Test Drive – Toyota Prius 1.8 VVT-I Sol, the Green Star image

The Toyota Prius has been around for quite some time and until recently, it has been the car of choice for ecologists and Hollywood stars, concerned in the ozone layer.

Engine and Transmission

The third generation of the Prius has been on the market for a few years now and wanting to see why the rich and famous “love” it, we went for a spin in one. The model in question is the 1.8L L4 VVT-i Sol and, just like its name suggests, it’s equipped with an 1.8 liter petrol burner, which is providing 99 HP at 5,200 rpm and 142 Nm of torque available at 4,000 rpm. We must tell you here that the petrol engine in the “new” Prius is more powerful than the total output provided by the first generation of the model. The Prius doesn’t have a timing belt or a timing chain because the engine is made using the electric motor and these elements don’t need any belts or chains.

The petrol burner is backed up by an electric motor, which is providing 38 HP and 207 Nm of torque available from 0 rpm. The batteries used are Ni-Metal and they have a 650V voltage. The transmission used in the Prius is a CVT which has a special function useful in winter which is “activating” the engine brake. This can be used by switching the gear lever into the B position. The Prius has three driving modes, the Eco, the Power and the EV, and the first two can be accessed anytime, while the EV can be used only when the battery has enough “juice”.

Fuel Consumption

People think for some reason that driving a Prius you’re all set for gas and if run out you will simply put some leafs in the tank. This is quite the opposite of what’s happening in the engine compartment, where a lot of fuel is being burned. In fact, depending on the driving style, the Toyota Prius will “eat” between 7 and 7.5 liters of fuel every 100 km in the city. Driving the Prius normally will make the trip computer show you an average of 6.4 L / 100 km with the AC on and 6.1 L / 100 km with the AC off, in the city.

The Prius isn’t very economical on the highway either, where it will burn over 5 L / 100 km. If you want to drive it like grandpa, you may achieve 4.0 liters of fuel / 100 km, but this means that a pile of cars will sit behind you. You must know that driving the Prius in the EV mode is close to impossible because every time you will push the gas pedal a little harder, the petrol burner will step in. In EV mode, the model can be driven for approximately 5-6 km, at just under 50 km/h.

The Ride

The Toyota Prius is quite comfortable in the city and on the highway and its suspension is doing a good job. The seats will take care of you too and any bump which isn’t absorbed by the suspension will be annihilated by them. The Prius stands pretty good on curves and you will sometimes forget that you’re driving a hybrid. The steering is quite precise despite the fact that you’re driving a hybrid. The transmission is pretty good too. There is a slight delay until the petrol engine will step in but this isn’t noticeable at first and, just like we mentioned above, this vehicle can’t be driven in EV mode on public roads if you care for other people who have somewhere to get to and no time to lose.

Interior Design

The Toyota Prius makes you feel isolated from the rest of the world. I may as well be in Africa and watch children starve or in Gaza Strip looking at an eternal battle and I would have felt the difference. The cabin is sound proof, the seats are comfortable, the ride is good, all the buttons are where they are supposed to be, except for the emergency lights, the air vents have an interesting design, the parking assist will decide for you if your car can squeeze in that parking space, the rearview camera will help your paint stay in its place, the audio system is good and you also get a HUD (head-up display), which, unfortunately, has a small lag.

The climate control has a green light which makes the Prius feel cheap and old, there isn’t enough visibility while trying to maneuver the car, the gauges reminded me of a Honda, there are several common elements to other vehicles in the company’s lineup and the parking brake made be believe that I’m driving a car made for the disabled. Or a Mercedes-Benz, same thing.

Likes / Dislikes

The main disappointment is the fuel consumption, which is just like every other C-segment car out there. The engine sounds good in high revs, though, a thing definitely not intended by engineers. If you buy a Prius you will get a good steering, a comfortable ride, a good transmission, a braking energy recovery system, good brakes and the envy that your second car is probably Italian and made by either Ferrari or Lamborghini.

The downside of buying a Prius is that you basically can’t drive it in electric mode, the torque seems like it was left at the dealership, you don’t get an USB, even if this is a Japanese hybrid car, the climate control will change your driving mode, there isn’t enough room in the trunk because that’s where the batteries are, you will feel a small lag right before the petrol burner will step in, the electric motor makes a weird and annoying sound at high speeds and you will find that the climate control can be operated by using the steering wheel fitted buttons, useless. There are elements in the cabin which are being used on other Toyota cars, like the cruise control, so if you buy a Prius, don’t drive any other car with Toyota badges on its body because you will be upset. The starting price of the Toyota Prius is another setback, because the model costs almost 45,000 euros. My conclusion is that hybrids are indeed the future, but don’t buy one just yet. Wait a few more years.