Drivers' seventh heaven

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 April, 2012, 12:00am

Toyota's hybrids seem increasingly sanctimonious about their fuel economy, and the name of its latest model, the Prius V, has an ecclesiastical ring to it.

Yet, the Japanese marque has good reason to believe the new seven-seater can win converts to its fuel-sipping technology.

Prius hybrids are virtually ubiquitous in Hong Kong because they have smart electronics that stop wasteful idling in traffic and batteries that can be replenished in braking.

In Hong Kong, the Prius shows the owner is hi-tech-minded, green and realises that there is little need for a big, powerful car in the city's gridlock.

Besides, Priuses are looking less geeky, with more interior comfort and smoother lines for a low, 0.29 drag coefficient.

The new model gets a larger air intake, sharp headlights and even a roof spoiler designed to improve its aerodynamics.

When customers wanted more interior room, Toyota launched the 4.65-metre-long Prius V (for versatility) with 50 per cent more space at the 2011 Detroit motor show, with 970 litres of load space behind the rear seats.

The marque then adapted this extra space for the Hong Kong market with two more seats creating a seven-seater that runs on 75 Hong Kong cents a kilometre at a petrol-pump rice of HK$17.38 a litre, which is 'about 23km a litre', the Hong Kong dealer, Crown Motors, explains. It offers two versions, both of which are powered by a 99ps, 1.4-litre petrol engine and a lithium-battery-fed 82ps electric motor. The engines combine to produce 142Nm of thrust for a vehicle that can weigh up to 1,585kg with optional extras on board.

The basic Prius Luxury costs HK$349,000 and the Super Luxury is HK$20,000 extra, but has a twin moonroof and leather seats, and both have hill-start assist, and traction and stability safety electronics.

The Prius also has the standard hatchback's Normal, Power, Eco and EV driving modes, push-button start and e-CVT electronic gear shift. The rear seats might be a squeeze for adults, and some children and helpers might feel trapped in the back without their own door, but the third row of seats can be folded back to create space.

Prospective buyers might also test the car's engine power with a full seven passengers on board if their families go for regular drives on steep hills.