Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Toyota Prius c driven

Fuel consumption figures don't mean much to me usually since I often just top-up when the low-fuel light comes on. More so when I am using my UK-spec sports coupe that calculate insane figures like 16.2 mpg!

However, imagine the contrasting shock I got when I hopped into my missus' Golf 6 GTI which displayed an average fuel consumption figure like 4.5 km/l - for a short distance (about 3km) crazily traffic-lighted "stroll" from my residence to the clinic. A same distance in the eco-hydrid Toyota Prius c will return some 10.2 km/l. Admittedly, both worst fuel efficiency figures for two cars from opposite ends of compact hatchbacks spectrum.

This of course makes me a believer of the "full" hybrid concept that Toyota embraces which encompasses Atkinson-cycle combustion with series-parallel application of a more "powerful"-electric-motor-plus-petrol engine combo. For the record, the best fuel consumption figure obtained for the Prius c is some 22 km/l.

I'm a converted half-believer though. That's because such petrol-hybrid - being a halfway house to full EV mobility in the next decade - are best in urban and suburban slow and/or congested traffic conditions. In any situations where you can cruise past 50 km/h the electric motor won't be able to assist most of the time (unless you happen to be coasting downhill). At speeds above 80 km/h the petrol burning 4-pot lump goes out of its most fuel-efficient zone. This is what I've gathered and inferred from the excellently displayed drive data on the dash of the Prius c.

Needless to say, the hybrid a/c compressor works like a gem when start/stop kicks in at traffic junctions or bumper-to-bumper crawl. Something that might gets you hot-and-sticky under the collar in say, an Insight.

It is interesting to note that Toyota has mixed-and-matched something like six different texture of plastics on the dashboard, all of them of the hard-surfaced varieties. A bit of an overkill really, judging by the fact that the dash design is actually quite neo-futristic, ergonomic and different from the boring Vios and especially, Altis varieties.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that there are actually 7-airbags in total for a sub-RM100k hatch in Malaysia. No doubt there is that usual-whine of "only drum brakes" adorning the rear axle but there is an array of acronyms related to braking and stability (hence safety) like the obligatory ABS, EBD, traction control (TCS) and even VSC. Heck! there is even cruise control feature as standard. Some of the other things missing which I can think of is the electrochromatic rear-view mirror and leather-wrapped grip on the steering wheel, which incidentally cannot be used on another Toyota with regular behind-the-sterring instrument clusters/dials. Hmmm...

The Prius c had to be one of the lightest footed torsion-beam axle equipped vehicle I have driven thus far. It hops on (and off) road surface irregularities very easily and the tyres are screaming for grip should you flog the little hatch more spiritedly around bends. Perhaps it's the low rolling resistance green Bridgestone rubbers. You also get the slippery ice-skating feeling when the road gets wet while the electric power-steering don't help much to the overall road-holding feedback or the lack thereof. But in all, I have gotten used to it just after a couple of days and you will know how and when to tread carefully.

Typical of most Toyota automobiles, the Prius c does not escape from the punity of smallish/short/shallow unsupportive seats which you would curse upon should you decide to do interstate jaunts. I guess we must pay premium Ringgit for a Lexus if you want better chairs which are more Conti-like in support and comfiness. Having said that, the rear legroom somehow feels better (more generous) than the premium Lexus CT200h!

In summary, I couldn't complain if had bought the Pruis c as a city/urban runabout. Its revised 2nd gen Prius 1.5L petrol-and-electric-motors are still relevant and ably serving for econo-hybrid motoring. I have even nudged the 175 km/h mark with a little power reserve to spare. Returning the tester to UMWT, the little  bright metallic orange (yes it isn't solid paint) partial-EV had clocked some 400 km with about 277km worth of dinosaur-fossil juice left in its small 36 litres fuel tank.

So the press kit mentioning of the 'c' suffix to the latest Prius family meaning Compact, Clean, Clever and City isn't all bull. Especially the first and most accurately, final word.

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