We drove the Toyota Prius: the absolute icon of hybrid intelligence…

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The icon of “green”, responsible hybrid propulsion is undoubtedly the Prius. Already the first generation stunned us completely, and I personally found it THE most clever car I had ever driven. The latest generation of the Prius fully confirms this tradition, and it is indeed better than ever. Besides its superb technical qualities, the styling people have added extra zest to the Prius, and it now has a dramatic, rather futuristic look, both inside and out. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Sliding behind the wheel of the latest Prius lets you enter a different automotive era. It literally catapults you a few decades ahead. Just silent e-power envelops you when you push the starting knob and put the minute gearlever into drive or reverse.

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Slowly you taxi away. In utter (electrical) silence. You would now intuitively expect the whoosh of a turbine jet engine to caress your ears, like if you were driving  spaceship  Galactica. But that would be wasting fuel and energy. So it is the hum of a masterfully efficient 1798 cc four cylinder, with double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder with variable valve lift and timing, one hears when it quietly goes to work.

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Mind you, when you push the throttle, know that a Sequential multi-point Electronic Fuel Injection is activated through the Electronic Throttle Control System, and it performs its task with intelligence… (ETCS-i). So a bit of the spaceship technology is on board!

The engine hums efficiently at ideal rpm and power to warm up under the best circumstances, charging the battery; the CVT transmission will let only let the engine pull the front wheels if more power is wanted.

Indeed, the engine is coupled to the front wheels and the electric motor through an intelligent Electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT).

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All this is so clever and truly state of the art. The formidable experience of Toyota in making and engineering hybrids truly tells. They have now built almost nine million of them, and not less than 3,6 million Prius.

In total smoothness the power flows to the front wheels. Total system power is 90 kW or 122 HP, enough to propel the Prius from 0 to 100 in 11,1 seconds. More than enough to master every driving situation. Top speed is electronically governed to 162 km. In most countries nowadays academic anyway. More important is the substantial acceleration up to around 140 km/h or so. And that’s where the Prius delivers.

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And then comes the “green” part. This is also a point where the Prius truly excels. What to think of CO2 emissions of merely 22 g per km?

Or a fuel consumption which is almost nil in slow urban traffic, when the system chooses e-power most of the time? Officially, that is the average ECE cycle, the Prius chalks up merely 1 l/100 km. No trouble for us to achieve average consumption of below 5 liters/100 km, even when making quite a few urban errands.

Driving pleasure

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The Toyota engineers have gone to great lengths to make the handling of the Prius nippier, and driving (far) more entertaining. Indeed, the Prius develops a nice and endearing agility, and is fun to drive on winding roads. Of course, straight line stability is excellent, and the Prius is a formidable long distance cruiser too.

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The biggest charm of the Prius is its “zen” like smoothness, inspiring you to adopt a relaxed driving style, and we think this is a most important factor for any car nowadays.

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A joy to use…

The styling and layout of the cabin strengthens even this joyous, light hearted feeling which pervades you when you are behind the wheel of a Prius. We just loved the white centre console, which adds a playful and futuristic note to the car.

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For the rest, the Prius breathes the typical Toyota practicality, with enough roominess, and self explaining functions, be it infotainment or otherwise. All the knobs and handles are correctly positioned and even a novice will find his (or her) way in the Prius intuitively. Driving assistance systems and the excellent cruise control are for instance another asset.

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Boot space is correct with 360 liters, but remember this is a hatchback with split folding rear backrests, so there is enough space to haul that large item if the need arises.

Overall we liked the external wedge shaped styling too, and one is charmed by the futuristic purposefulness of chosen shapes and contours.

Conclusion

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The Prius remains the pinnacle of hybrid cleverness, and besides its driveline “zen” smoothness, the added agility makes it very pleasurable to handle too. The result is that you enjoy every meter you drive it, with on top of all that making you a (very) responsible member of the modern “green” community, making you feel at home in modern (mega)cities for decades to come, with a state-of-the art mobility which adds a lot of joy to respecting the environment. That is not the only pleasure, your wallet will also like the very modest fuel bill too…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

 

 

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