­low load area with a roll-out lug­gage cover where some space is taken up by the charger unit and ca­ble which is sup­plied in a zip­per bag.

The stan­dard Prius Prime spec­i­fi­ca­tion in­cludes heated front seats, In­tel­li­gent Park As­sist par­al­lel and per­pen­dic­u­lar auto park­ing, a 10-speaker JBL au­dio, Qi wire­less charger, 7.0-inch touch­screen dis­play with satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion and SUNA traf­fic up­dates, rain sen­sor wipers, power fold mir­rors, an alarm and im­mo­biliser se­cu­rity sys­tem, Head-up dis­play and Smart en­try and push but­ton start.

The Prius Prime is well equipped for the city en­vi­ron­ment with the full Toy­ota Safety Sense tech pack­age. The Pre-crash Safety Sys­tem with Au­tonomous Emer­gency Brak­ing in­cludes pedes­trian pro­tec­tion and there is Lane De­par­ture Alert with steer­ing as­sist and all-speed Dy­namic Radar Cruise Con­trol with au­to­matic brake con­trol.

There’s also adap­tive high beam as­sist for the LED head­lights and Road Sign As­sist which dis­plays the cur­rent speed limit although I have doubts about its ac­cu­racy when it ad­vised a 110km/h limit ap­plied on Cameron Rd near the Tau­ranga race­course.

Blind Spot As­sist and Rear Cross Traf­fic Alert are also part of the Prius Prime pack­age along with a re­verse cam­era with guide­lines.

In a car packed with so much elec­tronic tech­nol­ogy the foot­op­er­ated park brake seems clumsy and a push but­ton elec­tronic so­lu­tion would be more ap­pro­pri­ate. Hill-start As­sist Con­trol is also stan­dard.

The op­por­tu­nity for close-tozero fuel con­sump­tion ur­ban op­er­a­tion with­out range anx­i­ety when a longer jour­ney beck­ons makes the Prius Prime a timely and in­ter­est­ing so­lu­tion as fuel prices in­crease. But lim­it­ing a de­cent size five-door hatch­back to only four oc­cu­pants means a sig­nif­i­cant com­pro­mise to the fam­ily car .

THE NUM­BERS

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