2008 Toyota Prius i-Tech Hybrid Review & Road Test
With the all-new Prius just around the corner, we thought we’d refresh our memories and take the 2008 model for one last spin.
- 2008 Toyota NHW20R Prius i-Tech Hybrid, 1.5-litre, automatic, hatch - $46,900 (RRP)
- Metallic Paint $350 (Fitted)
Fuel Efficient; Manageable Size; Space & Flexibility Price Tag; Dated Appearance; Lighter Steering Feel
The Prius is one of those cars that strikes a love-hate chord through motoring circles, and while we invite you to think what you will of the Prius’ environmental credentials, this review intends to focus on the car as transport.
On the surface, the Prius may not have changed a great deal since its reincarnation in 2004 (the original models from 1997 looking more like a Yaris sedan) but over the past decade the name Prius has become synonymous with green motoring, ingraining itself into popular culture as one of the hallmark mass-production vehicles of its type.
Placed somewhere between the Corolla and Camry in terms of size, the mid-sized hatch is a surprisingly flexible vehicle in terms of interior space with a fold flat floor offering cavernous cargo capacity and rear legroom that is more than adequate (boot space is 456-litres to window height with seats up).
In fact the entire cabin feels spacious, light and open, thanks mostly to a larger than usual glass area, and although it’s hardly exciting from an interior design aspect, it is well ordered, practical and simplistic, almost gainsaying the masses of technology hiding beneath.
Toyota’s acclaimed Hybrid Synergy Drive system powers the Prius by utilising a 57Kw/115Nm 1.5-litre, DOHC, four-cylinder petrol engine in unison with a 50kW/400Nm electric motor. The two power sources then combine through a single-speed, computer controlled planetary transmission to deliver seamless drive to the front wheels.
The resulting power output equates to approximately 82kW all told and though this might not seem a great deal from a car weighing 1325kg (tare), the acceleration is reasonably brisk with 0-100km/h dealt with in 10.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 165km/h.
Our week's fuel use returned exactly 5.0-litres per 100km, 0.6-litres more than the ADR sticker claims, but still very frugal.
Handling is about what you’d expect from a weighty strut front/torsion beam rear mid-sized hatch - less than spectacular - with body roll and understeer evident on hard corners.
The power assisted rack and pinion steering is quite numb of feel and has far too much assistance that can mean vague feedback through more interesting corners, as well as a tendency for drivers to over input.
Once you’re accustom to this however it’s of no real consequence especially given the Prius’ intended purpose as an urban vehicle, though the absence of any reach adjustment in the steering column is an annoying oversight.
Ride is comfortable and smooth and the longer wheelbase certainly helps in settling bumps on rough roads. The weight is again quite evident here but in most circumstances it does not upset what is otherwise a pleasant ride.
Braking is ample in strength and the pedal feel adequate. Prius utilises four-wheel disc brakes with Electronic Brake Assist and Brake Force Distribution to provide safer emergency braking.
One peculiar note on braking is that part of the car’s regenerative phase takes place when stopping, which means you may hear a slight change in noise from the electric motor as it becomes a generator for the Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries.
To assist transmission braking, the gear lever can be placed in the ‘B’ position which increases the amount of engine resistance under deceleration, similar to the way a normal car would hold a lower gear. It can be handy when the vehicle is fully loaded but around town is of little use.
Prius can be used in EV (or electric vehicle) mode for a short amount of time meaning it will operate solely on electric power, which is great to limit fumes in underground car parks (though as it runs silent you will find you tend to startle pedestrians). This mode is short-lived however with a maximum range of two kilometres attainable, provided you don’t exceed 55km/h.
As far as equipment levels are concerned Prius offers a kit list that is almost expected as commonplace in an up-spec modern vehicle with smallish 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, touch screen satellite navigation, single zone climate control air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors, keyless remote entry, cruise control, a high-spec JBL six-CD tuner with auxiliary interface, voice recognition Bluetooth compatibility, and leather trim all offered as standard.
Prius boasts a EuroNCAP safety rating of five-stars and is equipped with dual front, side and curtain airbags as well as standard Electronic Stability and Traction Control.
When all is said and done the Prius really is a nifty little car that people love to chat about, though it is very pricey given its place in the market.
Were it to be $10,000 less I'm sure the numbers of 'Prii' or is that 'Priuses' on the road would be even greater than they are now - which isn't entirely a bad thing - for if this is the worst that comes from a shift to more environmentally sensitive motoring, then we haven’t too much to worry about.
CarAdvice Overall Rating: How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go:
- Engine: 1497cc DOHC four-cylinder (16 valve)
- Motor: Permanent Magnet Synchronous
- Power: 82kW (Combined)
- Torque: N/A
- Induction: Multi-Point/NiMH Battery
- Transmission: Single Speed Planetary
- Driven Wheels: Front
- Brakes: Discs with ABS, EBA & EBD
- Top Speed: 165km/h
- 0-100km/h: 10.9 seconds
- 0-400m: Not Tested
- CO2 Emissions: 106g/km
- Fuel Consumption: 4.4 litres/100km (ADR Combined)
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 45 litres
- Fuel Type: 91RON petrol
- EuroNCAP Rating: Five Star
- Airbags: Dual Front, Side & Curtain
- Safety: ESP with Traction Control
- Spare Wheel: Space Saver
- Tow Capacity: N/A
- Turning Circle: 10.2 metres
- Warranty: 3 year/100,000km
- Weight: 1325kg (Tare)
- Wheels: Alloy 15 x 6.0-inch
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