Long-term introduction: Toyota Prius 1,8
Hybrids have become a staple in CAR’s fleet, but the Honda CR-Z aside, they’ve always been subtle spin-offs of petrol-driven models, distinguishable only by a badge here and there. Not so the latest Prius. About as purpose-built a hybrid as you can get, its odd proportions and riot of sheet-metal cuts and creases form a divisively styled, but seriously aerodynamic (it has a drag coefficient of just 0,24) vessel for a car that’s more upmarket, rides better and is more cleverly packaged than the one it replaces.
Perceived quality is a leap over that of its forerunner, whose space-age facia was hewn from recycled but rattly plastics. But it’s the car’s platform (it’s the first Toyota underpinned by the firm’s new modular platform) that’s the real star. Not only does it lend itself to a layout that relocates the revised hybrid powertrain and its more compact battery from a previously space-eating place in the boot to a more sensible spot under the rear bench, it also plays host to a multilink rear suspension setup that serves up a far kinder ride.
In addition, by cherry picking the specification, nixing such non-essential items as the wireless phone-charging pad and lane-keeping and parking-assistance systems, Toyota has brought in the new Prius at a price lower than that of the outgoing car.
Developing a modest 90 kW and coupled with a CVT, the Prius’ powerplant and softly sprung stance don’t lend themselves to entertaining progress. Instead, they conspire to lull you into adopting a more leisurely and measured approach to your driving. Where I previously paid little mind to what my throttle foot was doing in town driving, I’m now delicately balancing it on the accelerator in the hope of the crisp information display marking my progress with the battery-borne arrows and the gentle whine of electric progress. I’m also braking just as gingerly while sniffing out downhill stretches to top up the battery and, for once, cheering at every clot of traffic on arterial roads that sees the Prius’ petrol engine closing up shop.
Not that the engine’s entrance to proceedings is perceptible at anything other than hard acceleration; in fact, the Prius is cathedral-quiet. The only sound that occasionally creeps into the cabin is tyre roar at higher speeds, and this is probably because everything else is so hushed.
Exploring the economy diary in the Prius’ trip computer has seen the eco car returning average fuel consumption figures as low as 4,4 L/100 km on some excursions, but the overall average sits at a still-impressive 5,2 L/100 km … and I’m sure I can squeeze even more out of it than that.
After 1 month
Mileage now: 1 233 km
Fuel consumption: 5,20 L/100 km
We like: refinement, impressive frugality
We don’t like: divisive styling