by Zach McDonald: HybridCars.com
The 2012 Consumer Reports Annual Auto Reliability Survey has again found hybrid and electric vehicles to outperform their peers in predicted overall reliability. Toyota models in particular fared well, with the Prius, Prius V and Prius Plug-in all receiving positive ratings in the report, and the Scion nameplate taking the honors for most reliable brand. The new Prius c compact hybrid was the top-scoring model overall.
The ratings are derived from assessing carmaker and model data dating back as far as ten years, and encompassing more than 1.2 million cars and trucks. As reported on the NYTimes.com Wheels blog, Consumer Reports testers say that hybrids have outgrown battery-related reliability fears, and are now considered to be among the safest investments on the road.
“We’ve got Priuses out there with 200,000 miles on them and 12 years in service,” said director of automotive testing, Jake Fischer. “So the whole thing about the sky falling and the $10,000 battery [replacement cost] hasn’t happened.”
Indeed, one of the early fears about hybrids was that their nickel-metal hydride battery packs would lose capacity or fail early in the life of the vehicle, bringing on thousands of dollars in replacement costs that could outstrip any gas savings versus conventional ICEs. To this day, some consumers still site battery reliability fears as one of their primary reasons for not considering a hybrid, even as hybrids continually perform well in resale value and reliability tallies.
Of all of the hybrid and plug-in cars Consumer Reports reviewed for the survey, all but one received a better-than-average rating.
The Chevy Volt, Nissan LEAF and Prius Plug-in were all awarded positive marks, though Fischer admitted that it’s still not yet known how the lithium ion battery packs found in plug-ins will hold up over the long term. This summer, Nissan dealt with fallout from an apparent range-loss phenomenon in parts of the Southwest, where heat was considered the likely culprit in dozens of reported cases of battery degradation.
Though the issue generated some bad press for Nissan, it was mostly limited to areas of extremely high heat like Phoenix, and affected just a small fraction of a percent of the total LEAFs Nissan has sold in the United States. On the whole, there is little evidence to suggest that plug-in vehicle batteries won’t live up to their expectations, but as with hybrids, it will be years before they will be able to truly prove themselves to the public.
Furthermore, there are some decided reliability advantages to driving a fully-electric vehicle like the LEAF or Toyota Rav4 EV. One of the primary contributors to engine trouble in a vehicle is the build-up of deposits of “engine gunk,” which results from the burning of hydrocarbons. With no gasoline to burn, EVs need fewer tune-ups and are expected to be significantly less subject to break downs that their ICE counterparts. Provided that their lithium ion battery packs hold up to years of charging, EVs could soon prove to be the most reliable cars on the road.
Toyota has announced the development of a new vehicle-to-grid-like setup capable of sharing power between plug-in vehicles like the Prius Plug-in or RAV4 EV, and a home. The vehicle-to-home system (or V2H as the carmaker is calling it,) can cycle energy from an EV or PHEV into the home during periods of outage or to balance out the power load during peak hours of energy usage. The system will begin testing in ten Japanese households by the end of the year.
Toyota says the technology is being developed as part of the “ToyotaCity Low-Carbon Verification Project” it started two years ago, partnering the carmaker with 19 other companies in an effort to help households and cities optimize their energy management, with the overall goal of reduced CO2 emissions. Vehicle-to-home and other energy-balancing systems require a means to build up and store energy during times of lower usage so that it can be used later, when there is more demand and utilities tend to charge more for power. Plug-in vehicle batteries have long been identified as potential sites for this kind of energy storage, and in recent years a wide array of carmakers and charging station manufacturers have announced plans to develop such systems.
In addition to helping utilities avoid strain on the grid (and the environment,) V2H benefits electric vehicle owners in several ways. Most attractively, it helps to lower overall utility costs by diverting peak usage to off-peak hours, when electricity is cheaper. Those savings can help to offset the added cost of an electric vehicle battery pack by providing multiple uses for the pack. During emergency situations or when power is scarce or unavailable, V2H can also allow a plug-in owner to power his or her home for anywhere from a few hours to a few days depending upon the kind of vehicle.
Plug-in hybrids like the Prius Plug-in are particularly useful in this situation, because their engines can act as generators, converting gasoline to much-needed electricity. According to Toyota, a fully charged Prius Plug-in with a full tank of gas can power the average Japanese home for up to 4 days.
