First arriving on the global scene way back in 1997, the Toyota Prius has been the poster boy of Polar Bear lovers and environment savers ever since. It has also been the car of choice for many a big-ticket Hollywood Stars and celebrities that want to tell the world that they have a conscious. What it has also been being a sitting target for the world petrolhead populace that detests its existence. However, no matter which part of the discussion you might lean on, there is no denying the fact that the Toyota Prius was the car that offered the first glimpse of a rapidly changing world that needs to open up to alternate modes of powering our vehicles. The Toyota Prius thus was never an abomination but a step towards an inevitable evolution. The Toyota Prius was the car that pulled the word Hybrid from science laboratory’ and science fiction place it into the common talk. Now in its latest avatar, to be precise the Fourth Generation, the Toyota Prius is said to be in its sportiest mood ever. Interestingly, the Indian automobile market and the Indian Government to be precise has yet to evolve and educate itself about why the hybrids need to be made far more easily accessible to the common public. With no such clear understanding, the Hybrid technology faces complicated regulations in the country. Moreover, they fluctuate on Governments whims and fancies as well. The current GST regime has been specifically tough on the Toyota Prius here in the Indian market. The Prius now finds itself level with the likes of personal aeroplanes and luxury yachts in terms of tax slab. This saw the price of the hybrid shot up and become mostly out of buying power even for the most well-off clients. However, Prius in itself is still a truly well-crafted specimen of hybrid technology and the stupid taxation structure cannot steal that from it.
In its Fourth Generation, the Toyota Prius has finally started a journey towards a design that just about manages to look nice. The design is still futuristic but is much less ungainly from almost all quarters while there is a sense of distant symmetry to it. It is much less geeky than the car it replaces and offers slightly larger dimensions making it better to say yes to. This is good since you no longer have to depend entirely upon your guilty conscience and yes those sweet poor Polar bears to make you sign that cheque.
The quirks of the exterior continue towards the inside of the Toyota Prius as well. From outside you would assume this hybrid to have more of the practicality thrown into over visual appeal on the interiors as well. However, inside you get a fairly unconventional layout and design of the dashboard. Curves dominate the interior space which looks refreshing but renders the dash useless for almost anything to be placed on them. Aiding that ‘still’ futuristic idea of the car is that large touchscreen display at the centre along with the instrument console. It is all very distinctly Prius and says that Prius did it before the Tesla’s of the world made it cool. Being a hybrid, the interface on the touchscreen also offers unique and interesting data stats for the driver a well. The readouts on the display tell you how well the driver is able to use the battery power as against the cars conventional internal combustion drive. All this is displayed through a neat animation that is properly cool. What is probably less cool though is the Toyota Prius judging your earth love at all times and giving you an ‘Out of 100’ score on each trip basis. Literally, there is nothing more guilt-inducing than that. More of that quirkiness comes with the dash mounted tiny little gear lever. It is unusual, super cute and very blue. Adding to that distant world sci-fi air is the acres and acres of white plastic inside the cabin of the Toyota Prius. Then there is the amount of glass that rivals most concepts easily. Seating, however, isn’t that quirky nor unusual, all the seats are large and comfortable, and cabin space is ample for a car that isn’t exactly huge on the outside. You get a decent feature list as well, there is stuff like keyless start and entry, a steering wheel with multifunctional switchgear mounted on it, and a climate control system that is a digital cup. You also get holders for your bottles on the central tunnel and door pockets. The large central touchscreen console also offers itself as a control panel for the car’s infotainment system and Bluetooth connectivity. Well, the price of the Prius in the Indian market is at a level that makes the quality of the interiors to not be up to the mark. Apart from the top of the dashboard that gets a premium soft grain plastic, the rest of the cabin is packed with sub-standard plastic for door pads, central control etc. Toyota also needs to lend better graphics to the display for the infotainment system for this day and age.
The fourth-generation Toyota Prius has been given an update to its drivetrain. Now there is a 1.8-litre petrol powerplant along with a synchronous motor producing 53Kw of power. The petrol unit makes a decent 100bhp which might sound less but combined with the motors around 70bhp, the Prius does offer a pretty decent power output as a whole. That said, making more power from the engine is basically an anti-logic for a hybrid system. A large capacity naturally aspirated engine making less power will be more efficient and have fewer rpm limits thereby being more efficient and long-lasting. The torque ratings, on the other hand, are where the juicy part of the spec lies, the petrol unit makes a pretty decent 142Nm (again owing to its less power design) while the electric motor further adds a hefty 163Nm to the table. This makes the Prius to have a combined torque output of a staggering 300+ Nm. And for a car of this size and lightweight, this promises some fun. However, interestingly, the experience, here again, is unusual, the Prius always starts in the electric mode first up, this means you are mostly wondering if the car has even ‘cranked’ up to life or not. Thanks to the central display you are notified that you can now move forward and the car is indeed ‘awake’. However, how far you will go in the electric mode solely depends on what your foot intends to do. The lighter and gentler you are with the throttle, the farther you would go on electric-only mode. Simple. The good thing is, even when you go one hybrid power, the engine and the car is almost as silent as in electric drive. And if you are one for the silence and brilliant refinement, then there is nothing quite like the Prius on road with a 1800cc petrol engine lurking under somewhere and still be this silent. The Prius also offers a total of four driving modes that help you chose your mood while still have mercy on the glaciers. The all-electric EV mode is essential to test your nerve control and throttle touch. The rest modes are the more usual, Eco, Normal and Sports modes. Eco, as the name suggests, is a definition of boring and dull. Normal bring in some life but the car still feels sluggish and heavy. The best thus is obviously the sports mode and that’s where the true hybrid nature of the Prius comes at the forefront. The throttle response is instant without any delay and the Prius doesn’t feel like a lesser machine even when driven flat out. However, driving a Prius flat out fails the whole idea basically. The ride quality at lower speeds is commendable on the Prius through the steering just doesn’t feel like it is connected to the same car at all. However, that doesn’t rob it from the fact that it looks like a perfect tool for the effortless daily commute to your solar panel powered office and coffee machine. The car is comfortable on most potholes and the suspension travels enough not to worry the occupants about impending attack from the underworld. The handling though is not its forte owing to its 1430kg weight. Brakes are again something that one needs to get used to since they offer regenerative braking making the feeling under braking to be unusual, inconsistent and a bit mushy.
Basically an icon of protecting earth from fossil fuels (while still burning them) Toyota’s reliability. Still among the best hybrid’s out there. Outstanding fuel economy. Basically an icon of the impending death of Internal Combustion Engine and the Petrolheads (while still burning them) Stupid Tax structure by the government. Too expensive.