Cruising down the Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway at 120 km/h, the car computer was showing me that I was driving on a set of batteries. The 'green-run' lasted for only around two minutes, but it was worth it. No gasoline, no sparks and no emissions; just a feel good factor. All the surrounding gas-guzzlers suddenly felt like demons surrounding my white angel - the 2016 Toyota Prius. As all of you guys know, the Prius is one car that uses the hybrid system 'realistically'. There is a real-world combo of the conventional petrol engine and electric motor power, which can give you 100 percent petrol power, 50 percent of petrol and 50 percent of electric power, or a 100 percent electric drive depending on driving conditions and drivers' demands. Sounds simple, but not too many cooks have the perfect recipe!
The new Prius shows some boldness on the design part from Toyota. Recent facelifts across other ranges from the brand have included redesigned grilles, lights and bumpers; a tad boringly refreshing, I would say. A complete new design is something I love to see and I genuinely don't care if it comes out good or bad. The Prius looks like the Joker's evil-grin when viewed up front. It looks alien in the current crowd of cars, but looks set for the future. The headlight cluster looks like it is from some spacecraft and has some elements that give it a glittering feel. On a heavily raked bonnet, the slim grille, combined with the distinctly shaped light cluster and a bumper with boomerang-cuts, makes sure that the Prius looks its part. When viewed from the side, the car looks boxy on the lower half and swooping upper half. The bodylines and body-colored molding on the boxy section add some dynamics to the boxy profile though. The roofline slopes heavily toward the rear and is flanked by blacked-out sections of the C-pillar and rear windscreen, which make the roof look stylish as well. A stylish roof? Oh yes! The 15-inch wheels look a bit puny on the otherwise decent-sized car; but never look out of place.
Towards the rear of the car, the vertically oriented taillight cluster shares its character with the aggressively styled headlight set. When lit up, it looks radical and I hope it becomes a Prius trademark. The boot features an integrated spoiler and a cleverly blacked-out top portion, which helps to reduce the otherwise rear-heavy feel. The black diffusers on the relatively simple looking rear bumper look chic and blend well with the overall theme of the car. The boot operates like in a hatchback car and thereby provides excellent access. The design language is more pro-future and is definitely a love-it or hate-it concept. It will take some time for this out-of-the-box design to get into the UAE traffic and would be something I would look forward to.
Getting into the new Prius is an easy affair and once seated, you definitely feel that you are not in a day-to-day car. A part of this could be because of the clean and crisp lines within the cabin and a part could be due to the contrasting white and black color treatment. The white leatherette on the dashboard looks refreshing and gives a feeling of space. White color is splashed lavishly all around the cabin and you feel that the futuristic lingo on the exterior is carried over to the interior as well. There is a mid-mounted display on the dashboard that keeps you updated with vehicle info. It shows whether the Prius is driving on petrol, electric motors or a combination of both. A touchscreen display on the center console lets you control the audio, navigation and car settings. Below the touchscreen are some basic AC controls and what you could call the "cutest gear selector lever in the world", maybe! There is also a wireless charging pad for your mobile phone. The front and rear seats offer good comfort and are finished in leather for the top spec model. The new Prius is longer, wider and lower compared to the previous generation and this has given way to the roomier interiors. Three passengers can be comfortably seated in the rear. The JBL six-speaker audio system provides an excellent audio listening experience within the cabin and the only thing we missed are rear AC vents.
Pushing the start-stop button brings the 1.8 liter, four-cylinder petrol engine to life. Err…not always though. Sometimes it just starts the electric motor! Running on the Atkinson cycle, this petrol engine focuses on increasing efficiency at the cost of power and thereby generates a modest 97 horsepower. The electric motor is able to generate 71 horsepower and is run with a lithium-ion battery pack, which is charged while the car is in motion. A combined output of 121 horsepower is available, which is respectable for a practical hybrid car. Power is put down through a new CVT to the front wheels and can propel the Prius from standstill to 100 km/h in roughly 12 seconds. Right from the start, the car feels peppy and there is no sluggishness you would expect from cars with electric motors. The new Prius is at its best in the mid-range, which is the where you would be driving the car most of the time. The Prius pulls effortlessly and handles decent enough. The suspension has been upgraded and it works well with the new steering system to provide enough feedback and easy response. Shod with disc brakes all around, ABS and 195/65-R15 tires; the Prius fairs well in the braking department too.
One of the best things on the Prius would be the ease with which the car shifts between engine only, engine-motor combo and motor only drive modes. You could never identify which mode, if not for the display showing all that's going on within the car. In slow driving conditions like in parking lots, the car runs on electric motor only and it can surprise pedestrians at times! In situations where the car comes to a complete stop like at traffic signals, the battery pack takes care of excellent air conditioning and keeps the power steering energized. The petrol engine cranks up automatically if the battery starts losing juice.
The Prius consumed just 5.1 L/100 km in mixed driving conditions, which is excellent for a car that can comfortably seat five, has good luggage space and doesn't go around like a snail. Pricing has been kept on check, which means that we now have a better chance to work towards a greener and more sustainable future. A pat on the shoulder for the Prius!
Pros: Fuel economy, ultramodern design, comfy ride and seamless powertrain
Cons: Ultramodern design can be a curse sometimes, some hard plastic material inside
Rivals: No rivals in the Middle East for this segment
Engine: 1.8 Hybrid inline 4-cylinder, (combustion engine 95 hp + electric motor 71 hp)
Combined power 121 hp, 163 Nm
Transmission: CVT, FWD
Performance: 0-100 km/h: 12 secs, 5.1 L/100 km, top speed: 180 km/h
Weight: 1,376 kg
One word: ideal