After seven weeks of serving as a city commuter, it was time to give our long-term 2016 Toyota Prius a lash on the open road.
Yeah, yeah – we know the idea of hybrids is that they work better around town. That’s the beauty of a petrol-electric drivetrain like the 1.8-litre hybrid in the Prius: it uses the energy captured by the brakes to charge the batteries, which in turn gives it more electricity to toot around town.
So, what happens when you hit the open road? Well, you don’t brake as much. And you rely more on the aerodynamics of the car, and with a hybrid you’re relying heavily on the petrol part of the powertrain.
In fact, after our drive from Sydney to Melbourne, we had used the electric part of the drivetrain just three per cent of the time, and all of that was in the suburbs as we approached the Melbourne CarAdvice office. That’s the whole point – hybrids are better around town.
But the Prius, it has to be said, was pretty damn good on the open road.
I’ve done the Sydney to Melbourne drive in a single sitting in the past, but this time around I didn’t have a full day to waste. And so it was, on a Sunday afternoon at about 6 pm, that I jumped behind the wheel of the Prius in my driveway in Glenbrook in the lower Blue Mountains and hit the road.
The first couple of hundred kilometres went by without any hassle. I noticed the engine working pretty hard up some of the steeper hills as the cruise control attempted to maintain my set speed, but the LED headlights were bright enough to allow vision for a decent distance, and climate control was doing its thing, too. Seat heaters would have been good, because it was pretty cold that night.
A few hours in, it was time to get some fuel. I had reset the car’s trip computer before I left home, and given the elevation difference between home (about 240 metres above sea level) and the southern highlands (700m) and onwards to Yass (520m), it made sense that the car wasn’t as efficient as perhaps anticipated.
The readout was sitting on 5.4 litres per 100 kilometres, a good 1.9L higher than the claim – but we doubt that figure was taken sitting at a buck eighteen on the highway.
After avoiding the temptation to gorge on terrible fast food, my Prius and I continued onwards, southwards, towards Melbourne.
Apart from a few struggles with the radio stations dropping out – at one stage Triple J changed to an arthouse audio piece with children laughing and talking about going on the swings and exploring the garden, which was eerie on a fairly quiet highway late on a Sunday evening – there was little to report.
I kept moving until the little screen on the dash told to take a break. Or, more specifically, Take Rest. It was just after 11 pm, and with about five hours driving under my belt, I did exactly that when I reached Albury.
After a quality night’s rest in a hotel that wasn’t worthy of the same descriptor, and following a couple of hours of quiet desk time, it was 9.45 am, and time for breakfast. I found a lovely little local joint run by a bloke named Guru, and after a hearty starter, I hit the road once more, over the bridge and under the sign that indicated I was now on Victorian territory, and onto the freeway once more.
Being someone who is aware of how important demerit points are, and being aware that Victorian highway cops love nothing more than catching bad guys travelling a few kays over the limit, I was eager to keep an eye on my speedometer, which I calibrated against a GPS unit.
The road quality dropped as soon as I crossed the border. The surfaces were rougher, the coarse-chip coarser, and the straights longer. Trucks frequent this route, and they’ve had an impact on the quality of the road as a result.
The Prius, though, coped pretty well with the rougher surfaces. The noise was a bit much at times – we’ve found the tyre roar to be pretty annoying in the new Prius – but that was fixed by turning up the tunes. The JBL stereo in the Prius isn’t bad.
The kilometres kept finding themselves under the tyres as I progressed, and soon the signs were saying 183km to Melbourne, then 164km. I took a little break at Euroa, where I’d stopped previously when driving the Tesla Model S down from Sydney to Melbourne, and couldn’t help but pretend that the Toyota was a proper EV.
I called my mate Nick to see if he was keen to catch up for a nice warm drink in the afternoon before I headed into the Melbourne office, and dialled up the sat-nav mapping software on my phone. Yeah, so the Prius base model misses out on navigation, and it doesn’t have CarPlay, so I chucked my iPhone in the cup-holder and relied on its instructions to get me to Nick’s work, some 23km from the office.
After that, it was urban driving on arterial roads towards the CBD, and soon enough I pulled into the Melbourne office driveway.
The fuel use readout had dropped off, in part due to the descent back down to sea level, but also due to the stricter adherence to the speed signage. The last 35km of urban driving also would have helped, as there was basically no braking for the preceding 830-odd kms.
At the end, it was reading 4.9L/100km – which is still higher than it registered over the first full month of mainly urban driving in our Sydney office.
The Melbourne guys have their hands on the car for the next two months, so stay tuned to see how they get along with the 2016 Toyota Prius.
2016 Toyota Prius
Date acquired: May 2016
Odometer reading: 5304km
Travel since previous update: 3093km
Consumption since previous update: 4.9L/100km