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Review: 2008 Toyota Prius i-Tech, the Green answer?

December 17th, 2008
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If you ask motoring enthusiasts or any followers of combustion fuels about hybrid-electric technology, you might notice a trend in the opinions that follow. Most would tell you that combustion fuels are the pure form of motoring and resorting to anything but, is a no no. However, you do get a handful of people that tell you that hybrid technology is the first step to phasing out the beloved combustion engine entirely. Arguably, this is the way of the future and manufactures all around the world are continually allocating resources to introduce hybrid-electric vehicles to their arsenals. 


Is this a fad or quite simply the answer to clean “green” living? Well, Toyota seems to have given us the Toyota Prius to voice their opinion on the matter. Prius is a name that sings through the world as the savior to the rising costs of fuels, but is it really? These days; when the word hybrid is mentioned, the first words straight after seems to be the Toyota Prius. Toyota has marketed the hybrid-electric vehicle very well, using celebrities to promote the status of the model and various other influential mediums. Is this car just a status symbol with the tag line “I’m doing my part to help the environment”? This could be argued back and forth all day, so with personal opinions aside; the Prius should be tested fairly for what it really is… a car.

When you look at the Toyota Prius, you don’t seem to get very excited; in fact, you become bored just staring at it. The styling is quite frankly bland, there could have been a lot more creative inspiration put into the design since it’s introduction in 2003; especially when you consider that this vehicle is quite a leap forward from just about everything else on the roads. Engineers aren’t the most creative group of people going around, it seems that the focus is ensuring that things work, not look pretty. The Prius works; achieving an incredibly low coefficient of drag at 0.26, (which basically means that the Prius doesn’t need to work as hard to achieve the same speed as other vehicles) a figure only seen in premium sports cars; resulting in improved fuel economy. To achieve such a low coefficient of drag, the Prius comes fitted with aerodynamically designed wheels, no spoilers and an air constricted front nose. The shape of the body is designed to reduce drag along with the mirrors and other exterior extrusions. 


Taking a look on the inside, you first wonder where everything is; it takes some time to become familiar with but it’s not so complicated. The Prius constantly reminds you that you’re driving a hybrid, with the multi-function monitor displaying fuel economy figures, battery usage charts, electricity and fuel distribution, and buttons only found in hybrids such as EV (which extends the use of the electric motor before switching back to the petrol engine for the majority of the driving power) keeping you fuel conscious. You either like the front dash and console design or you don’t, the layout is far from your average car on the road, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not user friendly, no, it’s far from it. The layout enables the driver to glance quickly at readings and take in much more information than that of your regular layout, everything is where it should be and is very CLEAR. The rest of the inside is nice and roomy, even for the rear passengers; so you can carry a few extras quite comfortably. 
 

 

 
 

The ride is comfortable and the Prius seems to get around town quite easily, however don’t expect much if you plan to drive this thing hard; it’s simply not designed to do anything but drive sensibly. The rear view camera makes parking much easier given the rear window styling is awkward (an intrusive beam running across the joining section). Apart from this, there is little else to complain about.


Put your foot down and you’ll find that those economy figure run into double digits. Basically, you find that the electric motor won’t get used at all, ring out that 1.5L petrol engine with 57kw at 5000rpm and 115Nm of torque at 4000rpm; and you’ll find that your better off buying the Corolla and saving a decent amount. Fuel economy aside, the Prius gets from 0-100km/hr in around 10.9 seconds, not impressive by any means.


The standard model starts at $37,400 and the $46,900 i-Tech model that we tested comes with the following features for the extra $9,500: leather trim, rear view camera, satellite navigation, vehicle stability control, dual side curtain airbags, dual front seat mounted side airbags, smart entry and start, Bluetooth, 6-disc CD stacker with mp3 compatibility and 9 JBL speakers. This is great value considering all the safety features are also included.


I’m still skeptic as to whether the Prius alone delivers great fuel economy or if it’s the subconscious feeling of being in a car that constantly reminds you to drive sensibly. Either way, Toyota has proven that hybrid technology is an answer to lower fuel consumption and emissions.

Rating: 4 out of 5


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