ROAD TEST: 2016 Toyota Prius

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By Shari Prymak

The Toyota Prius is quite a car. As the forerunner (more or less) of the hybrid car movement, it has become the poster child of eco-friendly motoring, a political driving force behind green automotive technology, and a status symbol for anyone trying to make a statement and set moral standards.

The sociological fug that surrounds the Prius is quite dramatic. Prius owners have been called everything from trendy planet rescuers to insufferably smug tools. Part of that has to do with the fact that the Prius makes a conscious effort to stand out from the crowd. It looks like nothing else on the road. In terms of styling, it’s a love it or hate it look. I’ll be kind, and leave it at distinct.

One thing’s for sure, the controversial looks certainly give the Prius a respectable amount of interior volume. It has no problem transporting five people and plenty of stuff behind the hatch. The controls on the centre-stack are logically laid out and easy to use. The centre-mounted speedometer and odd gear selector take a bit of getting used to, but I eventually adapted. One thing I probably couldn’t get used to is the gloss white centre console, which looks a bit like a urinal.

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When driving, the gas engine is constantly trying to minimize its activity, giving the electric motor a good workout whenever possible. It turns itself off at low to moderate speeds and when coming to a full stop, resulting in improved fuel consumption. Overall, the hybrid system works very well. It operates smoothly, quietly, and most important of all, seamlessly.

The hybrid drivetrain has fairly underwhelming power, but there are no doubts about its efficiency. Under regular city and highway use, the Prius consistently averaged around 5.0L/100km. Below 4.0 L/100km was possible, but I had to use every fuel saving trick known to man, short of getting out and pushing, to reach it. I prefer to forget the fuel saving trickery, not let it fatigue me, and just drive normally. The Prius may not run on leaves, but it is still ridiculously efficient.

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With prices ranging from $25,995 for a base model, to $31,990 for a loaded Technology model, the Prius represents decent value for the money. Interestingly enough, it’s cheaper than Toyota’s own Camry hybrid, yet it’s more efficient and no less practical. Few other hybrids have also built a reputation for strong long-term reliability and resale value like the Prius has.

There is an issue though. The Prius will soon have a showroom mate, the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid, which is essentially the same car, but a little bit better in every way. It has sleeker, less controversial styling. It has a cool Tesla-like touchscreen display. It even has a dedicated electric range of roughly 30 kilometres. And thanks to Ontario government incentives for plug-in vehicles, going with the better Prius won’t likely cost more. The Prius is still a great choice, but government incentives have made it redundant in Toyota’s model lineup. So unless there is a significant price premium, or you live in a province without electric car incentives, the Prius Prime is undoubtedly the one to have.

 

For more details, please visit the Toyota Canada website.