The Toyota Prius has been the hybrid engines' poster child, carrying the torch for green initiatives in the automotive sector for some time. However, other brands took up this mandate and began similar powertrains. Noting the reduced appeal of only providing better fuel economy and moderate styling, Toyota sweetened the pot by offering a larger wheel and tyre option on both the entry-level and i-Tech versions. The i–Tech has raised the bar by bringing even better emissions and driving performance.
It has not changed much from the facelift that was given for the fourth generation Prius. One of the most notable alterations would be the cosmetic revision that did away with the divisive droopy headlights and taillight clusters. The result is a more ordinary-looking car from the front but with an element of elegance as one survey to the rear will show. The Prius i-Tech retains the boxy formation of the back and the sloping line inclining to the front.
Considering that the huge chunk of the cost is directed at the advanced powertrain, the use of plastics for the cabin is understandable. It does have a futuristic layout, which includes leatherette appointed seating, a vast dash with panoramic cluster, and a lot of glossy black plastic touches. Toyota also paired the gear knob found on the dash below the climate controls with a foot parking brake.
The Prius i-Tech seats five, and the passengers are generally comfortable. The back seat remains deep and spacious though head clearance may be slightly reduced if one leans back in the seat because of the sloping roof. The rear cup holders are a consolation, though. By placing the fuel tank and batteries under the rear seat and opting for a tyre repair kit over the space saver tyre, the Prius also allows for at least 343 litres of boot space.
The standard infotainment system within the Prius i-Tech can be described as intuitive, and there is an optional Qi wireless charging pad. When it comes to standard equipment, the i-Tech earns its keep by offering everything from seat heating to head-up displays and keyless entry and Android Auto. All this is incorporated into a straightforward and user-friendly interface operated by a 7.0-inch central touchscreen. The higher trim levels come available with an 11.6-inch screen, though.
The Prius i-Tech has a 1.8L naturally-aspirated four-cylinder gasoline unit suitable for 72 kW and an electric motor that churns out 53 kW. Together, they produce 90 kW of power. The powertrain is linked to a CVT which is directed to the front wheels. Toyota's established hybrid setup is quite impressive, and the shift between the motor and the gas is hard to detect. Owners will not be left wanting for torque and power, as the Prius accelerates quite quickly and can handle most manoeuvres.
The Prius registers as smooth and silent at low speeds, and it manages to remain the same as one hits the freeway. The transmission allows seamless shifts through the gears, and the brakes are quick to act. The handling is also agile around tight corners as the vehicle feels light.
At low speeds, the EV is used while gas engages with highway driving. Upon throttle, the engine becomes a bit more vocal. The constant rpm buzz can cause disquiet in the otherwise noiseless cabin ambience, but it disappears at cruising speed. The vehicle then switches the engine off and utilises the electric motor to maintain momentum. The ride is also compliant and pleasant on the urban tarmac.
Fuel economy and pricing
The Prius excels at this level, considering the combined figure of 3.4 litres per 100 km and an average carbon dioxide emission level of 80 grams per km. The i-Tech price tag begins at $45,000 plus on-road costs, while the entry-level Prius costs $37,000 + ORCs.
All seats retain adjustable headrests, and the three rear seats have three-pointer seatbelts. There are child proof locks as well on the rear doors. Other attributes include front and side airbags for the driver and passenger. There are also front and rear curtain airbags, an energy-absorbing retracting column, and a head impact protection structure.
The vehicle, which has earned a 5-star rating from ANCAP, also comes available with an engine immobiliser and a warning function if the keys are left in the ignition. The vehicle also comes standard with collision avoidance technologies, which are limited to the options packages as well as upper trim levels. Some of the other safety packages include lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist. There are an automated emergency braking and forward-collision warning as well. Tyre pressure monitoring and traffic monitoring systems are yet to be specified for the base level though they are available upon request.
The hybrid is currently entrenched in Toyota showrooms and gives fuel economy that is almost as thrifty as but costs significantly more than the base level Prius. Thus far into the EV era, the general agreement is that the Prius is attractive and affordable. Future iterations may include some element of semi or fully autonomous driving, but these programs are in the concept phase.
The Prius i-Tech remains a value-for-money proposition with comfort, reliability, safety, and practicality as its main selling points. The powertrain is one of the best offerings in the hybrid market in terms of fuel economy and environmental friendliness.
The throttle is also significantly responsive, which is not usually the case with a hybrid with a continuous variable transmission. It can come as a surprise for those who believe that driving a Prius can only be nothing but dull. The exterior may be a bit bland, but the interior makes up for it by including improved tech packages for the cabin. Overall, the hybrid is a good purchase in the age of hybrids and EVs.
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