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Review: Toyota Prius 2017
Driven April 2017
It’s been twenty years since the Prius has been around and the one you see in pictures here is the fourth iteration of the car. It has gone from a rather ordinary looking sedan to a distinguished hatchback and the newest one throws in a generous helping of slashes and curves to make it rather cool. It may not be the default choice of celebrities who wish to make a statement about the low-emission cars they drive while not on board their private planes, but it still has quite a bit of brand recall and is now available in three variants – one of which is a plug-in hybrid.
However, here in India, Toyota has stuck to offering the regular hybrid version with no plug-in option. This one has limited battery power, but works rather efficiently. For now, there are plenty of cool bits that catches the eye not only inside the cabin, but on the outside as well.
The sharp head lamps and tail lamps caught my eye despite the car being buried in a parking lot full of Toyotas of all shapes and sizes. And there are more slashes and curves on its body panels than the best rendition of a space ship from Hollywood. Unlike the blue and the white that we have been so used to seeing, this one even wears a dashing red. No wonder people kept turning their heads from the time we exited the gates of the dealership.
This incredible turn around in appeal, without losing the essence of the Prius is quite an achievement. The fact that the tail gate with its layered glass panels is still instantly recognisable despite all the other changes points to a job well done, one the designers should pat themselves on the back for.
In fact, inside the cabin the detailing is just as good. Yes, there is a lot of white, which, for our conditions, is a bit worrying, but you cannot deny how cool it looks. The layered dash with a screen up top and then the large central stack with its large touch-screen console is very chic. As is the console with cup holders finished in brilliant white. Even the steering has a white surround for its buttons. All of this makes for a rather airy cabin which possibly exudes a feeling of spaciousness like few others can.
There are a couple of misses too though. The seat heater switches are hidden way down the dash, the touch-screen has no navigation and the heads-up-display (HUD) sits at an odd angle which prevents it from being seen properly unless you sort of slouch in your seat. The seats too are all manual adjustment. Why am I picking on trivial things like these? Glance at the price tag and you will see.
Nevertheless, fit and finish is top notch and everything around you in the cabin feels nice to touch with a nice texture to it. My favourite bit was the drive selector knob though. It is about the size of a regular wall socket adapter and has the range of motion of a little joystick. Move your wrist to do a little flick and it slots into ‘D’ and you are ready to go. I, of course, switched it off as soon as I sat in the car.
Confused? Well, it just happened that the gentleman who handed me the car had already started the motor, but since it is a Prius it sat there quietly in EV mode. You get the drift, right? Having suffered that bit of embarrassment, I proceeded to drive the rest of the day without ever touching the start/ stop button. Despite the many pauses during my day out with the Prius, a bit of navigation through some of old Delhi’s narrow quarters and a quick blast down the expressway it still managed a happy twenty kilometres to a litre of petrol.
Well, you should be. The Prius isn’t exactly a compact hatchback – it happens to be bigger than the Corolla. It uses a 1.8-litre petrol motor, assisted by an electric motor to make a legitimate 120bhp. Enough power to shove along its 1.8-tonnes of hybrid car to 100kph in just over 12 seconds. Pretty impressive I’d say. The funny thing though is that the Prius doesn’t really use enormous batteries to achieve this. It is a bit rubbish in that sense actually, because in full EV mode it can do roughly two kilometres before firing up the petrol motor.
The cool part though is how quickly gathers charge to carry on working in tandem. A quick look at the historical data on the car EV mode to be responsible for more than half the car’s usage over the past 1500 kilometres. I don’t know how it manages it, but it is pretty staggering a statistic.
It does make excellent urban sense and it isn’t exactly a slouch on the highway either, especially with its projected range of close to 1000 kilometres for a car with a 43-litre fuel tank. It feels a bit bouncy over undulations at triple digit speeds and it tends to catch a fair amount of crosswind, which upsets its line marginally, but it goes about its job effortlessly. It was never really meant to be a drivers car, the CVT gearbox and the woefully light steering are clear giveaways in that regard.
But it was meant to be efficient – and the new car carries that frugally burning torch forward. However, there is a slight problem – at Rs 38.96 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), it is roughly seven lakhs more than the Camry hybrid, which is more powerful, quicker and bigger than the Prius. Erm, not so slight a problem after all.
Pros: Sharp exterior details, chic interior design, good fuel efficiency
Cons: Massively expensive for no apparent reason, highway stability not great, low on features for the price
Verdict: It’s grown up to be especially cool, this Prius, but at a staggering price tag and with barely any justification for it. The Prius brand with the hybrid tag is about all you get.
Engine: 1798cc, 4cyl, petrol, fwd, 96.5bhp, 142Nm, CVT/ electric power, 71bhp, 163Nm