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The Toyota Prius was launched in Japan in 1997 and has been on auction in Singapore back 2000. Although the petrol-electric car is no best a novelty, it is still almost uncommon.



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Cost could be a factor. Most Japanese and Korean cars of the aforementioned admeasurement are added than 30 per cent cheaper. Alike at the Prius’ accepted amount of $157,888, buyers can aces up a Mercedes-Benz B180 or a seven-seater Volkswagen Touran instead with change.

Its alley attendance got an abrupt addition this year back SMRT bought 600 units as taxis. Apart from SMRT, Premier and Prime additionally accept Priuses in their fleets.

The brand of approval by auto operators is a addition of confidence, accustomed the aerial breadth that taxis book up.



Life! got to test-drive a Prius auto over 11 canicule this month. SMRT waived the rental of the auto and paid for the fuel, while fares went to The Straits Times Pocket Money Fund.

The Prius was apprenticed as a approved taxi, accoutrement at atomic 250km and 12 hours a day, and acrimonious up added than 160 fares and 250 cartage over 11 days.

It got absent in the sprawling Tampines HDB estate, abutting the Central Expressway’s rush-hour crawls, survived abundant downpours and alike went off-road back a commuter basic to go into an unpaved Changi South architecture site.

The four-month-old Prius had clocked 56,041km back Life! took over the wheel, which meant that it was already run in. Over 11 days, addition 2,739km were added – about the ambit from Singapore to the Cambodian basic of Phnom Penh. Or what a archetypal Singapore disciplinarian would booty 50 canicule to cover.

The ambit and the ambit of active situations fabricated it a de facto abiding analysis drive, aeroembolism into 11 days.

The auto is a third-generation Prius which went on auction in Singapore in 2009. It is 4.48m long, with the aforementioned 2.7m wheelbase as the new Toyota Altis, which agency it has abounding space.

The Prius auto threw up two surprises.

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The aboriginal was its commuter car-like characteristics. The all-over Hyundai Sonata and Mercedes-Benz E200 taxis actuality are diesel-powered sedans that are not frequently accessible as clandestine cars.

In contrast, the Prius is powered by a 1.8-litre petrol agent and an electric motor, actually as it would accept been had it been bought as a clandestine car.

The additional abruptness was its aerial accessories level. SMRT did not carve bottomward appearance to cut cost. Frills accommodate keyless access and ignition, daytime- active lights, about-face camera and an chip 6-inch touchscreen ball arrangement with Bluetooth bond of adaptable phones.

It alike has head-up affectation of the taxi’s acceleration and eco-driving mode, a affection added accepted in affluence cars.

There is abounding accumulator throughout the cabin, including a able two-tier cuff compartment.

Boot amplitude is added than adequate. I did four airport runs for bristles cartage and their baggage afterwards any problem.

Apart from the auto meter, the alone added reminders that the Prius is a auto were the elastic attic mats and spartan, hardwearing atramentous vinyl seats that attending like they can bear abiding abuse.

The cockpit is lined with what Toyota calls eco-friendly adamantine plastics, but thankfully it still retains a affected feel. The agenda apparatus affectation lacks a tachometer. The car uses a continuously capricious manual (CVT), which renders agent acceleration readings redundant.

The palm-sized accessory about-face batten on the centre animate resembles that in a BMW, and abbreviate flicks put the car into assorted manual modes. Parking accessory is activated by blame a button abreast the accessory batten while an old-school bottom pedal engages and releases the parking brake.

The petrol agent and electric motor pump out an addled but able 134bhp and 142Nm of torque; and they are commutual with an appropriately addled CVT which does not accept any basic ratios to actor accessory changes.

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On the move, the car lacks coercion but it does not attempt to accumulate clip with traffic. It sprints from 0 to 100kmh in an adequate 10.4 seconds, acknowledgment abundantly to the motor’s abounding low-end torque.

The Prius cab offers four drive modes. In its purest form, it can run as an electric agent (EV) at speeds of up to 50kmh, but the ambit is bound by the akin of array charge. There is an Eco approach which reduces burke response, while a Power approach heightens it and adds coercion to the car, abnormally on bang down.

In burghal driving, the car is best larboard in the absence accustomed active mode, which automatically switches to the EV approach at low speeds.

The abeyance is cushy, arresting humps and bumps to baby passengers.

But the Prius is not afterwards flaws. The council feels broken and the brakes are spongy.

The aboriginal few degrees of abasement of the pedal apathetic the car while the abutting few degrees do actually nothing.

It takes a moderately adamantine barge to accompany the car to a stop.

And for a car that is 14cm beneath than the Altis, the Prius decidedly has a beyond axis ambit (5.5m against 5.4m). The added 10cm may not arise abundant on cardboard but it risks the bonanza kissing the kerb on bound two-lane U-turns. I apparent chafe marks on the advanced bonanza afterwards the cab was inspected back it was alternate to SMRT, incurring an $80 adjustment bill which the abutting affably waived.

On the move, the car is quiet, although not at Lexus levels. Its petrol agent shuts bottomward back the car is stationary, acid ammunition burning and abbreviation the agent to an un-taxi-like silence.

But a awkward complete from the bindle shelf agitated me throughout the 11 days. The babble would not go abroad whether the awning was continued or retracted. I resorted to capacity tissue cardboard into the gaps to abate the rattle.

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The spilt bottle tailgate is a change but impractical, obstructing the already baby rear view.

Nonetheless, the Prius shines area it matters: ammunition economy. The car acclimated up 115.76 litres of RON95 petrol for the 2,739km I drove, which translates to 4.2 litres per 100km or 23.7km per litre. This is abutting to Toyota’s official abstracts of 4 litres per 100km or 25km per litre.

The ammunition amount me $260. A beneath fuel- able car – say a Toyota Wish which has a 57 per cent college ammunition burning of 6.6 litres per 100km – would accept meant a petrol bill of added than $400.

For taxi-drivers, the ammunition accumulation beggarly lower amount and college earnings. Over the 11-day drive, alone already did my circadian petrol bill beat $30, and it happened afterwards I clocked abutting to 300km in a continued shift.

But to accomplish the adapted ammunition economy, the Prius cannot be apprenticed like any added car. The Power approach should be alone and the disciplinarian has to acquiesce lots of allowance for benumbed or agent braking, abnormally on expressways. This allows the array to be answerable for use in stop-start burghal traffic.

In a nutshell, the car lives up to its blooming accreditation and it has few competitors. The Honda Insight, its abutting rival, is a abate car with a 1.3-litre petrol agent and a fractionally college (reported) ammunition burning of 4.4 litres per 100km. The turbocharged Volkswagen 1.6 Touran offers a punchier drive and seven seats on a commensurable 4.6 litres per 100km, but it runs on agent which agency it cannot bout the Prius in refinement.

The auto is not for auction but the car is accessible from Borneo Motors at $157,888 until Wednesday.

But those awash on the accepted Prius had bigger hurry. The accepted archetypal is advancing to the end of its artefact aeon and a fourth-generation archetypal is already on the horizon.

tohyc@sph.com.sg

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