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Toyota Prius in India – silence personified







Time to go eco-friendly since it is the new mantra been chanted across the world. Now, as far as I remember, in India, apart from the Mahindra or Maini Reva, there aren’t any other cars which are purely electric in nature. Other cars which are semi electric are the Honda Civic hybrid and the Toyota Prius. Now, the former sold in limited numbers due to its high initial asking pricing. Honda Siel Motors India later on had to revert to slashing the prices by as high as 40% which then took care of the rest of the sales. But then they had learnt their lessons and now, the Honda Civic hybrid is no longer in the market. The Toyota Prius on the other hand was always meant to be a premium segment one and not a volumes generator for the company. It was introduced in India in 2010 in lieu of having the company’s green credentials stamped here. The Toyota Prius in India is actually the older model, to be precise, one generation behind the current one selling in US. But then we Indians always settle for some hand me down product and more so in the case if the product is from Toyota Kirloskar Motors. Getting down to the review mantra, we at Indiandrives had a Toyota Prius at our disposal for two days. Check on Road Price

Looks

Well, the Toyota Etios reminded me of the Toyota Prius and now it is vice-versa. The front of the car looks like an ugly fish. Those thunderbolt type head lamps, sharply intersecting with the bonnet lines create a distinct identity for the car. The upper air dam is small but then the lower one more than makes up for it. The fog lamps as well as turn indicators are placed just above each other. Well atleast, we can say that there is one Toyota in India which looks good. Toyota does make stately designs. Those energy efficient, less rolling resistance tyres with the size as 195/65 R 15 and a 5 spoke alloy design didn’t catch my fancy since they look more like wheel caps rather than alloys. The wheelbase of 2700 mm is amply displayed from the sides. The wide door mirrors also have the turn indicators embedded into them. The door handles are also body colored. The rear however slopes forward in a coupe fashion but no much as gainly. Infact it reminded me of the rump of the BMW 5 series GT.

There is a quarter glass for the front as well as rear window. The rear of the Toyota Prius in India has got the double-bubble roof and one which the company has termed as the Kammback tail. Now, it sounded more like a humpback’s tail to me but then the name does have a significance. It is a tribute to one of the German(now what is a German doing in Japan?) scientists named as Wunibald Kamm. Oh, more so he was an aerodynamist. He had various notions about aerodynamic shapes and had this suggestion that an almost tear drop is far more aerodynamic than the actual tear drop. The tail lamps are one of the coolest that I have come across in an Indian car. It has that LED effect with clear lens tail lamps. They are boomerang shaped and there is a rear spoiler as well to give them company. The two stage electric sun roof also gives the car a good geeky feel.

Toyota Prius Image Gallery

Interiors

The Toyota Prius in India dispels the notion that Toyota cars have boring interiors. Infact it reminds one of Lexus, Toyota’s luxury arm, yet to come in India. The big diameter  4 spoke steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth controls looks uber cool(sorry Hyundai I20). The short and stubby gear lever also adds to the cool quotient. The aircon vents can be fully shut but they are the only bad bit in the cabin. Don’t get me wrong. They are of the usual high quality Toyota stuff but then they don’t appeal aesthetically. Like the Etios, even this one has a central display with the Hybrid meter, speed, revs, battery charge, different modes and actual fuel economy been displayed. Surprisingly, Toyota Kirloskar Motors haven’t used the wood and beige configuration that they usually use for all their cars. The electronic power steering is tilt adjustable and a 6 foot or even plus size wouldn’t have a problem fitting in. The seats are comfortable but then could do with more cushioning. There is a glove box as well as upper box which is helpful for all the small knip knacks. There are also many power goodies on offer as well. As with the Toyota Camry, this car also gets an advanced AC system which has clean air as well as dust, pollen remover. The heads up display is also part of the novelty trick and gives many information. The stock music system also sounds very good.

The rear seats are comfortably inclined to give good support to the lower back. Even the leg room, though not in the same ballpark as the Toyota Camry, is sufficient enough to hole up one 6 footer behind other. There is no central tunnel intrusion as well. The boot space is also very good but then the loading lip is high due to the aforementioned Kammback tail. It also has an electric operation. More than enough to fit in 3 golf bags.

Handling and ride quality

Well, let me first concentrate on the NVH of this car. Believe me, you would be hard pressed to notice if its even rolling or not. At low speeds, the electric motor is very what one can call us utter silent. The petrol motor also is blessed with similar audio properties. The best part is that Toyota Kirloskar Motors are mulling over the thought of giving this car some sort of a siren to alert pedestrians. It often happened that I used to sneak upon unsuspecting road users. Even the horn given in the Toyota Prius in India is of the softer types. At the front there is a stabiliser bar with gas filled shock absorbers and McPherson struts. The rear makes do with torsion beams and gas filled shock absorbers. Needless to say, it has been tuned more for comfort rather than outright handling.

The ride is pliant over even bad roads but then the car somehow seems delicate than other Toyota offerings. I do have a hunch that if it is continously driven over bad patches of roads, in a few years, there may be rattles and squeaks from inside the cabin. The handling is also good but then this car doesn’t like to be hurried around and this is amply demonstrated while negotiating high speed bends. It also gets stability control which aids in the handling. But then going around corners at high speeds isn’t what the Toyota Prius is meant for. It is for that smooth ride which one buying this car looks out and that it delivers in spades.

