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Prius - sounds a bit like priest, doesn't it?
And that leads me to my review of the spiritually-enlightened Toyota that's named Prius.
Apparently, the word Prius, which derived from Latin, means “coming before”. This was apt when Toyota first launched the Prius, as its Hybrid technology was revolutionary and before its time.
This Prius, the fourth generation, marks almost 20 years of hybrid motoring. Here in South Africa, we didn't get the first version which launched in Japan back in 1997. This isn't a bad thing considering it looked like a dwarf with a big forehead. Instead, we started off with the second version when it arrived here in 2005 - a better looking car more alike to the design of the latest version.
Locally, the sales of both the second and third version were modest at best. Perhaps the world knew something we didn't because global sales are well over 3.5 million units, which is a phenomenal amount.
Hopefully, then, with its new ninja star styling, which is an acquired taste, sales for the fourth incarnation improve locally. But, more than just controversial looks, the Prius is an outstanding car.
Here's why: the new Prius is built off an all-new platform. This base makes the car lighter, yet 60% more rigid. It features new suspension, both front and rear, that gives the Prius a dynamic driving experience. More importantly, because a Prius driver has little or no desire to chase a 3-series BMW around windy bends, especially for us city inmates, the ride is very comfortable, soaking up poor road quality with ease. The batteries in the car were previously housed in the boot. This living arrangement compromises boot space. Now, with more efficient batteries that are also smaller and lighter, they have been positioned under the rear-seating bench. This also gives the Prius a better centre of gravity. It’s not all perfect, though, as this new home means having to elevate the rear seating slightly. This, in turn, means less headroom, but it's not a train wreck unless you’re carting 2m tall rugby players.
Driving a Prius is an effortless mixture of silent motion and tranquil comfort. The switch between battery and petrol engines is unnoticeable. Power, which is switchable between Economy, Normal and Power is more than sufficient. Though through an intelligent display that encourages you to drive economically, Economy or Normal would be the preferred setting. The Prius is driven by an economical 1.8-liter engine that's good for 72kW and 142Nm conservative numbers, but when coupled with the electric engine, gives a respectable 90kW. This will get you from a yoga stretch to a superman dart (100km/h) in a little over 10 seconds.
The exterior of the car may be contentious, but the interior certainly isn't. Rather, it's a highly modern space, endowed with swooping lines and touchscreen technology that is tied together with quality black leather and piano white plastic. The gear stick is mounted to the dashboard, a compact blue knob that is easy to use, that opens up the centre tunnel which adds to the feeling of space. Though highly unique, the space isn't flawless - there are a few placements of cheaper plastics that are hard to the touch. Additionally, the heated seating buttons are placed in an odd location, almost hidden on the back of the dashboard. These are minor errors in design that can be overlooked.
Technology and engineering aside, have you ever met someone that makes you a better person? Their energy calming; their way spiritual. Being around them leaves you feeling energized, yet balanced. You want to be around them more often, so you are, and you begin to change. You become an optimized version of yourself. "Better" is an apt word. You are happier as a result and this reflects in other aspects of your life.
This is how I felt after a week with the Prius.
Quality feel of the car.
Seamless transfer from hybrid to the petrol engine.
Nissan Leaf, BMW i3 Range extender on technology and low spec 320d or C200d in terms of price and fuel economy.
Prius 1.8 - R446 400
Service and Warranty
Service Intervals (km) - 15 000km
Service Plan 5 years/90000 km.
Warranty 3 years/100000 km.
Hybrid Battery Warranty 8 years/195000 km.
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