By on January 19, 2012

Yesterday, I wrote about Toyota allegedly cranking up Japanese production of its new Aqua a.k.a. Prius C to 30,000 a month. After I did this, jargon vigilantes protested the use of “engineering feat.” Keep protesting. Today, we will see why the Prius C is an engineering feat. We will also learn how the height of batteries and gas tanks can influence aerodynamics.

In order to research these phenomena, I traveled on your behalf all the way to scenic Keihinmakuhari, Chiba, Japan.

There, in the parking lot of the New Otani Hotel, Toyota had parked a whole fleet of feats.

Soon, this reporter would be able to test drive the Japanese version of the Prius C, which will land on U.S. shores some time this spring. Allegedly, it will come with an EPA city fuel economy rating of 53 mpg, and a starting MSRP of $19,000.Which is said to be one of the best fuel economies on this tortured planet, or, to mollify the jargon vigilantes, pretty darn good.

These get-togethers are being conducted in the charmingly vanilla Toyota style: You meet in a nondescript location, you receive a stack of paper and a quick PowerPoint. Then you get a car. The beauty of these events is that while the members of the Fourth Estate are out driving, you can sit down with the people who actually created that car and talk to them.

We had already talked to Chief Engineer Satoshi Ogiso months ago. (Attention jargon vigilantes: Dirty word in headline of linked article!) Therefore, I had a sit-down chat with the Prius C Project Manager, Masahiko Yanagihara.

Right away, Yanagihara denied The Nikkei’s 30,000 a month claim, in a very diplomatic way.

Yanagihara did not even mention The Nikkei. He however pointed out that the Aqua/Prius C is being built in the Iwate plant of subsidiary Kanto Auto Works in Kanegasaki, and only there. (Keep that in mind, we will revisit this.) He also noted that this specific plant has a maximum capacity of 30,000 units a month, “if we do overtime and such.” He then added that “other cars, such as the Ractis, Belta, Blade etc.” are also being made there. Then he looked me in the eye. A non-verbal “Wakarimashita ka?” (capisce?)

Wakarimashita!

Let’s revisit this: The Aqua/Prius C is being built in the Iwate plant of subsidiary Kanto Auto Works in Kanegasaki, and only there. That includes all cars that are exported. The Prius C is and for the foreseeable future will not be built anywhere else. Now you know how many Toyota expects to sell. For now.

But why (vigilantes, start heating the tar and plucking the feathers) is a compact car with a 1.5 liter 74 hp Atkinson cycle engine an engineering feat? I’ll let you in on  a little industry secret: Building good large cars is fairly easy. Building good small cars requires heavy engineering. In a way, large car owners are the guinea pigs for the small car masses. Large car owners get the latest technology in its expensive, awkward and bulky self (think first generation cell phones). Once technology reaches the masses, it must be elegant, small, and affordable. (Think the phone in your pocket.)

To make all the gadgetry fit, the engineers at Toyota put the Hybrid drive on a diet. Even after shrinking, fitting the components wasn’t easy.

The battery had no room behind the seat, therefore, it had to go under the rear seats. Together with the gas tank. (If you think a gas tank and a hot battery are strange under-the seat fellows: Toyota put both in their own steel casing.) When Toyota did that, battery and tank did not quite fit under the seats. “No problem,” would the usual answer be, “let’s raise the rear seats a few inches.” Not good. The rear roofline would have to be raised also in order to avoid heads bouncing into the headliner. That again would have ruined the beautiful 0.28 drag coefficient.

Solving this simple-sounding, but nasty conundrum did cost Toyota 1.5 years. In that time, extra inches and banging heads were eliminated by reducing the height of the battery and that of the gas tank. (Now you know why the Prius C has a 36 liter tank, whereas, say, the Yaris has a 42 liter tank.) Moving the (heavy) battery and the (heavy when full) tank below the rear seat had another advantage: It lowered the center of gravity, which makes that miserly car rather fun to drive. There are many more engineering feats in this car, but this review (of sorts) is already approaching 800 words, and I have yet to drive it.

