Long-term test (Update 2): Toyota Prius 1,8
Prior to taking custodianship of the Prius, achieving an average fuel consumption of anything less than 6,0 L/100 km in another car was something of an eye-opener.
Fast-forward seven months into my stint with this ultra frugal oddity and any sign of an average fuel-consumption figure approaching that mark has me cursing both my clumsy accelerator foot and proclivity towards Arctic climate-control settings. The bulk of the Prius’ 10 000-plus km stint has comprised town-bound duties, much of it spent gently nosing through traffic. And that has seen 33% of most journeys completed on electric power and with consumption figures as low as 3,6 L/100 km over the 24 km between my home in Woodstock and family in Hout Bay.
Only a couple of 200-plus km sojourns to Napier via Hermanus have seen the Prius’ thirst hit the dreaded 6,0 L/100 km mark.
These longer stints behind the wheel have also seen the Prius present some of its best and worst facets. In addition to fuel consumption that still sees the petrol pump attendant having to dust cobwebs off the filler cap upon each top-up, the pliant ride and wonderfully sculpted front seats make the Prius a supremely relaxing long-road companion … until you lean on the accelerator, that is.
The 1,8-litre Atkinson cycle engine feels decidedly reedy in every respect and adopts a strained, roaring tone when departing from the usually smooth approach to acceleration that you adopt with this car.
But that’s the only real black mark against this car’s long-road credentials, the powertrain becoming whisper-quiet once speeds level out.
After 7 months
Mileage now: 13 454 km
Fuel consumption: 4,61 L/100 km
We like: immensely comfortable, frugal
We don’t like: strained engine note owing to CVT
Long-term test (Update 1): Toyota Prius 1,8
Being the stubborn so-and-so that I am, you’d think I’d be averse to any of the driving efficiency-related suggestions that wink up on the screen of the Pruis’ onboard computer after every trip.
Instead, my journeys conclude with a glow of pride or a chagrined exhalation at my eco score. Sad, but true.
Similarly, when one of Toyota SA Motors’ representatives at the Prius launch a couple of months ago claimed that the gathered press could pilot the cars with complete disdain for efficient driving and still return a low-low fuel consumption, I detected the gentle thud of gauntlet on carpet. Believe me, I had every intention of revealing the Prius to be a fuel-chugging charlatan, but its comfy, quiet demeanour – not to mention the still-novel ability to conduct more that 30% of my daily commute on electric power alone – kept me from doing so.
It isn’t like it’s difficult, either. A recent 45 km round trip from Cape Town to Hout Bay saw me average 3,70 L/100 km without much throttle balancing.
So, I opted to undertake a 300 km leg stretch on the fast-moving, elevation-rich R27 between Cape Town and Velddrif. Travelling at a reasonably sensible 120 km/h, I soon saw that tank’s consumption climb to 5,1 L/100 km/h ... still not exactly the stuff of OPEC’s dreams.
Even with some jostling for overtaking rights – something to which the modestly powered, CVT-equipped Prius didn’t take especially well – consumption high-tided at 5,3 L/100 km before slipping back down to under 5,0 with the Cape Town City Bowl in sight.
After 4 months
Mileage now: 5 148 km
Fuel consumption: 4,91 L/100 km
We like: wonderfully comfy; impressively frugal
We don’t like: wants for overtaking oomph
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