11 June 2020

Used Car Review: Toyota Aqua (2013)

The Toyota Aqua is a popular used car among kiwi buyers. It’s a compact, front-wheel-drive, hybrid hatchback that the Japanese manufacturer first launched back in December 2011.

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Toyota Aqua 2013
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Toyota Aqua 2013
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Toyota Aqua 2013
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Toyota Aqua 2013
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Toyota Aqua 2013
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Toyota Aqua 2013
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Toyota Aqua 2013

Known as a 'Prius C' when New Zealand new, this Japanese domestic-spec vehicle is particularly popular here in New Zealand as it’s considered a solid choice as a low-cost hybrid. In Japan it competes with the Honda Fit hybrid, and both vehicles possess very similar dimensions. 

In Japan it was the fifth bestselling new passenger car in 2019, with 103,803 units sold, and was only just a tad behind the popular Toyota Corolla.

The vehicle we tested was a 2013 model and came in 'Habanero' (a bold orange colour), which certainly turned a few heads and helped make it stand out from the crowd. It had just 36,000km on the clock and, according to the sticker on the back, it was previously based just outside Osaka, Japan.


It’s a far more compact design when compared to the Toyota Prius - it’s bigger and older sibling - coming in at just 3,995mm long and 1,695mm wide, but it does share some features, like the curvaceous lines on the roof. Overall, it sports a streamlined yet bubbly body, with a spoiler to round it all off at its rear.

The headlights on the Aqua are quite large and the indicators are hidden within the bumper to compliment the compact design. The theme continues on the rear, with large tail and brake lights.

Quirky Interior

The interior of the Aqua is exactly what you’d expect from a Toyota - it might not be the most luxurious, but everything looks and feels durable and reasonably well thought out.

The seats on the model we tested were a two-tone grey colour with a discreet swirling effect, and were well proportioned to allow for a baby seat to be installed. There were also two tether points for child seats on the back of both of the rear seats.

This model comes with keyless entry, meaning entering and starting the car is incredibly straightforward. Even adjusting the clock uses a familiar configuration, and the time is displayed within a slender all-digital instrument cluster sitting alongside the speedometer, with a green retro style.

Like many imports, our test model came with a Japanese infotainment system that had a band expander to pick up most stations, and a solid reversing camera system. The climate control is located just below the infotainment system, and is in English so it’s straightforward to use. Aside from typical stereo controls on the steering wheel, you can also adjust the temperature on the steering wheel, which is a nice touch that you don’t see in many cars.

Smart storage

With the seats up, storage capacity comes in at around 260 litres, which is respectable for a car of this size.

The glove box is also a reasonable size, with another storage pocket just above, that’s highlighted with a blue accent strip - a perfect size for a compact umbrella. There are four cup holders for the front pews, and just one in the back.

A thin storage tray is situated just in front of the steering wheel, which is the perfect place to stow a smartphone and display your phones built in navigation system.

Hybrid synergy performance

The Aqua’s 1.5-litre engine is mated to a CVT gearbox and utilises Toyotas third-generation hybrid synergy Drive system with a small 0.9 kWh nickel-metal hydride technology battery.

With a kerb weight of just 1,050kg, it gets along briskly, and develops 111Nm of torque at 4000rpm. We found the ride was fine around the city, but perhaps a little firm for some. The engine was very quiet and seemed to engage and disengage well.

Included are fuel saving settings like the ECO (Eco Mode) and EV Mode buttons beneath the handbrake lever. When the ECO button is pressed, the car puts fuel economy first, meaning your acceleration response is reduced and the air-conditioning is dialled back for maximum fuel efficiency. The EV Mode button allows the car to run on battery power alone by switch the internal combustion engine off completely at low speeds.

We found the performance surprisingly peppy when using this car in the standard driving mode. We travelled a total distance of 45 kilometres with about 50% Urban and 50% Motorway driving. We achieved 3.73l/100km - 3.96l/100km.

Driving styles can vary, so if you’re interested in purchasing an Aqua, we’d advise taking one for a spin yourself to see what efficiency you can achieve.

The Toyota Aqua is an easy, affordable entry-point for people wanting to go green but who can’t quite afford the switch to owning a full Electric Vehicle. It would make a competent city car for a couple, first car owner and, at a stretch, carry a young family. If you’re in the market for a reliable, fuel efficient city car, then this model is certainly a perfect choice.

At a glance

Model and year

Toyota Aqua 2013



Date Tested



$13,880 +ORC


1.5-litre petrol hybrid



Fuel economy

3.9l/100km (Combined)

Towing capacity




Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

260 litres (all seats up)

Safety features include:

  • Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
  • Airbags
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
  • Electronic Power Steering (EPS)

Choosing you next used car?

A good start is to find a vehicle that has  been AA appraised. AA Appraised used cars have received a 43-point mechanical check by the AA which focuses on the mechanical and safety aspects of the car and gives an overall evaluation of the vehicle.

Click here to find an AA Appraised Used Vehicle dealer

Get total peace of mind with an AA Pre Purchase Inspection

When you buy a car, you may have a number of questions about its condition and safety. Assume nothing. An AA Pre Purchase Vehicle Inspection will give you complete peace of mind a comprehensive 100+ point vehicle check by an experienced mechanic.

Click here for more information on AA Pre Purchase Inspections


Thank you to AA Appraised Used Vehicle Dealer GVI for supplying us with the 2013 Toyota Aqua for review. Click here to see similar cars for sale.

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