At 10.7 seconds from zero to 100 km, the car won’t win drag races, but hey, it’s about the same as the Prius (and, come to think of it, the MK I Golf GTI.) Now if you think this is a lead-in to my test drive, then I must disappoint you. Sure, I drove the car. But driving through Chiba while more or less observing the 50 km/h (31 mph) speed limit is no test drive. I am also not willing to criticize the haptic qualities of the plastic used in a trim which you will never see, unless you move to Japan. We will leave this in the hands of our master reviewer Alex Dykes, who hopefully soon will get his hands on, and his butt in a Prius C in the proper U.S. spec.

 

Toyota paid for a tank of gas (which was hardly used), a boxed lunch and two coffees. I paid the train fare from my home to Chiba, and attention.

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78 Comments on “Review (Of Sorts): Prius C, Japanese Spec...”


  • avatar
    mike978

    Interesting article and it seems Toyota have done their homework (as usual). I thought the issue in the comments in yesterdays article was around consistency – the Fusion not be a game changer (if Ford estimates are accurate) and the Prius C being a game changer (price difference maybe no more than $6000 – hybrid to hybrid).

    • 0 avatar
      MBsam

      Huh? The Prius C and the Fusion are not at all in the same class. The Fusion competes with the Camry hybrid and in that segment the Fusion soundly bests the Camry by a long shot. That’s just mechanically speaking as well. If we put design into the equation the Fusion is about 10 miles ahead…

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I almost think this little bugger looks better than its older cousin.

    Thank you for saving us the information about “acres of hard plastic” and how it is terrible and death and on and on. I don’t give a Fig Newton about hard plastic. It’s easier to clean and doesn’t make me cross if it scratches a little bit. I don’t even know what qualifies since most dashes are plastic anyway. I’d like to think my car, Forte, has a decent enough interior even if the upholstery is a little thin. It looks better than that which was in my 03 Accord.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the interesting review. I especially enjoyed the back story about engineering the gas tank and battery under the rear seats

    I like the exterior styling and the promise of a low price, but I’m not a fan of the rubbermaid interior in photos so far. Costs had to be cut somewhere, but I own a 2006 Scion xB; another cheap car, but one that at least looks attractive and attempts to hide the cheapness. I’ll reserve judgement until the US-spec test. If this car manages to be decently quiet on the freeway, it’s going to be awesome. I have some more opinions of this car here.

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    Thanks for the info. It certainly makes the car much more interesting than it was before.

  • avatar
    JCraig

    Would it be so much more difficult to produce a hybrid capable of 0-60 in 8.5 seconds? How about a slightly larger ICE that would not work as hard around town, preserving high mpg but giving you at least average oomph when you need it?

    • 0 avatar

      Count me in the minority, but I think a 0-60 time ~10 seconds is fine. Looking at the photos of the engine bay, it looks like a slightly bigger engine would fit, but it’s make it harder to work on, increase the price, and put more weight on the nose. Not to mention some MPGs would likely be sacrificed. I think the tradeoff for 0-60 is a good call for this car.

      • 0 avatar
        JCraig

        I get that and have no doubt there is a market for this car as is. I personally don’t see the benefit in this because luckily my daily commute is on the freeway with minimal stop and go traffic, so I’d rather have a good mpg convential car.

      • 0 avatar
        MarkP

        I agree. How many times does anyone do a flat-out 0-60 in their normal driving routine? I know everyone talks about merging on a fast interstate, but I would bet that very few people actually put the accelerator flat on the floor even then. My 2001 Golf tdi is probably slower than that, but it manages.

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      Part of the economy gains are *because* the engine is working hard. ICE tends to improve in brake-specific fuel economy under load. That’s part of why fuel economy is relatively flat from say 50-70 mph in a conventional vehicle, even though the aerodynamic drag doubles; the engine’s just working a little harder at 70 mph and is a little more efficient.

      What would be interesting to see would be larger electric motors and battery packs that can supply them. Toyota already specs motors for the Prius family that are grossly over-specced for the battery load .. the XW30 Prius motor is specced for 60 kW, but the ~1.4 kwh battery pack can only supply around 27 kW (20C discharge). A higher capacity lithium ion pack could supply the motor with a full 60 kW at the same battery weight.

