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The Mercury Cars Guide : May 2nd 2009
8— CARSguide Classifieds 62 300 400 • carsguide.com.au Saturday, May 2, 2009 Oh what a (hybrid) feeling Youcan’t really get around it—say ‘hybrid’,andthe first car thatcomes tomindis the Toyota Prius. PeterLyonreports fromTokyo theupcomingPorscheCayenne and Panamera, but Prius was and is the benchmark. Given the fact that the fuel- sipping Toyota was the petrol- electric trailblazer and kicked off the hybrid movement 10 years ago, it has earned its place in automotive history. Now, the car’s third genera- T tion is here and it looks, well, much like the old one. But the all-new Prius is faster, handles more like a regular car, gets better mileage and employs higher-quality materials. It is going to face much tougher opposition, especially from a born-again Insight that looks a lot like the Prius and will be pitched lower on price, but the Toyota is still the car being used to push the one- million-a-year hybrid attack by the world’s largest carmaker. Size-wise, the new Prius is just over 1cm longer and sits on the same length wheelbase. The exterior design is a safe evolution of the current wedge- shape and is marginally slip- perier through the air. Final pricing for the car has not been set for Australia, but the aim in the US is to have it at $25,000. HERE are others, from the original Honda Insight to the Civic hybrid and even ‘‘It will be here in July,’’ says Mike Breen, of Toyota Austra- lia. ‘‘It will be competitively priced. The specifications are different from the US,andthere are a couple of things we get that the Americans do not, and they make a difference.’’ Driving SITTING in the tight new cockpit, I fire up the engine— or at least push the start button to engage the silent electric motor. Power is up from the out- going 1.5 litres 57kW to the new 1.8l 73kW at 5200 revs, with 142Nmof torque at 4000. Total power, including the electric motor, is 100kW, and there is an extra 27kW from the carryover nickel-metal hy- dride battery pack. A new front transaxle re- duces power losses by up to 20 per centandisnowgear-driven to reduce friction and includes a reduction gear as well. The employment of the At- kinson cycle 1.8-litre engine is the main reason why the new car achieves a claimed 5l/100km economy, an im- provement of about 5 per cent. Gently depress your right shoe and you can creep away in stealth mode — or EV mode, one of three—at up to ON THE WAY: The latest Toyota Prius will be available in Australia in July. 40km/h travelling up to 1.5km before the engine cuts in. Othermodesare Eco, which most drivers will use, and Power, for those who want quicker merging speeds. The new hybrid might be more than 40kg heavier than its predecessor, but it still turns better and accelerates harder thanks to the new THSII hybrid system, which helps it sprint from 0-100km/h in 9.9 seconds. Using a feather throttle in myshort80kmtest around the perimeter public road sur- rounding Toyota’s Fuji Speed- way, I managed to move into the 4l/100km range. The bottom line? ThenewPrius feels less like a hybrid and, well, more like a Toyota, more like a Corolla. Thanks to beefed-up tor- sional rigidity and revised suspension, there is better straight-line stability and braking response, while the brake pedal does not suffer from that spongy feel of past regenerative brake set-ups. Its electrically assisted power steering has better weight and feedback when you steer into a corner, even though the predominant re- sponse is minor front-end push. It also gets a telescopic steering wheel, which makes it easier to adjust and find the ideal driving position. Inside, Toyota has moved the fuel display and economy gauge to the top of the dash in easier view. You also get a heads-up display that reflects in the lower section of the windscreen but in plain view to keep you up to date with your speed. Unfortunately, the driver’s seat feels cramped due to the intrusion into the driver’s knee and leg space of the rather thick and cumbersome centre console and dash. The Prius will impress many with its technological tour-de-force construction and better handling. But you still have to ask if the economy and so-so hand- ling are enough to pinch buyers from diesel hatch- backs, without relying on the feel-good factor of a bench- mark green purchase.
April 25th 2009
May 16th 2009