11 June 2018

Toyota Prius 2018 Car Review

Toyota’s Prius was a headliner when it launched as the world’s first mass production hybrid, in 1997. Released worldwide in 2000, it has since proved itself as a low-emissions low-thirst urban runabout, if Auckland’s taxi fleet is any guide.

Toyota Prius Prime jm 18
Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius Prime jm2 18
Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius Prime jm3 18
Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius Prime jm8 18
Toyota Prius
Toyota prius prime jm6 18
Toyota Prius

Early versions boasted a futuristic look to appeal to ‘early adopters’ willing to pay more for new technology, and wanting to show it off. Now the tech is common, this Prius Prime – though sharply designed and with a sleek profile designed to reach a 0.25 drag rating – is more ‘modern’ than sci-fi.

But this car takes fuel-frugal further, as the hybrid powertrain is joined by plug-in tech to charge the battery and deliver pure electric drive for the first 50km or so, after which the car switches to conventional hybrid mode.

That means most commuters will manage the daily grind without spending a cent on fuel, provided they plug in each night, yet they can still drive from Wellington to Invercargill without worrying about range. Or, as yet, about network capacity, as plugging in overnight means NZ can initially accommodate a gradual increase in electric cars without straining the network – renewable energy from wind and water generates 24/7, and so far there’s surplus while we sleep.

But you can forget all that when you drive a car like this. Whether those wheels turn on pure electricity, on petrol, or via a shove from both is dealt to automatically. Bar a rare glance at the petrol gauge, you need have no further input than simply driving, and you can ignore the battery gauge, as this set-up means there’s no chance you’ll be stranded by an empty battery.

Climb aboard, and you’ll find the main info display top centre of the dash. The upside is a quick glance at the speedo doesn’t take your eyes far off the road, and it’s easier to change focus to read it than if it were closer. The downside is that your passengers can see your speed, and kids are always eager to spot an infraction, however minor.

Below that there’s the touch screen with its satnav and other controls, and the auto lever set in a white panel. It’s all easy to reach, and easy to use and navigate – assisted by steering-wheel-mounted controls.

These fabric seats were comfy enough, though some may prefer better side support, and the two cupholders are supplemented by a deep and spacious cubby with a removable shelf for change and cell phones.

The second row seats two, separated by a wide armrest with its own spacious cubby and cupholders, and there’s access to a 12V charger.

The boot is more spacious than Prius of old, the second seat row folds forward to expand it, there are two shopping hooks plus small underfloor storage each side, and a full-width cubby holds the charging cable if you want to take it with you.

Toyota estimates that an owner running the car on electricity only will spend just $150 per year to power it, a figure which presumably assumes urban running (open-road speeds drain battery power more rapidly) always within the battery’s range – a reasonable assumption for a commuter with a second car, but perhaps less so for the average buyer.

Still, our test period – run entirely in Normal mode (Eco, Power, EV and EV City are also available) revealed an average thirst of 1.8l/100km for the days we started with a full or near-full battery, as opposed to Toyota’s 1.0 claim, and 2.1l/100km for the full stint, including day one – with an empty battery. Our driving included open-road speeds, Waitakere hills, and return trips topping 100km. Toyota claims a 63km range, but we ran out of battery from full at just over 48km, after highway and hills, with the heated seats switched on – on a cold day that drains less power than using a high heat on the air con, while still keeping a front occupants warm.

Specification is generous, and includes 15-inch alloy wheels, a suite of modern safety aids including cross traffic alert and blind stop monitor, intelligent park assist including reverse and parallel parking with auto steering, satnav, hands-free phone, dynamic cruise control and the ability to start the air con before you get in.

As for handling, it’s better than you might expect. The torque of an electric motor adds a bit of perk to progress, steering feels accurate, and though no race-track wannabe would approve, it’ll certainly meet the expectations of the average owner with practical daily motoring in mind.

Buyers in Japan and Europe can option a solar roof which helps charge the battery to extend range, sadly TNZ has no plans to introduce it here.

Meantime there’s still plenty to brag about – you don’t even have to be James Bond in an Aston Martin to boast carbon fibre on your car, thanks to this Prime’s funky ‘double-bubble’ hatch.

At a glance


 Prius Prime plug-in hybrid


 1.8-litre petrol



ANCAP safety rating


Power and Torque

 72kW at 5200rpm, 142Nm at 3600rpm, total output petrol plus hybrid system, 90kW



Fuel economy


Towing capacity

Not rated


2WD to front wheels

Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

360 litres (all seats in use)

Safety systems

7 airbags

Lane departer alert

Vehicle sway warning

Steering assist

Dynamic radar curise control

Rear cross traffic alert

Blind Spot Monitor

Road Sign Assist

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