Jeremy Clarkson absolutely hates the Toyota Prius. At the very mention of the Prius the Brit goes bonkers and the verbal assault that follows isn’t the most pleasant. Many would say that Clarkson’s reaction is uncalled for but then again that’s his style. Clarksons’s views apart, there is no denying that the Prius is a great idea, a very visible and effective route to greenness with an intense following amongst those who would want to demonstrate their environmental concern. Hollywood celebrities absolutely love it and the Prius after all is the first practical hybrid launched in the global market. In India the Prius was launched in 2010 but the manufacturer has been able to sell only 150 units. At the recently concluded Auto Expo, Toyota had displayed the 2012 Prius and the hybrid comes with two electric motor generators with prices starting form Rs 27.39lakh to Rs 29.41lakh ex-showroom New Delhi.

Design

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The Toyota Prius isn’t going to win any beauty contests but after the facelift the sedan looks sharper and more aerodynamic. The two headlights are sleek and the turn indicators share the same housing as the fog lights and are both located in the lower part of the bumper. The shoulder line rises from the front to rear and the high waist line offers a unique look to the Prius. The 15 inch alloy wheels give it a good stance and we especially like the blacked-out B pillars which combined with the neat glass area gives the Prius a coupe-like profile. The sloped roof line flows elegantly towards the back and the Prius has a coefficient of drag of 0.25.

Interior

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The Prius has a clean and elegant cabin and the multifunctional four spoke steering wheel, the dashboard and the central console look very futuristic. The hybrid meter, speed, revs, shift-lever indicator, battery charge and other details are displayed on a digital screen located in the centre of the dashboard. The digital instrumentation and the flashy graphics however can distract the driver’s attention from the road.
The material used and plastics are of high quality and the “fit and finish” is also top notch. Ergonomics are good as well but the gear lever is positioned a bit awkward and you will need some time to get used to it.

The seats are big and offer high level of comfort for both short and long journeys. A comfortable driving position can be found easily thanks to the tilt/telescopic adjustable steering wheel and the road visibility is good as well. The rear seats are also comfortable and offer good back support. The rear floor is flat which and allows three passengers to fit and despite the batteries being located under the rear seats, they don’t affect the passenger space. The boot lid is a bit high but volume is generous.

STANDARD INTERIOR FEATURES

Tilt/telescopic adjustable steering wheel with audio and HVAC controls
Multi information Display
Central digital instrument display
Air conditioning with electric A/C compressor
Eco, EV and Power mode
Auto up/down on all windows
Push button start
Cruise control
Driver’s seat with vertical adjustment
Dual sunvisors with driver and front passenger vanity mirrors
60/40 split rear seat
Power door locks
Seatback pockets
12v power outlets (2)
Tonneau cover

Engines and performance

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The Toyota Prius was designed as a hybrid since the beginning. This allows it to run on the engine alone, or only on the battery or a combination of both. The Hybrid Synergy Drive system blends best of parallel hybrid and series hybrid designs to achieve the ability to operate on the electric mode alone and to charge the batteries when the car is running. The 2010 Toyota Prius is powered by a 1.8-litre petrol engine and two electric motor generators. The electric motors are powered by Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries. You won’t need to be worried about their reliability as they are maintenance free. The 16-valve DOHC engine is a detuned version of the motor used by the Corolla. The engine develops 100PS with 142Nm of torque and the electric motors develop 82PS.

The start is fully electric and the petrol engine will be engaged only when you cross 50kmph or if you floor the accelerator pedal aggressively. Thanks to the full electric start the Prius offers extraordinary fuel efficiency and it’s perfect for the city driving where there are frequent start-stop situations. With its hybrid configuration the Prius has a fuel efficiency of 22.4kmpl in the city and 30.2kmpl on the highway.

The 2010 Toyota Prius also offers three alternative driving modes. EV-Drive Mode allows driving on battery power alone at low speeds for about a mile. There is also a Power Mode, which increases sensitivity to throttle input for a sportier feel and an Eco Mode. The Eco Mode however is the best driving option because it does all the calculations for you to offer the best mileage. The Prius can reach 100kmph in only 11 seconds (with the Power mode selected) and more importantly the driving experience is very close to that of a regular car.

Ride

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The Toyota Prius is one of the most silent cars on Indian roads. At low speeds when the electric motor does the entire job the only sound you can hear is from the tyres. Moreover, when the petrol unit kicks in at higher speeds the NVH levels are also very low. The suspension receives a “comfort” setup and offers a pliant ride. Because the hybrid was designed as a family car don’t expect sporty handling as the Prius doesn’t like to be hurried around tight corners. The Prius has also received regenerative brakes because of which the brake pedal feels a bit odd and you will need some time to get used to it.

Verdict

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The Prius makes a statement and its low fuel consumption and the low CO2 emissions is why you should consider buying it. Sure, you can buy a trimmed down version of a BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class for how much as you are paying for the Prius but buying those two won’t make Greenpeace happy. The Prius is a genuinely comfortable and modern sedan and the cabin offers a futuristic feel and the Prius has a comfortable ride for both the front and rear passengers.

Quotes from other reviews:

Autoblog: “The new Prius is no longer just an appliance for commuting. It’s almost fun to drive. Toyota just needs to apply some more of its Kaizen philosophy of continual improvement to the ride and handling and we can call it good.”