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Toyota Prius joins the Sportback

Discussion in 'A3/S3/Sportback (8P Chassis)' started by benw123, Jun 2, 2008.

  1. benw123
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    benw123 Moderator

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    [Jun 2, 2008]
    Around four months ago, I changed jobs and started commuting from Herts to West London. This meant using the overland train and tube, which wasn't just pricey, it took ages too. Luckily, the office I work at has parking and is well away from the congestion charging zone, so I drove it a few times in the Sportback 2.0TDI my wife and I share to try it out.

    Running a car would work out much cheaper (or about the same cost including depreciation) but more importantly, the journey was quicker. So I looked into buying a second car. The main must-haves were that it had to be an auto because of all the stop/start traffic and it had to be as frugal as possible.

    I researched this extremely heavily using the web. I must have considered just about everything, including a DSG A3 or Golf. Then I hit on the idea of a Prius. Although the congestion zone isn't really a problem, I'd read they were more frugal in town than the open road. A few reviews, particularly the long-term tests from magazines supported this. I'm no tree-hugger - I've been an EVO magazine subscriber for around five years! - but the Prius really did look like it would fit the bill. Literally, in fact, with road tax being just £15 - there's not even a six month option!

    I arranged a test drive which was impressive; the car shifts seamlessly from electric to petrol, or both under hard acceleration or, better still, none, when you pull up to a stop: the engine cuts out. The real decider for me though was that it topped the 2008 JD Power survey.

    Finding one was difficult as they're in real demand right now and the first five I chased up were sold within a couple of days of hitting the dealership. But step up Farmer & Carlisle in Leicester; they had a top-of-the-range 2006 T-Spirit (sat nav plus bluetooth) with the optional leather and intelligent park assist (it parks itself using a camera). I put down a deposit over the phone to secure it and took delivery on Saturday. And here it is!

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The drive home down the M1 and cross-country back to Herts was great; the Prius turned in a mighty 61mpg. The next day, we went over to St. Albans and saw and indicated 62mpg, and today on my way in to work for the first time, I saw 64.9mpg! Coming home tonight it dropped to 55.4mpg as the battery was largely discharged once I arrived at work and it had to recharge for the drive home, but it's still extremely impressive.

    So how does it compare to the Sportback? The first thing you notice is the ride - it's super-smooth next to our SE. Ruts and bumps are soaked up much better, and it's a lot less harsh (to be fair, the Sportback rides on 225/45 R17s and the Prius makes do with 195/55 R16s, although the A3 was never great on its original 16s before I changed them). The steering is incredibly light too, and with the only other noise being from a low-power petrol unit as opposed to a diesel, it is much more refined.

    The A3 has it licked on road-holding and of course is much more gutsy. From a standing start, the Prius takes off like lightening as the electric motor works to around 30mph before the petrol engine takes over, but above this speed, hampered by the CVT transmission a little, it needs a lot of throttle to take off.

    Inside, the quality is a bit down on the Audi but still much better than Japanese cars of old. The leather really helps, while it is very spacious inside and you have a slightly-elevated view of the road too. Most of the functions are either in the touch-screen display or on the steering wheel which helps keep the interior uncluttered. Incidentally, the sat nav is manufactured by Aisin Ltd - who also make the RNS-E - and there are some common looks about it, although in this one you can add a few POIs!

    Most importantly, when driving the A3 to West London, I could never get more than 45mpg. The problem is that it doesn't matter how carefully you drive in heavy traffic, you're always burning fuel. The Prius switches off the engine in these situations, and inbetween you can creep around on the electric motor (or press the EV switch to force it to stay in electric mode). You have to watch for pedestrians and cyclists though!

