This must be the first time that I’m starting a car review without intending to talk about the car I just drove. This time around, I prefer to report on the avalanche it started, an emotional avalanche that is. Coming from me, you’re probably expecting a review of a car with superb handling and performance. Well, not this time, rather brace yourselves for the shock of your lives!
It all started with a humorous invitation to attend the launch of the fourth generation Toyota Prius, one that used my weakness towards karak tea to ensure my presence at the launch; as if I was going to miss it! Anyhow, there I was, sucker for believing that I might be sipping my favorite hot drink, an incentive that had me staying until the very end of the launch event. And yes, we did have a brief drive on the day, ten minutes behind the wheel of a full-option model of the new Prius. Any impressions? Nah, not really, not yet. We needed to spend more time together, we needed to bond, get to know each other, the way the manufacturer intended. Little did I know that this very car would have such an impact on me only a few weeks later!
I don’t like to think of Toyota’s new Prius as just a car, a vehicle or a means of transportation. No, not even as a concept. A hybrid vehicle it may be, but that’s not the kind of reaction it evoked after a few days spent exploring it. What the new Prius really is something completely different. Toyota’s best-selling hybrid, in fact, is a state of mind – a sophisticated one, for that matter. In your search for motoring nirvana, you have to evolve to the plateau where concerns about basic things like looks, comfort, practicality or performance are passé. You are challenged to forget everything you think you know about cars, your preferences, driving habits and definitely your wet automotive dreams featuring a gas guzzling sports car. It is only then that you’re ready to own a car like the new Prius.
This car is a call to embrace change. Might sound like a deep statement, but very early in your relationship, you will find yourself trying hard to improve your driving skills, this time not aimed at improved lap times or clipping the proverbial apex, but achieving greater smoothness, finding ways to maintain momentum, making multiple attempts to improve fuel economy or learning new battery charging tricks. This car inspires you to do so, day in, day out, and the more green you go, the happier you become. This car teaches, inspires and finally rewards your progress, to the point that you start feeling as part of the manufacturer’s mission, one of its soldiers, waving the hybrid flag. Long gone are hard launches, late braking and choppy driving, now replaced by mature, responsible motoring. And, remember the comments about the hard-to-digest new exterior? All of a sudden, you start to get the car’s quirky design, those organic shapes and flowing lines inspired by nature, and you realize you have reached that elusive plateau, you are there now!
And, as much as the whole experience you’re immersed in is a hell of a journey, the new Prius is still a transition, not a destination. But it is vehicles like these that are on a mission to change the way we perceive motoring and bring about much needed change. This means that we’re not there yet, but in time we’ll be prepared to take the plunge and decide to own an electric vehicle. Now, that is the destination!
Having spent five days with this car has not taken me to those new heights I was raving about in the previous paragraphs, yet has helped me understand that there’s more to motoring that just performance, style or luxury. The new Prius helped me become a better driver and a more responsible human being too. I have no doubt it will have the same effect on most other drivers, I am even suspecting that this is the actual mission of this very special vehicle. Time for an interview with the manufacturers.
As I draw this review to a conclusion, you might have noticed that I never mentioned any facts or figures. Totally unnecessary, if I may. For those dying to know them, the sales brochure or the Toyota website will do the job just fine. And for those good souls waiting to be converted, hope these few lines served as a confirmation of their expectations. Take it from me, it was worth the wait.
Engine: 1.8L Hybrid
Layout: Front engine/FWD
Power (combined): 121hp
Engine torque: 142Nm
Electric motor torque: 163Nm