High-tech Prius is the car of the motoring future

Musa Zondi

Musa Zondi

It is unfortunate that youngsters who walk the dusty roads of rural areas will never see the Prius because it doesn't like to be on gravel.

When you are in a Prius you think you work for Nasa and that you are a high-tech geek.

Push a button on your dashboard and the transfer of energy, from the wheels, to the engine, to the battery, is displayed with clarity. Perhaps there aren't a lot of things that are exciting about this car except the knowledge that this hybrid is the car of the future.

The Toyota Prius represents the original global hybrid vehicle technology and is the only vehicle of its type in South Africa.

Toyota says that in designing the car its engineers were responding to the challenge of producing an advanced, eco-friendly vehicle that embraces futuristic technologies.

The best thing about the car is that the garage people tend to forget you because your visits are so few and far between.

In the seven days that we had the car we had to top-up just once - a feat you would expect if you were riding a bike.

The car we had on test was the latest model and had a retail price of R269000, including VAT.

Armed with satellite navigation, the Prius saved even more fuel by taking us to our destination without the need to call the AA. It seats four with pleasure. At take off, it does not pass itself off as a jet, but has no airs about that.

It is urbane, smooth and will stick to its path without major hassles. The boot space is generous and though the interior is a bit dreary, the controls - almost all of them - are on the steering wheel, making operating the vehicle easy. You can spend more time looking at the transfer of energy and consumption on the electro multivision (EMV) display.

The list of standard features includes satellite navigation system, audio system with radio and six-CD changer, which is activated by satellite controls on the steering wheel or from a touch screen on the EMV display.

It also has nine-speaker sound and power windows on all four doors with auto up and down on the driver's window.

There's also electric power steering, cruise control, height adjustment for the driver's seat and remote central locking controlled by an electronic smart key.

There's the anti-theft alarm system, with intrusion-detection and an electronic transponder key, courtesy light fade-in and fade-out, powered side mirrors, plush leather upholstery, foot-operated parking brake and 60:40 split folding rear seats.

The usual acronyms feature: an ECB2 system that controls the four-wheel independent action of the hydraulic brakes, VSC, brake assist and ABS with EBD in accordance with the vehicle's operating conditions.

The Prius comes standard with an eight-year or 195 000km service plan.

Toyota's standard three-year- 100 000km warranty applies with 24-hour roadside assistance during the warranty period.