Frugal and fun

K Shivraj  
Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Prius is a true hybrid from Toyota; sadly, it’s some time till we can lay our hands on it

Under GST, hybrid vehicles attract a tax of 43 per cent, way higher than a conventional passenger vehicle does at 28 per cent. Marketing of cars with mere start-stop technology as hybrids is said to be the reason. The Toyota Prius in comparison is a true hybrid. It has sold 3.5 million units worldwide. While the 43 per cent tax will make Toyota’s attempt to bring the fourth generation Prius to India futile, the experience the car offers is worthy of mention.

Distinctly STYLED
With tail pipe emissions much lower than a conventional car, the Prius is distinctively styled. It is almost concept car-like in appearance. With supercar rivalling 0.24 co-efficient of drag, the Prius nicely amalgamates sharp surfaces and soft elements. A sharp ‘V’ on the bonnet is central to the frontal styling, which includes attractive multi-edge headlights and LED fog lights. 

Marking the sides is a prominent ridge that originates at the rear doors and wraps around the car’s tail, splitting the rear windshield in the process. The vertically arranged LED tail lights are large and protruding. The 15-inch dia wheels look a shade smaller considering the car’s overall proportions. In many markets of the world, the Prius is offered with 17-inch dia wheels. 

Placing the 6.5Ah nickel-metal hydride battery under the rear seat has resulted in good storage space at the rear, and the boot is large and usable. There’s a full-size spare wheel too. The multi-layered dashboard with its white surface draws attention. The plastics are soft to touch and the AC vent in a shade of green strike a nice contrast to them. 

Impressive features
Two instrumentation screens are at the top centre of the dash. They are easy to read, and customisable for layout. They display a host of information including the state of battery charge, instantaneous economy and eco tips. The ‘floating’ centre console has a 7.0-inch touchscreen that shows graphically the source of propulsion in real time. The head-up display takes away the need to look at the centrally mounted instrument screens. There’s a wireless charging bay for smartphones on offer, and a reverse camera among others. Done in leather, heated front seats offer good support, and are comfortable.  Rear seats also offer good comfort and space. 

Fun to drive
The turn of the key gets the Prius ‘ready’. The stubby joystick-like dash mounted gear lever takes time to get used to. Slot it in ‘D’, press the accelerator and the Prius moves away smartly. At the helm of the Prius engineering prowess is Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive. It includes a 98bhp, 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine, and a 72bhp electric motor. With a combined output of 122bhp, the car is capable of running in full-electric mode — on battery power alone, at speeds of up to 50kmph. A gentle push of the pedal is necessary to reach 50kmph on electricity. 

The silent initial progress of the Prius is a revelation. What is interesting is the full-electric mode being perfectly usable in city traffic with ample power at disposal. The arrival of petrol engine ensures more power. The availability of additional power is felt, and quickens the pace of work. The CVT gearbox complements the performance. 

The rubber-band effect is not as irritating as it is in the Camry hybrid. Claimed to offer an economy of 26.27kmpl, the Prius, during the drive, displayed a figure of close to 20kmpl. The refinement of the Prius is also impressive. The petrol engine runs quietly for most part of its cycle, appearing strained only at the top. Built on Toyota’s modular TNGA platform, the car is fun to drive. 

The steering weighs up nicely with speed. Despite an amount of roll, the Prius tackles corners quite well. Although a bit squeaky, the low rolling resistance tyres exhibit good grip. Not exactly sporty in its handling, but to drive nevertheless, the ride quality of the car is compliant over a variety of surfaces. 

Pros: Distinctive styling, true hybrid and greener, frugal, and fun
Cons: Not to be available for some time to come

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