Out on the open road, the Prius driving experience is not far removed from that of the Insight being typical for a mid-sized front-wheel drive hatchback running on low rolling resistance tyres optimised for economy rather than grip. This is not a car you stuff into a corner in pursuit of thrills, spills and grins.
The Prius we really want to see
We found the brakes to be both fierce and rather lifeless. While driving on badly potholed roads, the Prius was less inclined to crash about than the Honda, but the cabin was prone to more rattles and squeaks. In fact, taken as a whole, the Prius' cabin felt just a little low-rent in places with much of the plastic cladding feeling cheaper and more brittle than that used by Honda.
Toyota has resisted the temptation to plaster the LED multi-function display with patronising eco flim-flammery, but we think the fly-by-wire joystick gear selector and key-less ignition are both answers to questions nobody really needed answering.
You might expect the extra money a Prius will cost you over an Insight should to bring you more in the way of toys but all you get is a head-up display that projects the speed onto the windscreen - a distracting toy best left switched off. And while you do get a 3.5mm audio connector and the option of an iPod dock you can't specify the equivalent of Honda's USB audio connector.
The EV button makes all the difference and allows the Prius to operate as a genuine battery powered vehicle. Despite the extra on-paper power and performance, the Prius doesn't beat Honda's Insight on the road as thoroughly as we expected, while the cabin is also a rather less refined place to sit. Features like the key-less ignition and HUD speed display are gadgets for gadgets sake. It's in the economy stakes that the Prius really wins the fight and for that reason we reckon its worth the extra money over an Insight. ®
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Not this old chestnut.
"Like the Insight, the Prius uses a CVT transmission..."
No it bloody doesn't. The Insight does indeed use a conventional CVT 'box as Honda's "replace the flywheel with a motor/generator" approach means that you can tack any transmission you like to the result.
The Prius has a Torque splitter. A sun and planet gear assembly, much as seen in a conventional differential and the gear ratios used in this are fixed. However, the first Motor/Generator (MG) is attached to the sun gear, the engine to the planet carrier and the second MG and wheels to the annulus. Thus it is possible to adjust the relationship between the speed of the engine and the speed of the wheels by varying the load on the sun gear via the simple expedient of how much 'leccy is taken out of / put into MG1. Incidently, a side effect here is that there is no reverse gear in the conventional sense. Reverse is purely electric, courtesy of MG2 although power may be taken from the engine via MG1, with the torque splitter running in bass-ackwards mode, to provide the necessary "oof" if the battery's a bit on the sad side.
Look it up, it's very clever and very much the "secret sauce" of the Prius. Don't bother with the wiki article though, it's complete bollocks. Try here: http://www.cleangreencar.co.nz/toyota-prius-iii-hybrid-e-cvt-transmission-info.html
@greeno99: Simple. The hyrids to date have been Japanese. The Japanese motor tax calculation is based on overall emissions as they haven't clambered onto the carbon cultists' bandwagon. Diesels suck here big time as they're basically smog generators on wheels. Also the turbo assembly occupies too much room both physically and in surrounding airspace requirements for heat dispersal (you can shrink a petrol engine down dramatically when you rip off the starter, alternator, airco pump etc). This is why the proposed Pug hybrid has the 'leccy motor driving the rear wheels as they can't get an entire hybrid assembly into one end with the oil burning lump.
I actually bought one
I had a 15 year old Audi 80 diesel which gave me 50-60mpg which I had intended to replace next year. However
- my old Mum found the seat uncomfortable
- several bits(not of the byte sort) were a bit dodgy and my MOT was going to be expensive
- dear Gordo had made diesel more expensive than petrol
- some idiot had arranged to refund me £2000 for a load of crap
I chose the Prius because
- my old Mum found the seat comfortable
- I wanted a reasonable size saloon
- I wanted a good mileage
- the vehicle tax is zero
My experience has been
- the best was 76mpg on a 10 mile journey over an inadequate A class road with about 3 miles in a 30mph area
- 66mpg on a 220 mile journey over motorway and A class road split about 50/50 and going as fast as was safe for the road including some 30mph areas in towns
- never less than 60mpg for any journey although it does dip below this with a lot of uphill during journeys but then the downhill kicks in
- EV mode is not required because it defaults to electric power if you trundle around slowly anyway
- ECO mode is good if cruising at a steady 25 -35mph but needs to be disengaged if doing a lot of acceleration even at slow speed in traffic
- acceleration in no-mode is more than adequate but engage PWR mode and it rams your back thru the seat back. You can engage/disengage by pressing a button as you go along so you get the extra oomph for overtaking and cut it once you are cruising again
- the central console makes it impossible to enter via the passenger side if some idiot blocks the drivers door
- rear visibilty is poor and even forward visibilty for parking nose in is more an estimate than a visual judgement.
- the interior plastic is definitely a rather cheap let down but who cares its a car not a girlfriend
- I intend to keep the vehicle for about 15+ years and being "green" played no part in my decision although the fuel consumption and zero vehicle tax is a benefit of greeness.
Overall I am pleased with it and although it has some quirks like the foot handbrake and no ignition key (just a starter button like when I learned to drive) you soon get used to it.
Lies, Damn Lies, and Clarkson
The "study" cited by Clarkson (and many others who stop looking once something says what they want to read) was not research but creative marketing propaganda based on data that was more than 40 years out of date. A moment with Google is all it takes to find real research refuting the claim that a Hummer is more environmentally sound than a Prius. There is only one "report" claiming otherwise and its repeated ad nauseam by those who stop thinking.
As for nickel in batteries, its not as if the nickel is consumed. Same as for lead-acid batteries the Prius battery is too precious to throw in the landfill when its easy recycling pickings for material.
Is no surprise the Prius got poor MPG under Clarkson's conditions. The whole time the Prius tires were sliding sideways. The other car by comparison never slid its fat tires. Takes a lot more energy to push a tire sideways than let it roll forward.
As for Diesels solving all the world's energy needs, there isn't that much Diesel available. There is only so much that comes easily from a barrel of oil and we are already over that limit. Diesel costs more than gasoline in most of the world, including the USA *because* its relatively scarce.
We don't see many Diesel cars in the USA because it is very difficult to smog to EPA specifications. I believe my 2008 Ford F-250 SuperDuty 6.4L Powerstroke Diesel is more complex than my 2007 Prius. Both the F-250 and the Prius are the best vehicles available here for what they do.