    It's early days, and I realise that this car isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea - particularly since Toyota's "green" claims have been put to rights recently about how the car is manufactured and disposed of - but already it looks spot on for me :)
    #1
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  3. d3fy
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    d3fy Active Member

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    [Jun 2, 2008]
    Intresting read mate. So how much was it?
    #2
  4. benw123
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    benw123 Moderator

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    [Jun 2, 2008]
    Got them down to £14,600 (it was up for £14,999). They also completed a 2-year major service, paid the road tax (£15, not really a deal breaker), filled it up and threw in a set of mats.

    Interestingly, the prices were far, far cheaper the further north you went. At the Chiswick and Twickenham dealerships they had a good selection; elsewhere, it was just the odd or or two. Mine was one of two at Leicester.
    #3
  5. SteveTDCi
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    SteveTDCi Active Member

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    [Jun 2, 2008]
    I can see you wanting to avoid the congestion charge, but so will the A3 1.9, CO2 is going to becmoe more important, hence the reason we are staying with focus's
    #4
  6. benw123
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    benw123 Moderator

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    [Jun 2, 2008]
    I always thought the CC exemption was totally free; but you have to register for it annually at £10. The Toyota website has a link to a printable certificate to send in.
    #5
  7. SteveTDCi
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    SteveTDCi Active Member

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    [Jun 2, 2008]
    I thought it was free too, but I knew you had to apply for it on a yearly basis.
    #6
  8. Twizzler
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    Twizzler Member

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    #7
  9. Amchlolor
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    Amchlolor Active Member

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    As mentioned above, I don't see the point of a Prius when you can buy a <120g/km 1.9tdi A3???
    My colleague's 1.9tdi sportback special edition (phew..) is getting an easy 50mpg, which is mostly on B-roads too.
    I would guess mid 50's to 60mpg would be achievable, on better roads.
    IMO, Toyota's major mistake was to fit the Prius with a petrol engine.
    Really weird.:uhm:
    If they'd fitted it with a diesel engine, you would potentially be looking at 80mpg+.
    #8
  10. bacardi
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    bacardi Active Member

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    I can see one benefit - it won't sound like a large bag of spanners in a tumble drier (It will just sound like a tumble drier)
    #9
  11. Amchlolor
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    Amchlolor Active Member

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    I'll see you the rattly engine, and raise you the Prius's 'challenging' looks.
    #10
  12. Gti Jazz Blue
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    Gti Jazz Blue Active Member VCDS Map User

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    Exactly my thoughts, sorry but to my eyes that is as ugly as sin.

    The other issue that worries me in the long run is reliability and service costs of the electric side of things.

    I can't see many ordinary garages having the skills to work on the High Voltage battery system.

    Paul
    #11
  13. benw123
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    benw123 Moderator

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    Well, it had to be an automatic because of driving in London. The best I averaged in our manual Sportback was 45mpg and, while I'm only on day two admittedly, 64.9 and 58.4mpg for both days is well up on that.
    Each to their own! Admittedly it is a bit odd, but it does look better in the flesh. It's somewhere between an MPV and large coupe - due to the rakish roofline - but the shape means it's large inside.
    This also worried me, but Toyota offer an 8-year/100,000 mile warranty on the powertrain, which includes all the running gear plus the battery. And as well as being a Toyota, which imbues it with reliability by default (!), the car topped the JD Power Survey for 2008 (and was joint top with the IS200 in 2007). That really says something about the car.

    There are also plenty of American users who've climbed well over the 100k mark with no problems.
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  14. Amchlolor
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    Amchlolor Active Member

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    Does anyone know why Toyota chose to use a petrol engine in the Prius, when they have an excellent diesel they could have used?
    I'm guessing it's because of the US market, where they hate diesels?
    To me, it's made it a bit 'half-arsed'.
    Reasonably economical, when it could be hyper-economical.
    #13
  15. benw123
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    benw123 Moderator

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    The reason Toyota went with petrol is that diesel engines don't stop and start as easily as petrol ones. With the latter, you only really need to cut the spark. This is how the petrol engine in the Prius can start so quickly - you can barely feel it when it does.
    #14
  16. Amchlolor
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    Amchlolor Active Member