      XW30 battery is 44 Wh/kg, 1310 W/kg.
      http://www.toyotapriusbattery.com/

      Current LiPo is 120+ Wh/kg, 5000+ W/kg.
      Ex: http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__16476__ZIPPY_Flightmax_2000mAh_6S1P_45C.html

      For the same weight and volume, you could fit a much larger, much more powerful lithium battery. Lithium polymer might not be the best choice – toyota has to ensure battery safety and durability – but Toyota IS shifting away from NiMH with the PHEV prius, and likely will move all Priuses to lithium in the next refresh (MY 2015?)

      • 0 avatar

        @protomech good info. My problem with small displacement engines on freeways isn’t that they run at high revs, but because it’s deafening when they do so. Adding more sound insulation is one thing, but that’d increase weight and cost.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        Regarding better economy due to extra load on the engine, can you point me to a source that explains this is laymen’s terms? I’ve tried finding sources where this is explained, in attempts at saving fuel, but I usually end up on discussion boards where the debate rages on and on and nobody seems to ever figure it out. I’d like to read it straigt from the horse’s mouth, maybe not Ed’s but you get the point.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        @tankinbeans

        As gasoline engine has a throttle that controls the volume of air admitted. Except under full load (i.e. at WOT), the engine is working against a partial vacuum as the piston drops and the combustion chamber expands, admitting air for the next combustion cycle. This is a drag on the engine and represents wasted energy. That’s why you’ll find most computer controls on engines with automatic transmissions force shifts into higher gears to the point where the engine is actually lugging. That’s also one reason why diesel engines get more fuel economy — they run unthrottled. Returning to the post, there’s a “sweet spot” where the efficiency gains of running an engine in top gear at a more open throttle balance out the increased aerodynamic drag of making the car go faster. Beyond that point, the increased drag outweighs any further efficiency gains from running with a more open throttle.

      • 0 avatar
        mac

        Actually, top-of-the-line Li-Ion batteries (like, say, the Panasonic NCR 18650A cell) are approaching 250Wh/kg.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        Lithium is the way to go, its another 10% efficiency boost, lower cost and higher durability.. but apparently Toyota does not have low cost sources and is reluctant to buy batteries from the Koreans… plus they have already paid-for factories making the nimh cells. Perhaps its national pride.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “Would it be so much more difficult to produce a hybrid capable of 0-60 in 8.5 seconds?”

      How about the Camry Hybrid? Motor Trend clocked the 2012 at 7.8 seconds to 60 mph. It’s gonna cost you more in gas and MSRP though. The Fusion, Altima, and previous Camry all are quicker than the Prius family, but have the same drawbacks.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        I know this isn’t strictly relevant to the discussion, but the Accord Hybrid was 0-60 in 6.9 seconds. Now, I know that many will say that this was a mild hybrid and is out of production, but it was marketed as a hybrid and beat the figure noted.

      • 0 avatar
        JCraig

        I can’t help but think about the Top Gear episode where a Prius was run flat out being followed by a BMW that was driving relatively slowly. The Prius burned more gas in that entertaining experiment. I won’t begin to say what is better, small engines at open throttle or big engines at low RPM, but I achieve highr than posted MPG by keeping my RPMs low. One of the many great things about a stick.

        As for the comment about how often do you need that full 0-60 time? I put the peddle to the floor almost daily, usually when merging onto the freeway. That’s the one important time I need every ounce of juice my car has to give (which isn’t much). I don’t need a fast car, but I definitely don’t want a slow one.

        Good point on the midsize hybrids, but I was specifically referring to this car, a smaller cheaper hybrid. I’d just like to see what the penalty would be to have a 1.8 engine instead.

      • 0 avatar
        srogers

        regarding the Top Gear Prius vs BMW episode:
        I can’t help but think that it was fixed. All of my practical knowledge(limited as it is) doesn’t permit me to believe that a gasoline powered BMW is going to burn less fuel than a Prius at any speed. Top Gear is hardly famous for being strictly scientific with their testing.

      • 0 avatar
        JCraig

        I’m not going to pretend reality is more important than ratings on Top Gear, but there is something to be said about small cars with smaller engines getting disappointing gas mileage.
        WOT + Low RPM = Better MPG.
        Tiny engine running at high RPM = Not so good MPG.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        “I’d just like to see what the penalty would be to have a 1.8 engine instead.”

        Scion xD?

