Meet the car that put hybrids on the map, the Toyota Prius. In its fifth generation, it has evolved into a car that’s more palatable to look at and easier to live with. In India, the car retails at just under Rs 40 lakh ex-showroom in Delhi and goes head-on against the Honda Accord Hybrid and the likes of the entry-level Mercedes C-Class. So, it is expensive. The question then is – despite the low emissions, higher fuel economy and the politically correct statement it makes, is it worth the money one spends on it?
As we mentioned earlier, the new Prius is a nicer looking car now. It still looks distinct and futuristic, but it’s less geeky than before. It has also grown in size and with bolder design lines, it has a more commanding presence as well. The head and tail lamp designs are unique but agreeable, and the overall silhouette of the Prius is that of a car designed exclusively in the wind tunnel. So, it’s less squat and intimidating, and more about flowing lines.
As with the exterior, the new Prius’ insides are distinctive too. The dashboard is curved and layered; the instrument binnacle is centrally mounted; and there’s some glossy white plastic in here, which is rare in cars these days. Two items dominate the driver interface – the central instrumentation and the large touchscreen display on the central console.
The central console unit doubles up as your infotainment unit as well as one that shows what the car’s drivetrain is up to. The instrument binnacle – a colour unit – also shows what the drivetrain is up to. But additionally, it judges your driving; it tells you whether the aircon unit is concentrating on the driver or the rest of the car; and what drive mode one is using.
There’s decent space on offer inside the new Prius too. The rear knee and shoulder room is good for three average sized adults, but the headroom thanks to that streamlined roof shape is a little tight. The seats however are large, cushy and comfortable even for longer jaunts.
As far as equipment goes, with keyless entry and start, digital climate control, a multifunctional steering and reversing camera besides HUD, the Prius is reasonably well loaded. It also comes with seven airbags, ESP, ABS and a crash structure that has helped it earn a 5-star safety rating. What its interior lacks however, is the premium feel that the car’s price demands. Right from the choice of plastic, fabric or even the fonts and display on the central screen, it seems like they belong to a car which sells at half the price.
Being a hybrid, the new Prius has two power sources working for it. The first is a conventional 1.8-litre petrol engine that’s only good for less than 100bhp. Then there’s a synchronous motor with around 70bhp on tap that works with and without the engine to power the Prius.
In EV mode, it’s just the motor that powers the Prius. Not surprisingly then, the progress is mellow and if you use too much throttle to go faster, the EV mode simply turns off. There are three other modes to choose from as well that utilise both the engine and the motor. Eco is for those chasing fuel economy. It blunts throttle response making the progress slow and boring. It is best used in bumper-to-bumper traffic. In Sport mode not only is the throttle response crisper and more alert, the car feels lighter and more drivable too. It was our default choice for the most part. As for Normal, well, it just treads middle ground.
But, no matter what mode you choose, the Prius is always a quiet, unhurried and relaxing drive. The controls are light, the visibility is good, the engine refinement is top class and even the CVT goes about its business unobtrusively; till you stamp on the throttle that is, then it’s just unnecessary noise. The Prius also has an absorbent low speed ride and with enough travel, the ride rarely gets lumpy or uncomfortable.
Handling though isn’t a Prius strongpoint. It has good initial turn in, but when its near 1800kg weight comes into the picture along with a soft suspension and a mute steering, it doesn’t make for a fun car to drive. Braking, thanks to the regenerative setup, doesn’t feel natural either. In fact, many would find the brakes lacking in initial bite, and the progression and feel won’t feel as good as conventional braking systems either.
|Engine Capacity||1798cc / 53kw motor|
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||97bhp @ 5200 / 72bhp|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||142Nm @ 3600 / 163Nm|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||43|
|Tyre size||195/65 R15|
|Apple CarPlay / Android Auto||No|
|Rear AC vents||No|
|Music system with USB, aux, four speakers||Yes|
|ABS with EBD||Yes|
|Keyless entry & start||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Fuel||Petrol hybrid||Petrol hybrid|
|Engine Capacity||1798cc / 53kw motor||1993cc / motor|
|Max. Power (bhp)||97bhp @ 5200 / 72bhp||145 @ 6200 / 184|
|Max. torque (Nm)||142Nm @ 3600 / 163Nm||175 @ 4000 / 315|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||43||60|
|Tyre size||195/65 R15||235/45 R18|
With the GST regime showing a step motherly treatment towards hybrids – these are being taxed at the same level as luxury yachts and personal airplanes at a total of 43 per cent even though these are greener than most other conventional cars – the new Toyota Prius clearly has an uphill task in India. What’s more, the Prius’ pricing as a result is similar to the likes of the Mercedes C-Class. Now, the only reason one would choose a Toyota over a Mercedes in this case is if they are truly concerned about the environment. And that crowd is a limited one.