It’s been twelve years since the Toyota Prius first came on to the American stage. Thought of as a science experiment then, and in many ways it was, now in it’s third generation the Prius Liftback IS the face of Toyota.
While the hybrid and plugin electric market may only be 2.5% of all vehicle sales in the U.S., the Prius accounts for more than 50% of those sales. The most shocking statistic is that 96% of all Prius’ sold, are still on the road today. Looking to expand the sales of the Prius, Toyota have expanded the sub-brand of Prius into four models, with the goal of the Prius family of vehicles surpassing Camry in sales.
The first expansion of the Prius family was the v, not quite a crossover, yet more than a wagon, it was Toyota’s move to get growing and active families more space to fit their lifestyle without compromising fuel economy or the integrity of the Prius name. The Plugin Prius will be the current Liftback model that will have the ability to drive 15 miles on pure electric, then revert back to a standard Prius Hybrid once the charge has been depleted. The last component is the source of our review, and that is the Prius c. It is a B-segment car, which will be competing against the likes of Toyota’s own Yaris and iQ, along with the Mazda2, Ford Fiesta, Chevy Spark, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent.
Powering the Prius c is an updated version of the venerable 1.5 liter inline four cylinder engine. It has been updated to improve efficiency with lighter weight valve springs, lighter tension weight piston rings along with a few other items like the elimination of an accessory belt so now that the power steering, air conditioning and water pump are all driven via electric motors to reduce drag and friction and improve fuel economy. This is paired with a Ni-MH battery pack that is about 2/3rds the size of the one found in the Liftback, which provides an additional 25.9 horsepower to the 73 horsepower engine. The transaxle in the Prius c is an all electric unit that has no belts.
Fuel economy is the raison d’etre in the Prius family and the Prius c will deliver that in spades. Rated by the EPA 53 city, 46 highway and 50 combined. We had the opportunity to drive for a short 25 mile loop that was an equal mix of surface roads and highway. On the surface roads we pulled down 63.5 mpg without really making an effort to maximize fuel economy, and at the end of the loop we had a combined 54.7 mpg, and that was while driving highway speeds of 70-75 mph. Keeping with the rest if the Prius family, the c also has start/stop technology, so that the car is running only when it needs to when stopped in traffic. If you are in stop and go driving, this is an excellent way to save a few extras drops of fuel.
Lest you think this B-segment car is cramped inside, it is not. Front seat passengers have plenty of room, no fear of rubbing shoulders with your passenger. For back seat passengers, two normal sized adults will be able to ride comfortably. We had the drivers seat set for us at 5’11”, then jumped in the back seat behind and were able to get in and out with no problem, and our knees were not touching the back of the driver seat either.
The rear seats do fold in a 60/40 arrangement allowing for good load flexibility, bicycles and snowboards will have no problem fitting inside. With the seats up there is 17.1 cubic feet of space in the hatch area, which should be more than enough room for day to day items, or runs to the grocery store.
In the upper trim levels Toyota have made Softex synthetic leather an option. Listening to their consumers, Toyota have eliminated the use of natural leather in the Prius family of cars. The Softext in our test car, was comfortable, had a quality feel to it, and was grippy so that we did not slide around in the seat.
There will be four trim levels to the Prius c, One, Two, Three and Four. Stepping up to trim level’s Three and Four will net you a smart key, which offers the ability to not have to take the key out of your pocket to get in the car, or need it for starting. The upper two levels also get you the top end audio system with navigation. It has a 6.1 in touch screen with AM/FM/SirusXM/HD Radio and also will play CD’s along with MP3 and WMA files through a six speaker system.
All trim levels have bluetooth as standard but trim levels Three and Four allow for advanced voice recognition. The top end audio system also includes Entune. Entune is a system that Toyota have developed that works with the data connection on your smart phone to supply Pandora, iHeart Radio, OpenTable, MovieTickets.com along with real time traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports scores and weather to you.
You register on a specific Toyota website with your cars VIN number, and then you can assign up to four different phones to the system so that everyone can taylor the system to themselves, if multiple people in a household share the car.
The Prius c also contains a 3.5 inch TFT display to the right of the offset digital speedometer. There are multiple levels of menus to explore within. Items like energy monitors, drive information, scoring the last 100 drives and how economical the current one is, 5 minute consumption. There is an ECO Savings level where you can program the current cost of gas in, and also the mpg of another vehicle to see how much you are saving with the Prius c. It also calculates the current cost of your current trip, and past trips, and brake it down into a cost per mile. It will also grade you on how economically you are driving and braking on a scale of 1-5 and display it in a bar graph.
