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Hybrid in the true sense

The Prius hybrid is a real fuel saver and possibly has the best drive among its class, but its cost is a letdown.

autos Updated: Aug 18, 2010 18:31 IST
Ouseph Chacko

This is the third- generation Prius. It’s an intelligent mix of petrol power and electric propulsion, and has none of the hassles of an electric car. You don’t need to plug it in or wait while the battery charges, it doesn’t have range limitations, and as long as you have petrol in the tank, you’re good to go. This, in essence, is what a hybrid is all about.

The Prius is an extremely practical car, besides its Rs 28 lakh price tag. But the question is, how well does it work on our roads?

Looks
At 4.4 metres, the Prius looks radical, shorter than a Laura, but not obviously. It is based on Toyota’s Verso MPV platform except that it ditches the Verso’s multi-link rear suspension in favour of a more space-efficient torsion beam. The Prius has a petrol engine, Toyota’s 1.8-litre VVT-i, similar to that of the Corolla’s except that it makes 98 bhp while the electric motor makes 80.

The electric motor also acts as a generator when braking, helping charge the nickel-metal hydride battery. Interestingly, the Prius is 85 per cent recyclable when sent to the yard.

Interiors
The interiors don’t have much quality. The plastics and switchgear are ordinary, but the Prius has a good interior and an unconventional dashboard. Passenger space is fantastic, the seats are comfortable and the boot is huge.

Drive
Entry requires no key, and neither does starting. Select ‘D’, press the throttle and you go silently. The Prius responds well to part-throttle inputs and never feels slow. The continuous flow of energy never leaves you craving for power. On our roads, the ride gets lumpy and the suspension crashes through potholes.

Although it doesn’t ride with the sophistication of a Corolla, the Prius is no shopping trolley either. But nothing about the Prius would matter if it doesn’t save fuel. And that’s just why you get a smile on your face.

Toyota Prius
Layout:
Four cylinders, inline, petrol + electric motor
Displacement: 1798 cc
Max power (petrol): 98 bhp at 5200 rpm
Max power (electric): 80 bhp at 5200 rpm
Mileage: 15.1 kpl (city), 18.7 (highway)
Power to weight: 96 bhp/ ton

Verdict:
The Prius’ hybrid system saves fuel and is very efficient. The best bit is that you can drive it like a normal car without any compromises. With its light controls and power delivery, it’s a very user-friendly and effortless city car. But the stumbling block is the price. At Rs 28.40 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), it offers very little value.
Autocar India