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Toyota Prius Hybrid 1.8 Review: The Efficiency Champion for Enthusiasts

The new Prius is both efficient and stylish.
James Wong
James Wong
10 May 2024
The Prius... is a truly sophisticated ride paired with tidy and precise handling.
What we like:
Gorgeous looks
Fuel efficiency
Handling and ride
What we dislike:
Engine noise intrudes slightly at higher RPMs
Aftermarket head unit

It’s been some 27 years since the first Prius came to the world. During its early years, it was a really quirky car, when nobody really bothered too much about hybrids or saving fuel. As the world’s first mass produced hybrid car, it also had a distinct form factor that drew either love or hate. But by standing out, it became somewhat fashionable to drive a Prius, especially for the famous to make a statement about going green.

Green and Cool?
With each successive generation, the Prius got more and more efficient, but not necessarily more desirable. It all changed with the new 5th generation Prius we had on test with us, and the proof was clear to see when the car drew enviable stares from passersby while we were on shoot. “Is that the new Prius? Looks great!” said a young man, while a couple stopped on the second floor of the adjacent building just to admire the car from afar.

The design is a huge win on all fronts - gone is all awkward shapes and lines, and in comes a svelte teardrop-like streamlined body (Toyota calls it a mono form silhouette) that seriously looks like a proper sports car from some angles. Its centre of gravity is pressed low to the ground, while the front hammerhead shark-like design is riveting - my son even said it looks like a Lamborghini.

Toyota has openly said they had to focus on the car’s stylistic aspects on top of its fuel efficiency credentials, so as to remain popular for the next few decades. They are quite right, for the Prius has drawn the endearing attention of enthusiasts. Some of them have already riced out their Priuses and can hold their head high in the most demanding of car meets.

Is the Prius’ 1.8-litre powertrain powerful?

The new Prius comes in either a 1.8-litre or 2.0-litre engine, but only the former is available from Toyota Singapore. There’s even a PHEV version based on the 2.0 but there is no word yet whether this will make its way to Singapore.

The 1.8 is good for 138 hp and to be frank, is more than adequate power for our roads. There was not a moment when the Prius felt lacking, the CVT working hand-in-hand seamlessly with the 2ZR-FXE to deliver ample pace. But I must say I am curious how much of a firebreather the Prius 2.0 will be, given it has the horsepower of a hot hatch - at least from my generation!

How efficient is the 5th generation Prius?

Toyota says you can easily do 1,000 km on a full tank of fuel and I think that’s achievable. With my heavy right foot and a lot of idling for shoots, I managed 16 km/l which is probably as bad as it is going to get. With normal driving patterns, I reckon getting a consumption figure around 20 km/l will be commonplace.

What is the 5th generation Prius like on the inside?

It feels futuristic with buttons minimised, but not excessively so. In fact, it just has the right amount of functionality with physical buttons for climate controls and steering wheel controls, while the touchscreen controls mainly entertainment and connectivity (as it should be). The steering wheel feels compact and almost like a joystick, while the instrument panel is crisp and easy to use.

The seats are comfortable and have suede inserts that feel premium. There’s also ample space for all occupants, although the aerodynamic roofline may be a tad low for those vertically endowed.

This is the interior of a car maker that has built millions upon millions of cars and honed it to perfection.

What is the 5th generation Prius like to drive?

I’ve been a fan of the TNGA platform for its chassis rigidity and refinement, and it continues on in the Prius. Toyota has also blessed the new Prius with a premium suspension setup - McPherson struts at the front and double wishbone at the rear. The result is a truly sophisticated ride paired with tidy and precise handling. There’s some arcane joy in carving corners while still returning in excess of 20 km/l.

Photos by Horizon Drivers' Club


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