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    Have you driven a stop/start equipped diesel BMW?
    No offence, but that puts paid to the above argument, it works perfectly.
    #15
  17. benw123
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    benw123 Moderator

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    True but remember the Prius technology began in the late nineties and was updated for the current 2004-onwards model. Even back then, diesel technology - compared to today at least - was pretty primitive.
    #16
  18. Amchlolor
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    Amchlolor Active Member

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    Fair point.
    Any sign of Toyota offering a diesel Prius?
    I'd have thought the 'most economical car in the world' tag was worth chasing.
    #17
  19. JohnS3
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    JohnS3 Active Member

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    Thats a very good point, like you say though, down to the yanks hating oil burners.
    #18
  20. JohnS3
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    JohnS3 Active Member

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    It sure is ugly, looks like someone rear ended a Citroen.. :puke2:
    #19
  21. bacardi
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    bacardi Active Member

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    would it sound like a tumble drier full of spanners, along with another tumble drier :)
    #20
  22. PNH80
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    PNH80 Low life livin' the high life.

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    I'd love to see you pimp that Prius. Slam it onto 19's with some tints. You know you wanna....

    Seriously though, it's rare people buy cars totally for economy and as you say it's more cost efficient and quicker than public transport. A good firm 2 finger salute to the government and their never ending quest to get us out of our cars and using public transport.
    I think this is actually the future of motoring: A sinful car for leisure and a car like a Prius for a low cost, low polluting commute to work. Good stuff.
    #21
  23. Amchlolor
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    Amchlolor Active Member

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    I'm all for finding ways around government legislation, like <120g/km cars that get cheap roadtax and avoid the London congestion charge.
    The trouble is, they don't really want us to do it.
    They want us to keep the cars we have.
    If we all made the move, they would just move the goalposts again.

    In principle though, if future legislation were to force us into Prius-type cars, I wouldn't really have a problem with it.
    It's still better than catching a germ-wagon.
    #22
  24. mfspen
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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    Isn't there also an issue with the environmental impact of manufacturing the batteries ? I seem to recall reading something about that.
    #23
  25. JohnS3
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    JohnS3 Active Member

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    .... and where the power comes from to charge them.
    #24
  26. Amchlolor
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    Amchlolor Active Member

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    The car charges them as it goes, doesn't it?
    Or are you talking about the initial charge?
    #25
  27. JohnS3
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    JohnS3 Active Member

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    Sorry, I meant when it's plugged into the mains to charge it. Although re reading Bens post he says "recharge for the drive home" which could mean either batteries charged when plugged in or batteries charge by running the engine. Perhaps Ben could clarify?
    #26
  28. Twizzler
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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    You don't plug it into the mains. It uses its engine and regenerative braking etc to recharge the battery pack.
    #27
  29. Amchlolor
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    Amchlolor Active Member

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    Do the batteries come charged, or is the initial few miles by petrol only, until the charge is built up?
    A guy down the road has one.
    It would make the ideal vehicle for burglers, I tell you that.
    #28
  30. Twizzler
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    Twizzler Member

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    I imagine the battery pack would have a partial charge following the manufacture process of the Ni MH cells. Just as the batteries in a new mobile phone etc have. It would then rely on the engine etc to finish the job.
    #29
  31. sleep envy
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    sleep envy Member

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    I doubt the Govt/state would be able to afford it bearing in mind they've netted a additional £1.1 bn windfall in the last 81 days since the budget

    the treasury is definitely benefiting as a result of record oil prices, it's not in their interest to do anything about it


    agreed - the looser cruiser is a horrid place to be
    #30
  32. benw123
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    benw123 Moderator

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    [Jun 3, 2008]
    Apologies John, I wasn't very clear - as others have said, there is no external charging. The electric motor becomes a generator with the engine turning it, and when you back off the throttle or brake the lost kinetic energy also charges the battery.

