Latest Toyota Prius hybrid in its Prime
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The long-awaited arrival of a plug-in hybrid variant of the latest Toyota Prius makes an interesting story about time and money.
Two years ago Toyota New Zealand launched the fourth generation Prius — the version that charges its battery via regenerative braking and the petrol engine — with $47,490 base model pricing and a high-spec ZR model at $54,990.
A quick follow-up in July 2016 saw the launch of the Corolla Hybrid, when Toyota NZ also announced plans to sell ex-Japan third-generation Prius plug-in models through its Signature Class used-car operation.
The missing element from Toyota’s hybrid strategy was accessibility to plug-in technology for new car buyers. The Prius Prime delivers that solution but, at the time, New Zealand was down the pecking order for receiving the car and Toyota NZ also was unsure about being able to negotiate competitive pricing.
What a difference 22 months can make. The Prius Prime has now arrived and its debut has coincided with Toyota launching its Drive Happy-branded Driveway Price initiative.
The Prime — which almost two years ago looked like being on the high-side of $60K — has launched at $48,490 in standard grade and $49,990 with a leather-trim option.
And Drive Happy has had an effect on the price of other Prius models with the entry-level Prius SX repositioned to $38,990 and the ZR is now $46,990.
There’s some significant appeal when a car that promises low operating costs also offers an initial purchase price reduction.
To put the focus on low running costs, Toyota is billing the Prius as the $150-a-year car — that’s provided it’s operated only as an EV and doesn’t consume a drop of petrol.
‘‘That’s the yearly running costs you’ll pay in New Zealand for the Prius Prime according to Energywise,’’ said Neeraj Lala, Toyota New Zealand’s general manager of product and new vehicle sales.
Toyota bases the cost on Energywise data using the Prime’s claimed EV driving range of up to 63km, 14,000km annual use and off-peak recharging at 15c a kilowatt hour (kWh). Under the ADR test regime, the Prius Prime achieves combined cycle fuel consumption of 1.0L/100km.
Reality will turn out to be more expensive and Toyota admits 63km is an ideal figure and the real world EV range will be in the vicinity of 45-50km from a full charge.
The Prime has an 8.8kWh lithium-ion battery — double the storage capacity of the third-generation plug-in that is sold as a Signature Class used car — and the suggested charge time is 4 hours 30 mins from a 230-volt/8-amp household supply. The Prime will accept charge at up to 16 amps and using a Type 2 cable at a public fast-charge station the claimed full charge time reduces to 1h 50mins.
Along with the fixed-price Toyota Care Service Advantage plan and new-car warranty for new Toyota models, the Prius Prime has an 8-year/160,000km hybrid battery warranty.
The Prius Prime combines a 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine developing 72kW and 142Nm of torque with a new dual motor electric drive system. Combined hybrid powertrain output is 90kW and the new dual motor system allows a higher 135km/h top speed in EV mode.
An EV City mode provides maximum range by reducing power output along with Normal, Eco and Power drive modes.
Among the plug-in hybrid SUV alternatives is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which is $60,990 in XLS specification and $67,990 in VRX grade while Kia recently launched its Niro PHEV at $55,990. Further upmarket the Audi A3 e-tron costs $69,900 and the BMW 220Xe Active Tourer is $69,800.