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Prius: the car of the future is here

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | September 26th, 2005



If you visited an auto show about 25 years ago, you probably would have seen a car like the Toyota Prius.

With a hybrid engine, touch screen audio controls, climate control and a satellite navigation system, this car would have gotten a lot of attention from the crowd.

Prius


However, this car would not have been in the section of production cars you could buy back in 1980, this would have been in the future car section, a concept car that would have made most people look at it and say its just not possible. People would have labeled the car as nothing more than an engineer's wild dream, and has about as much chance of going into production and actually working properly as a time machine.

Jump to modern day; not only is the Prius a reality, it works too, even better than I expected it would.

First of all, the Hybrid Synergy Drive system works like a gem. You readers are probably aware of the fact that the Prius has two engines. It has a 1.5 litre, four-cylinder gas engine that produces 76hp. Complimenting that is an electric motor that produces 67hp. That means you have a combined total of 143hp on board. So, on the power front, the Prius is more than capable of handling city and highway driving.

But I bet you want to know how this system actually works. To experience the system, you first have to approach the car. This car has a smart key, when you touch the door handle, the car recognizes that you are the owner and unlocks it automatically for you. (When you exit, you touch a black button on the door handle and it locks it.) Once seated, the car knows you are inside, and all you do is put your foot on the brake pedal and press a switch on the dashboard that reads “Power.” Now all of the dashboard lights come on and the car is active.

As the Prius starts, you don't hear anything, because the electric motor is very quiet and unless the climate control has to feed power to work the a/c it stays off.

This would be the perfect spy car since you can sneak up to people and they wouldn't know it. The hybrid system works perfectly; it is so seamless in its operation you cannot tell the transitions between gas power and electric unless you really listen for it. It's a marvelous system — if any manufacturer wants to get tips on how to design a hybrid system, take a close look at the Prius. This is how it's supposed to be done.

Making a system work seamlessly is only half the challenge; to get results is another matter, and the Prius doesn't disappoint there either. Out of 45 liters of fuel, I managed to get 838 km, which is just simply amazing. To put this into some perspective, I only managed 610 km from the Honda Accord Hybrid, and a similarly priced Subaru Legacy GT only got me 434 km. That makes the Prius phenomenally good on fuel. (However, the other cars mentioned here do offer more performance, especially the rocketship Legacy GT.)

But performance is not the name of Prius' game, economy is. If you are looking for a car solely for fuel economy, then look no further than the Prius.

However, the story doesn't end just there. The Prius will serve you just as well as a comfortable, daily driver. The trunk space is quite commodious, the rear passengers won't have any complaints on space either, and the front seat occupants have more space than owners of a BMW 5-series. You also get a lot of toys to play with. It has power windows and mirrors, steering wheel controls for climate control, audio and the information display. You can also opt for a wonderful navigation system with touch screen controls. This navigation system works better than most, but I do have two complaints about it — firstly, touching a screen with your finger tends to leave grease marks on a screen that is not the easiest to clean, and secondly, the navigation system doesn't allow you to work with it when the car is moving. I know that is to prevent drivers from getting distracted while the car is moving, but a passenger can't do anything with it either.

Are there any other complaints? Well, the driver's seat has no height or cushion tilt adjustment, and the low-friction tires have very little grip in wet conditions, so it probably won't be a good winter car, unless you get winter tires.

Apart from that, this car is pretty much perfect, and that includes the price. For a base price of $30,530, and a loaded as tested model for $37,945 it is even priced right if you ask me.

So, if you do a lot of driving and the rising cost of fuel is a bother, I recommend you look closely at a Prius — you won't be disappointed.
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