Many people worry about safety in cars that are as small as the Prius c. To address this Toyota is including nine standard airbags along with items like ABS, traction control, vehicle stability control, brake assist, brake force distribution and smart stop.
Smart stop is a system that intervenes when both the brake and gas peddles are pressed at the same time. In a panic situation one might press down hard on both peddles without meaning to. The system senses this, and disengages the gas, it also incorporates a hill assist into the system so that if you are on a hill and stopped, you do not roll backwards when transferring from the brake peddle to the gas peddle.
Pricing for the Prius c in trim level One starts at $19,710, Level Two is $20,760, Level Three is $22,395 and Level Four is $23,990, all prices include the $760 destination fee. While this is certainly on the higher end of the B-Segment price structure, cars like Ford’s Fiesta can quickly top $20,000 as well once they are optioned up. The base price of the Prius c is about a $2,000 premium over the Yaris to give some context.
Out on the road the Prius c drives very well. While the handling can’t be called sporty, it is very competent. It is very agile, has a better ride quality than the Prius Liftback or v, and also transmits less road noise through the tires than the Liftback or v as well. The Prius c engineers took extra time to mitigate as much NVH from the car as possible and their work shows.
Acceleration in city traffic from 0-40 miles an hour is good, though not quick. Merging onto the highway the power can be best described as adequate. It is able to get on to freeways and merge without drama, and while you may feel you need to be going faster or accelerating quicker, once you look at the speedometer, you will see you’ve already gotten up to the speed of surrounding traffic. The car can engage an EV mode where it can run up to a mile with a max speed of 25 miles an hour.
The Prius c was able to run 75 miles an hour on the highway with no issues, it was not moved around by semi’s going past, it felt very stable, and the interior is quiet enough to hold a conversation in a normal tone of voice.
While the other versions of the Prius have never excited us all that much, we feel that the c is the first Prius that we can get behind. It truly was a fun and satisfying car to drive. In a time when gas is again approaching $4/gallon in the U.S., having a car that can pull down 50 mpg is an attractive proposition. And when that proposition asks very few compromises from you, it’s even more so. No the car is not a sports car, or a sporty car, what it is, is a small car that gets the job done, can be well equipped, and you don’t mind driving. While in the past, and even now with the Liftback and the v, the Prius’ could be described as automotive appliances, the c does not have that vibe, it feels like a car first, a hybrid second.
Designed to function as a city-friendly vehicle with an engaging driving experience, hatchback utility, and an EPA-estimated city fuel economy rating of 53 mpg, Prius c offers the highest city mpg rating of any vehicle without a plug. The all-new Prius c joins the Prius Family, which includes the third generation Prius Liftback, the versatile new Prius v and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, which will be available in early 2012.
Unique Place in the Prius Family
A gateway into the Prius Family, the new Prius c will find favor with younger shoppers seeking a smartly designed, fuel-sipping subcompact car packing advanced drivetrain and in-car technology. The SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle) rated Prius c will offer engaging driving dynamics and superior urban maneuverability. When the 2012 Prius c arrives in showrooms in March 2012, this all-new hatchback will offer:
* The highest rated city fuel economy of any vehicle without a plug*; 53 mpg in the city, and 46 mpg on the highway, for a combined rating of 50 mpg
* A starting MSRP of $18,950 with a proven hybrid powertrain and premium technology
* A premium hybrid experience thanks to a wide array of convenience and advanced in-car electronics features, including a standard 3.5-inch full color TFT multi-information display, Bluetooth® hands-free phone capability, USB port with iPod® connectivity, and available Display Audio system with Navigation and Entune™
Prius c: Four Grades
The Prius c will be available in four grades, offering desirable features, equipment, and enhanced capability providing consumers compelling value. All Prius c models will be equipped with a Hybrid Synergy Drive 1.5-liter DOHC, 16-valve engine with VVT-i, a 60 hp permanent magnet AC synchronous motor, and a 144 volt nickel-metal hydride battery which generates 25.9 hp of electric propulsion for a total hybrid system net output of 99 horsepower. The Prius c will be equipped with 9 standard airbags, driver and front passenger Advanced Whiplash-Injury-Lessening seats and Toyota’s Star Safety System ™ that includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction control (TRAC), Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), and Smart Stop Technology (SST).