Engine, performance and fuel efficiency

The Toyota Prius in India is a full hybrid series parallel car. It gets one petrol engine and two electric motor generators. The gear system is as complex as the mechanism driving the car. It is the planetary gear system which in effect only has a top gear system. Well, the point is that I actually couldn’t come to terms with the mechanism of the car since it is very complex to explain and the Toyota brochure made it all the more hard to understand. I will however try to put it across with the best of my understanding and knowledge. The two electric motors are used when the vehicle is been started and even when one is driving in city speeds of only 30 kmph. The petrol motor uses the Atkinson technology(go and check your 8th grade science text books, I actually did). Toyota’s innovative Hybrid Synergy Drive system handles the power delivery to even the option of motor which should be powering the wheels. To minimize losses due to a conventional CVT system, the planetary gear system has been brought into use. The on-board computer ensures that the batteries for the electric motor are never fully discharged or even fully charged. This helps enhance the battery life.

The electric motors are powered by Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries and these are maintenance free. Infact Toyota Kirloskar Motor proudly proclaims that these batteries have never been ever replaced under warranty. The 1.8 liter four-cylinder 16-valve DOHC petrol engine is the same as used for the Toyota Corolla but then it has been detuned. This motor produces a peak power output of 100 Bhp. Small figure for a 1.8 liter engine you would say but then remember, this one is detuned for fuel efficiency. The peak torque is 142 Nm. 82 Bhp is what the electric motor is said to generate. Do the math and you would find that this means a total of 182 Bhp. But then it doesn’t work that way. Since there are two modes in the car namely, the power and Eco mode, I carried out the acceleration tests in both. For the Eco mode, the car raced from 0-100 kmph in 12.4 seconds whereas the more powerful Power mode had the car cover the same distance in only 11.6 seconds. Impressive, I would say. The car is also very easy to drive. Like a conventional automatic, one has to slot the gear lever into D mode and the car takes off, silently as ever. There is also a B mode which I found out, is to be used only when coming down steep gradients. The buttons for selecting Eco or power mode are also present on the steering wheel.

Oh well, I forgot to tell you that I also checked the top speed of this car and it is 156 kmph. Enough, I would say for an eco-friendly car. Brake pedal feel is however disappointing. The setup of ventilated discs at the front and solid ones at the rear does work wonderfully and infact braking is of the regenerative types where the kinetic energy is used to charge the batteries. You get ESP and ABS for company in the braking department. Safety is also taken care with SRS air bags, crash safety body, active head restraints, 3 point seat belts and the collapsible steering column.

Ah, here comes the talking point of the Toyota Prius in India. It ranks number 1 for been the most fuel efficient sedan or for that matter in any category of vehicles. Don’t believe me? My test figures for fuel efficiency of this car revealed a city figure of 22.4 kmpl whereas the highway figure was as high as 30.2 kmpl. Startling figures and actually much needed in this times of rising prices of crude.

Verdict

The Toyota Prius in India is not a volumes raker for the company. That duty is been done efficiently by the new Toyota Etios and the company’s other offerings. It is been viewed as a halo car much on the lines of the Volkswagen Beetle, Nissan 370Z and the Fiat 500. Just for brand boosting. But in this deal, unlike the others, we get a real car which is easy to drive, will get you the thumbs up for its design, will make you feel like a S-class owner with its silence and also make you enjoy the drive every time you are out in it. It will also make you feel that you are doing your bit in saving the environment. It has got the least emission figures and also the lowest air drag coefficient of any vehicle in the world. But then comes the dampener. It is available as a CKD unit which means that the price of this car is high. The Toyota Prius price in India starts at Rs 26.55 lakh ex-showroom for the base version and goes all the way to Rs 27.85 lakh ex-showroom, Mumbai. There are only two variants available. Going green does come at a steep price but then think about it as the future for your kids.

Technical Specifications Of Toyota Prius in India

Engine details: Twin Cam 16-valve 1798cc 4-cyl. in-line VVT-i
Maximum Power: 100 Bhp
Maximum Torque: 142 Nm
Fuel Supply System: Electronic Fuel Injection
Valves Per Cylinder: 4
Transmission Type: Automatic
Rear Suspension: Trailing arms & Torsion beam
Front Suspension: MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar
ShockAbsorbers Type: Gas Filled
Steering Type: Electric Power assisted with tilt function
Turning Radius (wheel base): 5.3 m
Front Brake Type: Ventilated Disc
Rear Brake Type: Solid Disc
Fuel Type: Petrol
Fuel Tank Capacity (litres): 45
Emission Control System: Euro IV
Tyre Type: Tubeless Radial Tyre
Tyre Size: 195/65 R 15
Alloy Wheel Size: 15 inches
Seating Capacity: 5
No of Doors: 4

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  1. TORRANCE, Calif., April 21, 2009 – - Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., announced manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRP) today for the all-new 2010 Prius midsize hybrid, scheduled to go on sale beginning in late May at Toyota dealers nationwide. The third-generation Prius will be available in one grade with a starting MSRP of $21,000. The Prius will be offered with five levels of popular standard equipment combinations. “The 2010 Prius delivers outstanding mileage, performance and advanced technology at a great price,” said Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota Division. Carter sees the most popular model starting at an MSRP of $22,000, equipped with a high level of standard features, “This model provides more than $2,000 added value, including the features most buyers want, at the same price as the current base model” he said. A new base model with a lower level of standard equipment is scheduled to be available later this year. It is designed to appeal to the most cost-conscious businesses and consumers. Celebrated as the benchmark for cars of the future, the Prius has delivered superior fuel economy and ultra-low emissions to more than 1.2 million owners worldwide for over 10 years. When it goes on sale, the 2010 Toyota Prius will once again set new standards for innovative hybrid design and technology, raising its level of convenience features and performance to new heights, including EPA fuel economy estimates of 51 mpg city, 48 mpg highway and 50 mpg combined (EPA MPG estimates, actual mileage will vary). even with 110% duty it does not add up to the street price kirloskars are doling out to indians for this car where is the money going for these green priuses.

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