The car with a conscience is now even more compelling. Now we need the State to pay attention.
Six years. That’s how long it has been since both houses of Congress drafted a bill seeking incentives for vehicles that use alternative forms of fuel. Where is it now? Your guess is as good as mine. These incentives were intended to lower the excise tax and duties of manufacturers, importers, distributors, and assemblers of these hybrid, fuel-cell and electric vehicles. Lower tariff for them would mean more affordable prices for us.
Alas, we continue to wait and in the interim the humble, low-emissions, high fuel-efficiency all-new Prius 1.8-liter is currently priced at a staggering P2.252 million. That makes it more expensive than an FJ Cruiser, Camry, Fortuner and even the Hiace. Sightings are so scarce, seeing one on the street is like spotting Damian Lillard passing up a shot (Hey, I saw what you did there. – Editor).
This is happening, even as Manila climbs to 18th on the list of the world’s most polluted cities.
But enough of the depressing stuff. Let me tell you why, at that price point, the Prius 1.8-liter is so much more than just your average hybrid vehicle.
To update the exterior of the fourth generation, design engineers were given the freedom to “express their vision” and to give it a more “emotional” appearance.
The result is an edgy, sexy five-seater that’s lower in height by 20 millimeters compared to the previous generation – increasing aerodynamic efficiency for better fuel economy. New LED front and tail lamps contribute heavily to the new form of the Prius, giving a unique model the appropriate one-of-a-kind look it deserves.
Daytime running lamps positioned right below the headlamps emphasize the A pillar while the blacked-out C pillar complement that futuristic shape of the rear. Almost shaped like a fastback, the car now comes with more trunk space owing to a much smaller power control unit, which allows for the repositioning of the lithium-ion battery.
Viewed from any angle, the sharpness in the design of the Prius isn’t really so subtle and, maybe rightfully so, as this is one of the most cutting-edge models in the country right now in terms of powertrain and overall technology.
“Neat” or, better yet, “ultra-neat” describes the Prius cabin.
Sticking strictly to a black-and-white motif, the interior gives off quite the opposite of the exterior’s youthful vibe. The color combo makes the inside feel austere, but not in a binding, you-can’t-have-fun sort of a way because the fresh layout of the whole dashboard balances out the rigid effects of the two-tone scheme.
Cleaning could be an issue, especially if you accidentally drop food items on the whites, but after several days driving in it, I still wouldn’t have the cabin any other way. Positioned in the center of the dash is the advance electronic information cluster of the Prius that uses a 4.2-inch full-color TFT display to show all vehicle-related info such as hybrid energy information, drive mode indicator, outside temperature, odometer functions, cruising range, instantaneous fuel economy, hybrid battery state of charge, and even your Eco Score, among many others.
And then there’s the vibrant and uber-easy to use 6.1-inch touchscreen system with AM/FM CD player, AUX-in, USB port, and Bluetooth connectivity that’s plugged into a JBL six-speaker system.
The powertrain is a reengineered Atkinson cycle 1.8-liter petrol engine with VVT-i that produces 97hp and 142Nm of torque, plus an electric motor with 71hp and 163 Nm of torque mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). It comes with four drive modes: Eco, Normal, Power, and EV (electric vehicle).
Acceleration is brisker thanks to lighter components, some of which shed at least 20 percent of their weight, but straight-line acceleration is a crawl unless Power mode is turned on. Eco, the most fuel-efficient mode, makes the ride utterly bland, while Normal makes it feel like you’re aboard an Altis. Save enough juice in the battery and switch on the EV mode for a completely electric drive.
Comfort has improved with new front suspensions and rear double wishbone suspensions. Handling and taking corners also feels much better thanks to a more rigid chassis taken from the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform.
IS IT WORTH IT?
Sure, at its price, it’s a niche market car. For what it costs, you can get bigger, more powerful vehicles. But is that what you really need? Yes you, the same person whining about gas prices and pollution. Toyota estimates the fourth-generation model to deliver, on a best-case scenario, 40 kilometers per liter. It may be a lofty target but under normal conditions and in pure Metro Manila driving, I still netted 18 kilometers per liter without even trying. That alone is cause to pause and consider.
The Prius is absolutely the smarter alternative amid today’s fuel and pollution crises. Its highly advanced powertrain alone comes with value that trumps the cost, just for its two standout characteristics – efficiency and improved emissions.
For added safety, it now comes with E-Four technology allowing the motors to assist the engine for optimized power allocation to all four wheels during slippery or wet road conditions. Then there’s the eye-catching exterior, interior with space-age theme and components, plus the improved ride and performance.
If there’s ever an auto model out there that comes in with more value than its cost, it’s got to be the all-new Toyota Prius 1.8-liter.
Positives: Excellent fuel efficiency, exciting design, and surprising performance
Negatives: We’re still waiting for government to step in and help bring alternative-fuel vehicle prices down.