    Interestingly, I read that the battery never gets fully charged. Toyota engineers worked out that the battery life is extended simply by keeping it around 80-90% charged. Even so, it recovers from empty to almost full fairly quickly.

    This is a well-known internet slur on the Canadian factory that produces the batteries. It was suggested that nothing grows around the plant and that it looks like a lunar landscape. The Daily Mail ran it on their website - read there humbling apology here.

    It's one hell of a cliché, but this is all about horses for courses. When I first thought of buying a second car, I had ideas about a Honda S2000, Golf GTI, maybe even a Porsche Boxster - something really fun. But the reality of my commute, after running it several times in our Sportback, meant that those cars would be completely useless and expensive to run.

    Instead, with fuel prices rising all the while, I've really had to use the head instead of the heart and I'm very confident I've bought something that will handle the commute perfectly. The auto box, silence at the lights and under electric power, 60mpg+ potential and that stupidly-cheap £15 road tax - it couldn't be ignored!
    #31
  33. synthdood
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    [Jun 4, 2008]
    The americans are beginning to see the light. SUV sales have plummeted over the last year and GM want to sell the Hummer branch because they don't want to be associated with gas guzzlers. Maybe they'll start appreciating diesel engines now and then Toyota can start thinking about producing a Diesel Prius (The US is a very large market for the Prius, especially California).

    At least something good is coming from the exploding oil price: Manufacturers are finally making an effort to produce frugal engines and, more important, people are buying them. (I've seen quite a few 1.4T's on the forum already). There is hope for us yet...
    #32
  34. sat1983
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    sat1983 Member

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    [Jun 4, 2008]
    I know this is the future but my god I really couldn't live with the looks- I'd rather spend an extra £400-500 a year and get a good looking diesel.
    I don't really like telling someone their new purchase is ugly, but when I look at the Prius I just feel I have to!
    You could forgive the front but not that rear end.
    #33
  35. bacardi
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    bacardi Active Member

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    [Jun 4, 2008]
    bit like the a3 cab? Actually, the front end is fugly on the A3 cab too
    #34
  36. sat1983
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    sat1983 Member

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    [Jun 4, 2008]
    Well yeah I'd rather an A3 cab, although at £34k specced up I think i'd leave that well alone too...
    #35
  37. synthdood
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    synthdood Member

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    [Jun 4, 2008]
    I agree that, so far, all hybrids and economic cars have been rather ugly. Why can't they make a good looking hybrid? The Honda Civic hybrid is better looking than the prius but still something wrong about the way it looks. If we want everybody to buy these cars they need to appeal to the average car buyer and not just to the greenies. Next to a house, a car is the most expensive thing that people buy and when you spend that much money you want it to look good. Emotion is as much (if not more) a factor in buying a car as reason.
    #36
  38. mfspen
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    mfspen Member

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    [Jun 4, 2008]
    :thumbsup:

    That's good to hear.

    I fully expect gas guzzling cars such as mine to plummet in value over the next couple of years, so a hybrid could well be a viable replacement. Apparently, some of the hedge funds are even betting on oil reaching $1000 a barrel !
    #37
  39. bacardi
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    bacardi Active Member

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    [Jun 4, 2008]
    thing is, the Prius is not pretending to be a fashion accessory, so to some extent you can excuse the looks, whereas the A3............
    #38
  40. newbiecrg
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    newbiecrg windsurfer

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    [Jun 4, 2008]
    There is nothing green on an hybrid car.... in a consumer point of view sure it uses less petrol but the production of an hybrid car is actually worse for the environment... everything related to those batteries. When time comes to dispose of them!!

    Not in this case but some Prius owners buy the car in an eco-friendly theme and that is really unrealistic... those i mean also fly in their private jets... ahah

    Pedro
    #39
  41. sat1983
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    sat1983 Member

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    [Jun 4, 2008]
    No the Prius isn't a fashion accessory although I hear that in their own way they are... Fashionable to be green apparently which is why more and more celebs are getting them.
    #40

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