Remember we said the new Prius comes with the promise of being an exciting car to drive? Well, it doesn’t start off that way because you just can’t tell if it is fired up. The Prius begins rolling on electric power – you can see that on the central display – and the duration of the same completely depends on how well you can feather that throttle.
For me, the engine came on the moment I left the parking. No wonder all I could do was score a 65 on the Prius’ judge-o-meter. But the good thing is, this hybrid is so quiet even after the engine comes on, that the serenity one associates with driving electric cars, stays. So, if it’s refinement and quiet motoring you most desire, the Prius is a no brainer.
It also comes with four driving modes. There’s the EV mode that behaves more like the touch-me-not plant. Anything but the most ginger input to the throttle is coupled with a beep and message that tells you that the EV mode is no longer functioning. I gave it up after two tries.
The Eco, Normal and Sport mode on the other hand, are more usable. In Eco, the throttle response is dull and boring. In Normal, the responses are more alive, no doubt, but the Prius still feels heavy and a bit laboured. In Sport mode, however, it feels like a hybrid. There’s hardly any delay in the throttle response and it doesn’t feel anaemic or slow when driven flat out.
But, it isn’t blisteringly quick either, the torque from the motor notwithstanding. To put things in perspective, the Prius completed the 0-100kmph acceleration test in 11.82 seconds in Sport mode. The kickdowns – 20-80kmph and 40-100kmph runs carried out in Normal mode – took 7.65 seconds and 10.05 seconds, respectively. The only other petrol automatic that does similar numbers (only slightly better) is the Ford Figo AT.
Meanwhile, we also like the new Prius’ low speed ride quality. It goes with the car’s character of being an effortless commute machine. It rounds the bumps well, handles mildly broken tarmac quietly, and there’s enough travel to ensure the passengers never get thumped around.
But, if it’s dynamic fun you want, there are better Toyotas on the market. The steering on the Prius feels disconnected. And even though the car seems to have a quick initial turn-in, once its near 1430kg weight enters the fray, the handling turns soggy. Brakes, again, take getting used to. Thanks to the regenerative setup – it charges the batteries every time you go off the throttle or step on the brakes – the feel at the pedal is inconsistent and mushy.