WHAT WOULD MARY POPPINS DRIVE?
Published on Sat, Jul 23, 2011
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Roy Nakano What would Mary Poppins drive? We think it would be the Prius: Practically perfect in every way (emphasis on the word practically). Peter Nortman knows the Prius well. His company, EnergyCS, was the first to convert the Prius for plug-in operation. “The more we pick apart the Prius, the more we’re amazed how good a car this is,” Nortman told LA CAR. With the third generation Prius, Toyota has perfected the art of the Prius to such a high degree, it keeps on keeping the competition off guard. Many car companies have tried to build a Prius beater, but none have succeeded. Among the green machines, it’s still the one to beat.
Earlier this month, the Union of Concerned Scientists came out with their Hybrid Scorecard, rating 34 hybrids for fuel efficiency, environmental improvement, and consumer value, and weighing it against the “forced features” automakers install that artificially inflate the cost of some models. The Prius remained the top model among all hybrids anywhere near its class in the UCS scorecard’s environmental improvement category, delivering more than 40 percent reduction in global warming pollution compared with its closest conventional models. “The combination of the Prius’ high fuel economy, good value, and relatively small number of forced features evidently help make it the best-selling hybrid, accounting for about half of all hybrid sales, said the UCS in its report.
To this day, the Prius tops all hybrids and diesels in the EPA fuel economy ratings, delivering 51 miles per gallon in the city and 48 on the highway (50 combined). Even the Volt extended-range electric car only manages 35/40 miles per gallon in once the electric juice runs out. And while the Prius’ nickel-metal-hydride hybrid batteries may sound a bit old tech compared to the new-fangled lithium batteries sprouting up in electric cars like the Nisan Leaf, the Prius batteries have proven to be virtually indestructible. Hybrid battery failure is rare, and when it does happen, it’s typically a single battery. And there are plenty of Prii in the junkyards so that you won’t need to sacrifice any arms or legs to purchase a used battery.
The one virtue of the Prius that doesn’t get much mention, however, is its abundant practicality. Despite its exterior dimensions, the car is very roomy inside. The back seat offers ample leg room, and even the rear middle occupant won’t feel too cramp in the Prius. And unlike some other hybrid offerings, the rear seats fold flat (individually) and the hatchback rear makes for lots of room. Large screen TV monitors, small furniture, and bicycles are a cinch to carry with the Prius. There’s even extra storage space under the trunk in case you need to make mulch bag runs from Home Depot.
Alas, while the car is virtually perfect in its practicality, it’s no sports car. The third generation Prius feels even more detached from the road than the previous edition. This translates to less feel of the road when maneuvering curves. On the other hand, the newest Prius is significantly quieter and smoother—doing a better job at keeping the occupants comfortable, even over less-than-perfect pavement. When the dust clears from the battle of the hybrid all stars, the would-be Prius-beaters can’t match the value and practicality of the original. Ten year after the first Prius landed on these shores, it’s still the one to beat.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT One word: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious For more information about Toyota products, go to toyota.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Toyota Prius Price: $22,120 – base price $26,850 - as tested, includes power titlt/slide moonrooof with solar powered ventilation system and remote air conditioning system with sunshade, voice-activated touch-screen DVD navigation system with integrated back-up camera, JBL AM/FM 4-disch CD changer with MP3/WMA playback capability, eight speakers, SM Radio with NavTraffic with 90-day trial, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity, and hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology; Safety Connect inclues emergency assistance, stolen vehicle locator, roadside assistance and automatic collision notification (1 year trial subscription). EPA gas mileage (city/highway/combined) 51/48/50 Emission rating: SULEV (with AT-PZEV) Engine: 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with VVT-i Electric motor: Permanent magnet synchronous motor Horsepower: Engine horsepower: 98 hp @ 5,200 rpm Electric motor power output: 80 hp Hybrid system net horsepower: 134 hp Engine torque: 105 pound-feet @ 4,000 rpm Electric motor: 153 pound-feet @ 0 rpm
Transmission: Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission Drive System: Front-wheel-drive Hybrid battery pack: Nickel-metal hydride Wheels: 15-inch alloy wheels 17-inch alloy wheels (optional) Tire Size: 15-inch: 195/65R15 17-inch: 215/45R17 (optional) Dimensions (inches) Overall Length: 175.6 Overall Width: 68.7 Overall Height: 58.7 Coefficient of Drag: 0.25