LONG-TERM UPDATE 5 | Wrapping up a month with the Toyota Prius
So my month-long tenure with the Prius recently came to end. And I must say that I was rather sad to see this quirky hybrid roll out of my driveway because as a car, a tool from getting to and from the destination cheaply and in comfort, it nails the brief perfectly. You have no doubt read all my previous updates, which should give you a fairly good idea of what this Toyota is all about and what it does well (and what it doesn't) but if you haven't here are five key takeaway points from the 3,992km spent behind its steering wheel.
1: A first-class cabin
One of the best things about the Prius experience is its interior. From those extremely comfortable heated front seats to impressive levels of NVH suppression, this Toyota cossets like a luxury saloon. It's blissfully quiet too: even when the engine kicks in, the amount of mechanical noise filtering through the firewall is minimal. Well, provided you're not caning that CVT transmission — it gets loud as the revs go beyond a certain point.
Adding further sweetness to the interior mix is a generous array of niceties including dual-zone climate control, Toyota's Apple CarPlay-friendly touchscreen infotainment system, a wireless charging pad and one of the most accomplished car sound systems I have sampled in ages. Whether taking a quick drive to the shops or hauling all the way down to the Western Cape, I always looked forward to spending time inside the Prius.
I do, however, think it could do with an extra USB port (there's only one present) as well as front parking sensors — it's sometimes tricky to judge where that long, pointy nose ends.
2: Surprisingly good highway legs
The Prius was never really designed to give its best out on the open road. It's a machine that thrives on stop-start urban commuting as this is when it can harvest the maximum amount of regenerative braking energy to keep its battery topped up.
Be this as it may I was still able to achieve excellent fuel economy figures. Driven with a light right foot from Joburg to Montagu (at an average speed of 100km/h) this Toyota hybrid sipped just 4.2l/100km making it the most fuel efficient vehicle I've ever piloted on a long-distance trip (my previous best was a Volvo V60 D4 that cracked 4.6l/100km).
A lot of this is probably due to its low drag coefficient of cd 0.24. On the way back, driven like a normal car I achieved 5.1l/100km. In a country where the price of fuel escalates on a monthly basis these figures make the Prius a particularly attractive travelling companion.
It's also surprisingly brisk when it needs to be. As long as you've got enough power in the battery — and you usually do — snappy highway overtaking manoeuvres can be dispatched with in complete confidence. The Prius can also hold cruise speeds well above the legal limit without feeling strained or stressed — good to know if you ever need to make time.
3: Still best in town though
While returning good mileage on the highway the Prius really comes into its own around town where you can make the most of its all-electric propulsion. You need to adjust your driving style somewhat (looking ahead, pre-empting traffic flow, sticking to the speed limit and accelerating and braking as smoothly as possible) but once you do the fuel savings are well worth it — most of my urban commutes were in the mid-3l/100km zone. The best I ever saw — on a 26.5km jaunt around Cape Town — was 2.9l/100km.
4: Spacious and practical
If you require a car with a lot of stowage space then the Prius will definitely appeal as it has a large boot that can swallow up the luggage of two adults with ease. There's also a retractable cover to keep whatever you've got stashed back there safe from prying eyes. Fold the rear seat backs down and you'll free up nearly 1,400 litres of real estate: perfect for loading up longer, more clumsy items of cargo like boxes, bicycles and tools etc. While the rear bench offers seating for three and a reasonable amount of knee-room, those of above average height might find headroom a bit tight due to the raked roofline.
5: A capable steer
You'd never expect the Prius to be competent through corners but this one actually is. This is because it's built atop Toyota's extremely competent TNGA platform that also does duty in the latest Corolla and C-HR. Consequently it's way more dynamic than any of its predecessors ever were. Body roll is well controlled and the steering is precise and fairly direct. Sure, it still won't carve up a mountain pass like a GT86 but it won't bore you to tears either — even across some of wonderful driving roads that litter the Western Cape.