- Published On: 4 April 2017
- 5 min read
The brand-spanking new Prius hybrid claims to be frugal as well as fun to drive. Does it live up to its word?
It is the world’s most famous hybrid and it’s making a comeback to India. This is the car that did, after all, make hybrid cars popular and accessible. It opened the possibilities of supplementing a combustion engine with an electric motor, nearly two decades ago. The Prius has sold over 3.5 million units worldwide. With this fourth-gen Prius, for the very first time, the phrase ‘fun-to-drive’ features (the old Prius was quite a dull car to pilot). And it’s far from bland looking.
On the outside
Toyota’s designers have clearly not held back with styling as it has done in the past. It looks almost like a concept car. The new Prius’ droopy nose is characterised by a sharp ‘V’ on the bonnet and complex multi-edge headlights. There’s a prominent ridge that originates at the rear doors, continues rearwards and wraps around the car’s tail, splitting the rear windshield in the process. The large, protruding and vertically oriented tail-lights contain LEDs that give the Prius a distinctive light signature.
The Prius is quite aerodynamic – it’s among the slipperiest cars in production today, with a supercar-rivalling 0.24 coefficient of drag. The car’s electric motor battery is now under the rear seat rather than in the boot, making the luggage bay large and very useable. And the Prius gets a full-size spare wheel too.
On the inside
Step inside and the multi-layered dashboard, with its white surfaces, finished in soft-touch plastics, and contrast-green side air-con vent surrounds is a breath of fresh air. The two, centrally-mounted instrument screens tell you you’re sitting in something futuristic. Easy to read and customisable for layout, the screens display a whole host of information including state of charge, instantaneous economy and eco tips for most efficient driving. There’s a 7.0-inch touchscreen that sits on a floating console. The screen is nice to use but sadly there’s no satnav, Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Heated front seats, a wireless charging bay for Qi-enabled smartphones and a reverse camera are other features onboard. The standard leather seats feel great, with the shapely front seats offering good comfort even over long drives. Even the rear seats are more than pleasant and offer a fair amount of space.
The Prius uses a 98hp, 1.8-litre petrol engine and a 53kW (72hp) electric motor that draws power from a 6.5Ah nickel-metal hydride battery. The combined output of the hybrid system is 122hp. Getting going in a Prius is an occasion, or actually a non-occasion. Provided there’s enough juice in the battery, the Prius will come to life in full-electric mode giving you the opportunity to make a silent, emission free getaway. The Prius can run in full-electric mode, and on battery power alone, at speeds up to 50kph but you’ll have to be gentle with throttle - the combustion engine wakes up when the system senses that the car needs more power or when it needs to charge the battery. Full-electric mode is perfectly useable in the city. With both engine and motor at work, the Prius feels quick. But outright performance is anyway not the focus here, fuel economy is. Toyota claims the Prius is capable of an ARAI-tested 26.27kpl, which is impressive.
Overall levels of refinement are impressive. The petrol engine runs quietly for the most part and only sounds strained only when you really step on the gas.
From behind the wheel
Surprisingly, this is a Prius that you can actually have some fun driving. The steering feels nicely weighted and offers pretty good feel, and there is good grip on offer too. Even the brakes feel like they have solid bite (the Prius uses regenerative braking). But, the new Prius is not a sporty car by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a whole lot less staid than the earlier car - this one feels like a nice-to-drive mainstream car.
Where the new Prius is also a marked improvement over the old car is in ride comfort. Ride quality is pliant over the rough stuff and it feels like you’re sitting in a much more premium car.
Is it worth the money?
The Prius isn’t a mainstream car just yet, it’s far too expensive for the average car owner in India. And it is not a car for the eco-conscious ones who wish to blend in. This fourth-gen Prius’ extroverted styling ensures you’re pretty vocal about helping the environment. Brought to India as a full import, it’s priced at Rs 38.96 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), which makes it a few lakh costlier than the Camry Hybrid and Accord Hybrid. So, if you’ve got that kind of cash to spare and want a car that’s good for the environment, then this is an ideal car for you.