By Nauman Farooq
The biggest box office hit at the moment is Jurassic World – Fallen Kingdom. It is (as you know) about dinosaurs that exist in modern times.
Many cars can be seen as dinosaurs existing in modern times, because they are still using big combustion engines running on fossil fuels. There are a few problems with that, however: First of all, burning fuel pollutes our air, which is not good for anything inhabiting this planet. Secondly, the process of finding crude oil and refining it to become gasoline is not easy or economical. And thirdly, the earth will eventually run out of dino-juice, so what are we going to do then?
There are some alternatives in the market, such as hydrogen and electric power, but they currently are limited by the number of filling/charging stations and range!
Conventional hybrids do offer better fuel economy than simply gasoline powered vehicles, but the advantage in fuel savings is rather small, whereas the deficit in performance is rather big!
What is getting popular currently, are plug-in hybrids. These vehicles offer a much greater, hence useful electric range, but due to their on-board combustion engine, you can keep going as long as you have fuel in your tank – plus finding gas stations is not difficult.
Plug-in hybrids are not the long term solution, since they do still rely on fossil fuel, but they are a good interim solution, and such vehicles are only getting better – both in terms of range and performance.
Toyota might not have been the first auto manufacturer to offer a hybrid vehicle, but their Prius model is clearly the best selling hybrid vehicle on the planet. This nameplate proved so popular, Toyota decided to offer a smaller model (called the Prius c) and a larger one (called the Prius v). Now, they’re offering a plug-in hybrid version called the Prius Prime, and it is finally on sale in Canada!
I said “finally” because this model went on sale in America back in 2016, and is only now showing up on our roads.
So, it is a new car, that is also a bit old, and it shows! First of all, the battery takes up most of your trunk space, so your cargo area is very compromised. This happened because Toyota adapted the conventional Prius’ chassis to now run a larger battery pack to give you more driving range on just electric power. How much range? Well, the regular Prius can barely manage 2 km of electric range, and even than at slow speeds. The Prius Prime -according to Toyota- can manage 40 km of electric only driving. In my real world testing, I managed 34 km on a full charge, which is decent – but not class leading.
It’ll take you over five-hours to charge the battery pack using 120 volts, but a level 2 fast charger can replenish the battery in just over 2 hours.
Performance is never likely going to be a strong point for a Prius, and the Prime is no different. Between its 1.8L four-cylinder gasoline engine, and its electric motor -which is powered by a Li-ion battery pack- you get 121 hp. That is not a lot to move 1526 kg of car, so efficient it might be, but fast it is not.
It isn’t as practical as some of its competitors either, as the Prius Prime is a four-seat vehicle, not a five passenger vehicle. That said, it will offer enough space for most people for their daily needs.
The front seat occupants get to play with a huge tablet -very Tesla like- that is mounted vertically. However, the graphics on the tablet are not the most cutting edge (especially the maps) and I would have preferred if this infotainment screen was mounted horizontally.
Aesthetically, the Prius Prime is a lot nicer to look at compared to its more conventional hybrid sibling – but it is still not a great design.
Driving wise, no Prius is going to appeal to auto enthusiasts, but acceleration is decent, and ride and handling is better than I was expecting. I quite enjoyed taking it on the highway, and using its adaptive cruise control – it surely took care of most of the stress of highway travel, especially when I hit a traffic jam.
According to Toyota, if you charge up your Prius Prime once every 100 km, you’ll average 1.8L/100km.
In my testing, the figure I came up with was 2.7L/100km – which is still impressive. In my 300 km test cycle, with 170 km of highway and 130 km of city driving, and charging the car up 2.5 times, I averaged 3.6L/100km. It is worth noting, that the Prius Prime’s main competitor, the Honda Clarity is more efficient and more practical, and gets a much larger government rebate ($5000 for the Prius Prime, $13,000 for the Clarity).
On the plus side, the Prius Prime is priced lower than its main rival, starting at $32,990 (plus dealer fees and taxes – you’ll receive the $5000 rebate some time after you purchase the vehicle).
The 2018 Prius Prime might not be perfect, but it offers another option for buyers of the Prius brand, and while it might not solve the world’s energy crisis, it offers a good alternative to the norm.