As Toyota did with the RAV4, by creating the SUV market, it also kickstarted the hybrid revolution with the Prius. Maligned for its looks then and now, it still remains on Toyota’s sales lists as a reminder of its part in history. Reduced to a two trim level, one model range, Prius and i-Tech. it had us wondering why Toyota continues with it considering: Yaris, Corolla, Camry, RAV4, and various Lexus options.The i-Tech is a whisker under $50K, with Toyota listing it as $49,966 drive-away with plain white paint. Go to the premium such as the metallic blue on the review car and that’s now $50,491. That’s a whopping $7,741 (white) more than the standard Prius and well over Corolla hybrid pricing, with Ascent Sport, the entry level, coming in at just under $31K, or the top of the range ZR, at around $38,500.Power is provided courtesy of a 1.8L Atkinson Cycle petrol engine with 72kW and 142Nm. Peak combined power is 90kW for the 1,400kg i-Tech. Fuel tank capacity is 43L, with economy rated at 3.4L/100km on a combined cycle, and one we matched. Drive is to the front wheels via a CVT, with drive itself selected by a simple to use flick lever in the centre of the dashboard.
Ignition is via push-button on and a set of screens that are centrally located on the upper dash welcome the passengers when the doors are opened. The screens include a daily usage and drive distance, and can be configured, with a little bit of research on how to, to display the costs per travel distance. The right had screen becomes the speedo, fuel gauge, trip meter and displays the economy figure also.
Audio is from JBL and there’s some great quality to be found here. Access is via a 7.0 inch touchscreen and it’s slightly different in look than that found in the rest of the Toyota family.Seats are leather, and heated. They’re comfortable is lacking some thigh support. Head, leg, and shoulder room are better than adequate for the driver and front passenger, with rear leg room a little squeezy. The actual colour scheme is dull, with a black on black scheme for the trim below the window line. The Prius i-tech gets a HUD or Head Up Display. It’s as intuitive as it comes to use and an item slowly becoming more common. Another item that is increasing in presence is a wireless charge pad.The body style is coupe’ like, and the rear hatch opens to a decent sized cargo area of 1,415L with the rear seats lowered. The load lip is low enough that access is easy enough for most people and the cargo area is broad enough for most families to deposit a week’s worth of groceries without issue. Safety is high with AEB, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Sport Alert, and Forward Collision Warning with Pedestrian and Daylight Cyclists warning. Seven airbags also contribute to occupant safety. Servicing costs are found online.Outside there are fleeting moments of family recognition, particularly at the front, where the sharpish angles evoke the Corolla’s edgy styling. With just the one body now, as gone are the wagon and sedan, the five door hatch both harkens to the original, whilst bringing its own sort of sharp lined modernity, with definitive creaselines from front to rear.
The i-Tech has its own set of alloys, with aero-blade styling. Rubber is from Bridgestone’s Turanza range at 215/45/17 and they’re ample in grip.Where the Prius shines is in its around town performance. It is effortless, it is stress-free, and can be driven harder than one would anticipate.
Being a hybrid it can gently waft around, with a seamless, almost, transition, between battery and petrol. It’s been noted elsewhere that the drivetrain here has a subtle but noticeable clunk as the changes between power source happen, and we can confirm there is a minor jolt as the petrol engine kicks in or out. There are Power, Normal, and Eco drive modes, and for the most part, Normal is all that is required. power may be suitable for some country and uphill driving, and Eco great for flat track highways.Ride quality surprised as its got a sporting tune. This had us testing cornering speeds and roll. The Prius i-Tech is quite capable of getting antsy and will do so without qualms at a level highly unlikely to be seen by its target audience.
This brings us full circle to our starting point: who is the audience Toyota is looking for with the Prius?
At The End Of The Drive.
Toyota’s other hybrid offerings looking like “normal” cars; the Camry hybrid looks like a Camry, the Corolla hybrid looks like a Corolla, the Yaris and RAV4 hybrids look no different to their purely petrol fed siblings.
The Prius, though, is recognised as a Prius, the original eco-warrior, and that’s the only reason we can think of that it’s still offered by the Japanese car making giant. It delivers excellent fuel economy but isn’t that the point?