Car Review: Toyota Prius

The poster child for environmental friendliness

The Toyota Prius became the poster child of the green revolution. The name ‘Prius’ even means “front runner”. Hollywood actors, politicians, anyone who wanted to appear environmentally friendly jumped on the Prius bandwagon. And so Toyota has sold more than 3,5 million units internationally since it launched back in 1997.

It was only in 2005 that we saw it hit South Africa’s shores and due to South Africans not yet embracing hybrid technology, our Prius sales have fluctuated and are nothing to write home about. In fact, something like only 48 hybrids were sold in 2015. That is it! But is it because hybrids are just too expensive or is SA just not that ‘green’ yet?

The Toyota Prius, now in its fourth generation, is the most recommended hybrid in the world. It’s so popular that it could almost be considered a sub brand of Toyota. What exactly is a hybrid you ask? It means the car has both an electric engine as well as a petrol engine and switches between them. As with the outgoing model, this Prius uses a 1,8-litre engine. But the engine has been refined and now produces 72 kW of power and 142 N.m of torque. This fourth generation is built on an all-new platform.

The Prius looks

I am not sure everyone will love the look of the new Prius, especially if you weren’t a fan of the older model. It does look sportier and a bit more edgy, it certainly is striking. Inside is where things get interesting though. Not only is it incredibly spacious but it’s well equipped and you may even feel as if you are in a boat, well that’s what my partner felt. But I could see where he was coming from, I think it was the space that created this feeling but also the centre bin between the seats, which is very white and boat-like! The unconventional instrumentation position also helps to create that futuristic, “speed boaty” feel. Not that the Prius is very speedy though…but I will come to that.

Toyota Prius interior

The one negative for me was the hampered visibility out of the rear. It has a two-piece rear window which is cut with a divide that can interfere with your vision. If I scooted up on my seat I could see through the bottom window section, but this quickly became tiring. Other than that, visibility is good. And it needs to be, it is a big car. It’s increased in width and length, but decreased only in height.

The Prius Drive and Performance

So I mentioned it not being speedy. It’s not that the Prius is slow by any means, but it is, for obvious reasons, not exactly an engaging drive and I had to put my foot flat on the accelerator if I wanted to get a quick response from the powertrain. However, like I said, this is for obvious reasons. The Prius is more about gentle acceleration. If you are really fed up and want some extra oomph you can switch it in to Power Mode, but then what is the point in buying a hybrid I ask? I experienced this in the Toyota Auris Hybrid over the December holidays, I don’t think I ever took it out of Power mode and still, I loved that car, but would it then make sense buying a car to save on fuel only to achieve a ‘normal’ car’s fuel consumption figure?

If you drive this car the way it is supposed to be driven and switch to EV mode when driving between 20 and 30 km/h and don’t do any harsh acceleration, you could possibly achieve the claimed fuel consumption of 3,7 l/00 km (which is down from 4,1l/100 km in the previous model). If you spend most of your time in the city, then the Prius is certainly going to serve you well. Although the size is better suited for the open road, especially if there are a few of you. The boot is a sizeable 502 litres and four adults can sit comfortably throughout the cabin.

I have no doubt that the Prius will continue to sell internationally! Now to just get us South Africans thinking green. But then again, I do question whether I would rather spend less money and get myself something of a similar size with a diesel engine and low fuel consumption. It’s a tough question to answer, but I think Toyota knows this is something many South Africans question. The new Prius is priced at R447 700.

The Toyota Prius is a finalist in this year’s Women on Wheels Car of the Year Awards. If it is your favourite Green Car then go and vote for it and you could win a trip to Egypt.