The Prius c One base grade will offer many standard features such as automatic climate control, tilt-telescopic steering wheel with audio, climate, multi-information display and Bluetooth® hands free phone controls; and remote keyless entry with illuminated entry.
The Prius c Two grade offers a 6-speaker audio system, variable intermittent windshield wipers, a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat with adjustable headrests, cruise control, engine immobilizer, center console with armrest and storage compartment, and a cargo area tonneau cover.
The Prius c Three grade enhances the technology in the vehicle with improved audio and connectivity. The Prius c Three includes a Display Audio system with Navigation and Entune™ that adds a 6.1-inch touchscreen, Sirius XM Satellite Radio capability (includes 3 month trial subscription to XM Select Package), HD Radio™ with iTunes® Tagging, USB port with iPod® connectivity and control, vehicle information with customizable settings, and advanced voice recognition. Toyota Entune™ includes Bing™ and Pandora®; real-time info including traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports, and stocks. Apps available spring 2012 at no charge include iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com and OpenTable®. Access to Entune™ services is complimentary for three years. In addition, the Prius c Three grade includes color-keyed outside door handles with touch- sensor lock/unlock feature, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio, climate, Multi-information Display, Bluetooth® hands free phone and voice command controls, a Touch Tracer Display, and a Smart Key System on the front doors and liftgate with Push Button Start and remote illuminated entry. The Prius c Three allows buyers to add 15-inch alloy wheels and a power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade as optional equipment.
The Prius c Four grade is distinguished by its 15-inch, 8-spoke alloy wheels, Softex-trimmed heated front seats, color-keyed heated power outside mirrors with turn signal indicators, and integrated fog lamps. Optional equipment for the Prius c Four includes 16-inch, 8-spoke alloy wheels with 195/50R16 tires and power tilt telescopic moonroof with sunshade.
2012MY Prius c Pricing Sheet
PRIUS c ONE $18,950
PRIUS c TWO $19,900
PRIUS c THREE $21,635
PRIUS c FOUR $23,230
2012 Prius c Options and Packages
Available for Prius c Three:
Power tilt/slide moonroof with sliding sunshade – MSRP $850
15-inch 8-spoke alloy wheels with P175/65R15 tires- MSRP $390
Available for Prius c Four:
Power tilt/slide moonroof with sliding sunshade – MSRP $850
16-inch 8-spoke alloy wheels with P195/50R16 tires – MSRP $300
16-inch Alloy Wheel Package: combines 16-inch 8-spoke alloy wheels with P195/50R16 tires and power tilt/slide moonroof with sliding sunshade – MSRP $1,150
Available Exterior Colors:
Blue Streak Metallic
Summer Rain Metallic
Black Sand Pearl
Magnetic Gray Metallic
Classic Silver Metallic
by Zack McDonald HybridCars.com
Toyota has upgraded its expectations for the 2012 Prius Plug-in’s official fuel economy rating, ahead of the vehicle’s March 2012 launch.
According to Toyota Division Group vice-president, Bob Carter, the 2012 Prius Plug-in returns 95 miles-per-gallon-equivalent (MPGe) in electric-only mode, and 50 mpg in hybrid mode. That’s a decent bump over Toyota’s previously announced numbers of 49 MPGe in electric-only mode and 49 MPG in hybrid mode. The revised figures were announced by Carter at a Toyota Prius C launch event in California this week.
At 95 MPGe, the 2012 Prius Plug-in essentially matches the rating of the 2012 Chevy Volt. For the 2012 model year, the EPA revised the Volt’s fuel economy ratings, increasing its electric mode rating from 93 to 94 MPGe.
The nearly identical efficiency ratings of the Prius Plug-in and Volt will inevitably lead to comparisons between the two leading plug-in hybrids—despite the vehicles’ divergent technology approaches, style, passenger and cargo space, and driving feel.
The 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid offers 15 miles of electric-only range at speeds of up to 62 miles per hour. The Chevy Volt is always powered via electric motor, though it uses a gasoline engine to recharge its battery pack after an EPA-estimated 35 miles. Due to its Electric Advanced Technology Partial Zero-Emissions Vehicle (eAT-PZEV) status, the Prius Plug-in qualifies for California’s carpool lane access—a perk now granted to the 2012 Chevy Volt as well.
