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Last updated : 2014/02/15 08:53

The Toyota Prius is a hybrid vehicle. This means that it uses an ultra efficient petrol engine and an electric motor working in tandem to produce a car with a fuel consumption figure of about 5 litres/100km. The EPA fuel consumption figure for the 2010 Prius is 4.6 - 4.9l/100km. This is lower than most diesel cars and the lowest of any petrol driven vehicle on the road in South Africa today.

Hybrid vs Diesel

I hear you say, "Big deal, my diesel car can also get 5l/100km". That's true, but is your diesel vehicle as big as the Prius? Many diesel vehicles do have very low fuel consumption, but people forget that diesel engines emit particulates and high levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) that require complex and expensive emissions control systems to clean up. Getting their diesel engines to comply with modern emissions laws are a challenge for many motor manufacturers. The Prius already comply with the most stringent current emissions laws and even some future ones by only using a regular catalytic converter.

Many diesel vehicles currently on the market also demand ultra-low sulphur diesel which is not available everywhere. A Prius, on the other hand, uses widely available unleaded petrol. Many South Africans still think that a diesel vehicle is the only way to get great economy. Hopefully this site will change their minds. Right now the only hybrid vehicles in SA are offered by Toyota, Lexus and Honda.

Plugin Hybrids

Another way to achieve extremely low fuel consumption is to keep the petrol engine, in a hybrid, as-is but expand the use of the onboard batteries and recharge them by plugging into a normal wall socket. Such hybrids are called Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicles or PHEVs. Toyota will be offering plugin capability as standard on all their Prius models from 2014.

Prius Variants

The Prius brand also includes the Prius v and c models (not available in SA yet). The Prius v is a larger version of the Prius while the c model is a more compact version due in 2012.

2010 Prius Interior

What does the Prius offer?

The Prius has a specification sheet as long as your arm and offers an array of advanced technology that would put any German car to shame. Electric Motor-assisted Power Steering (EMPS), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronically Controlled Braking System (ECB), Vehicle Stability Control Plus (VSC+), Traction Control (TRC), Heated exterior rear view mirrors, Headlamp levelling system, Cruise Control, Electric Windows/Mirrors,  Bluetooth cellphone interface with steering wheel controls, fully adjustable steering, CD changer, GPS Navigation System, hill hold function which prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards when pulling off on an uphill slope and more. Other Gee-Whiz features include Park Assist (on Exclusive model) which allows the Prius to park itself!

No CO2 Tax!

According to CAR Magazine the Prius emits only 115g of CO2/km. This places it under the 120g/km limit where the new South African green-house gas tax kicks in on new cars. This tax ads R75/gram a car is over the 120g limit to the purchase price. More here.

Without Navigation

Advanced model

With Navigation

Exclusive model

Unique Styling

On the outside the Prius is also unique. The body was designed to reduce drag to an absolute minimum (0.25 drag coefficient). The result is a car with sleek lines and considerable road presence. It'll certainly make people look twice.

Sitting at the driver position the first thing you'll notice is the centrally mounted digital cluster which provide readouts for all the cars' systems. The cluster also contains a graphic showing how the car is using the engine, motor and battery. On the steering wheel there are buttons to control all the functions of the car.

2010 Prius Cluster

All the systems on the Prius, that are either mechanical or hydraulic on traditional vehicles, are electric. This means that things that are powered off the engine with belts and pulleys on traditional vehicles, are electrically driven on the Prius. Car fans, electrical engineers (like me) and mechanical engineers can argue for ages about which is better...hydraulic or electric. The simple fact is that all-electric sub-systems suit the Prius very well. Electric systems can be made more compact (lighter) and since the Prius already has a high voltage battery built in, such systems can be powered directly from the battery instead of the engine. This has the added advantage that things like the air conditioner can be powered even while the engine is off.

Spacious 2010 Prius interior

The Prius is not short on space, comfort or safety either. This is not some dinky little Japanese compact car...oh no. The Prius is BIG.

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