To some, the most striking difference between the Volt and Prius Plug-in Hybrid might seem to be the sticker price. Starting at $32,760, Toyota’s Prius Plug-in Hybrid is significantly less expensive than the $39,995 Chevy Volt. However, the Volt qualifies for the full $7,500 federal tax credit, while the Prius Plug-in is only eligible for $2,500. The difference between these tax incentives brings the final purchase price nearly to parity.
Ultimately, the two vehicles provide two very distinct approaches to reach similar efficiencies. Throw in the Nissan LEAF (which is rated slightly higher at 99 MPGe,) and the forthcoming Ford Fusion electric (which is expected to crack the 100-MPGe barrier,) and it becomes clear that the actual MPGe ratings of the current mass-marketed plug-in vehicles are fairly close to one another. For consumers, choosing the right electric vehicle will most often come down to price, and finding the best range and drivetrain configurations for each individual or family’s lifestyle.
We’ve talked about it for quite some time, and now it’s finally here, the first new model of the Prius line, it’s the Prius V. V is for Versatility! The Prius V has as much cargo capacity as most CUV’s on the market today, yet returns the superior fuel economy you would expect from a Prius. As you may remember we had a chance to drive a Prius V back in June and wrote about it here on the blog.
Now, the Prius V’s are here, and we have them available at both the Toyota Santa Monica and Toyota Hollywood stores! We showed the Prius V off at the AltCar Expo, and we also shot this test drive video for you, have a look.
Toyota Hollywood will be providing three Black Prius’ for the 21st Annual Environmental Media Association awards October 15th at the Warner Brother’s lot. We will be driving Emmanuelle Chriqui, Perrey Reeves and Constance Zimmer.
Providing Prius’ is something we at Toyota Hollywood do every year! We love to drive celebrities to events like the EMA Awards, however we did not know who we were actually driving to the event this year until Wednesday night!
The annual EMA Awards honor film and television personalities, productions, musicians and musical tours that convey environmental messages in the most creative and influential ways. Since 1991, the EMA Awards has been the only program solely devoted to celebrating the entertainment industry’s environmental efforts. A pioneer in linking the power of celebrity to environmental awareness, it was EMA who invented the ‘green carpet,’ launching the concept of taking a hybrid or alternative fuel vehicle, not a limo, to the annual Awards show.
LAcarGUY was well represented at the 6th Alt Car Show, which took place at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on September 30 and October 1, with vehicles from 4 of our dealerships. Inside the display area the new FISKER KARMA was featured and ended up being the hit of the show. Toyota Santa Monica did have the Prius V available for test drives during the well-attended weekend. Also available for test drives were the new CT 200h and the HS250h from Lexus Santa Monica as well as the new redesigned 2012 Passat TDI and the VW Golf TDI from Volkswagen Santa Monica. There was never a lull for test drives throughout the entire two days. Toyota future vehicles were also on display, with the 2012 RAV EV and Prius PHV receiving plenty of attention!
The New World F.E.S.T (Festival of Eco-Friendly Science and Technology), a large-scale, outdoor eco-festival and exposition that will take place October 7 – 9, 2011, just steps from the sand in Santa Monica.
Six-time national US Open sand sculpting champions Archisand will create a majestic sculpture – live – including an eco-mural featuring the first “Sand-Made Prius” courtesy of Toyota Santa Monica. The vehicle chosen is the new, larger Prius v. Sand sculpting has become a popular art form, and Archisand’s amazing work can be viewed at www.socalsandcastles.com. Toyota Santa Monica us the largest hybrid dealer in America and a longtime award-winning proponent and practitioner of sustainable living.
The New World F.E.S.T is a celebration of eco-friendliness and forward-thinking science. Its mission is to present educational content in a desirable (beachfront) setting and entertaining manner, so that important messages about “a smart future” and “the greening of the planet” are best retained. (www.theneworldfest.com) It features 150 exhibitors and 6 performance stages which offer live music, innovative demonstrations, guest speakers, panel discussions, natural cooking workshops, yoga classes, family entertainment, plus an eco-theater screening environmentally-focused films and documentaries, a ‘spiritual oasis’ with health and wellness products/techniques, futuristic technology, and a remarkable Sustainable Art exhibition with 30 artists showcasing their creative use of repurposed and recycled objects, including many live installations.