    • 0 avatar
      mac

      My ’90 Camry does 0-60 in ~12 seconds, and I can merge onto interstates just fine. Hold onto 2nd gear as long as possible, keep your speed up on those cloverleafs, and treat straight onramps like they were drag strips! *grumbles about assholes cruising down on-ramps at 45mph and around cloverleafs at 15mph*

      Complaining about 10 second 0-60 times like it’s putting your life in danger is silly. Not every car needs to be able to accelerate like a high-power muscle car…

      • 0 avatar
        mechimike

        I know, really. My daily driver has 85HP in a package that weighs roughly 2500 lbs. I think stock it made 14 or 15 seconds 0-60 and I’d bet it doesn’t even do that anymore. And yet I manage to plug along in rush hour traffic with it every day just fine. People are so worried about 0-60 times. In reality, it’s rubbish. I used to DD a Mercedes 240D, which made 0-60 in about 20 seconds, and even that was tolerable. Give me a reasonable handling, low powered car over some front-heavy ill-handling rocket ship any day.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Bertel, you have well-described the engineering process. Design by government fiat and armchair engineers is easy until you actually have to do it, and produce a profitable product.

  • avatar

    It looks to me like the IP is centered again? WHY?!? Hasn’t that form been discredited as a legitimate location for your most important car-related information? The speedo in the center of the car is NOT a safer or better place than directly in front of you.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Horizontal scanning is quicker and less distracting than the vertical scanning necessary to read a conventional cluster. A HUD would be best, but those have their own issues with projection and focal points.

      • 0 avatar
        Advo

        Some follow the theory that you’re more likely to go where your eyes go.

        I could probably drive it with no problem. A less experienced driver just starting out or people who have to put in a bigger effort to drive well, to put it politely, really might need a center-lined speedometer to let them concentrate on what’s in front of them.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I love the center gauges in my 05 xB for two reasons:

      1. Much less eye travel between the road and the information.
      2. As a tall driver, I appreciate being able to see the entire speedometer, rather than just 0-40 and 80-120, since the steering wheel often blocks out the middle part in other cars.

      So this form is entirely ‘credited’ by me, and others who appreciate its benefits.

      FWIW, however, the Mini’s center gauges are too large and gawdy for my tastes.

      • 0 avatar

        @gslippy at 6’4″ I completely agree with my 06 xB. It doesn’t matter if I tilt the wheel up or down, usually I’m staring at the top rim of the steering wheel.

      • 0 avatar
        Spike_in_Sydney

        Rather than have to find and stare at the speedo, why don’t manufacturers allow multiple presets on the cruise control? That way I could select legal freeway, town or school zone speeds and keep my eyes on the road which is safer still.

      • 0 avatar

        I have to agree with gslippy: MINI’s center gauge is too large, while Scion’s is relatively ok (I only dealt with it in a rental 1G xB though). The main reason we passed up on MINI was the way the navigation did exactly nothing to improve the instruments.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The fuss and fury over center-mounted gauges is way overblown. We’ve owned a car with this setup for 4 years and it works just fine. Took all of 5 minutes to get used to. I think most complaints about this are theoretical.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        I have to agree. My friend had on 02 Ion with suicide doors and its instrument cluster was in the center. I had no troubles figuring it out and I’d only been in the car for 2 seconds when he told me I could go for a short drive.

        It did have the annoying shift light, at least I think it did, that my friend told me to ignore.

    • 0 avatar
      hgrunt

      I like the center stack as well. I actually enjoy working with “unconventional” controls, and the few times I’ve driven a Scion or Prius with a center IP, I find center IP placement to be much easier on my eyes during a long drive, or when my eyes are tired.

    • 0 avatar
      joeveto3

      I was never a fan of having the gauges in the center. But I bought an ’11 Prius anyway. After three months and 9500 miles, I actually like them. I find them easier to read because I don’t have to change my focus from close to far.

      Do I want all cars to have the center mounted gauges – No. But for my daily driver, they are fine.

  • avatar
    jkumpire

    Interesting view, unless you are 6’4″ and have to carry work tools to your job. It looks like they sacrificed everything for four small seats and gas mileage.

    Good luck in selling it.

  • avatar
    Feds

    I really enjoyed this review. Maybe I don’t read enough of your stuff, but this one seemed a little less buttoned down than usual. Very fun to read.

    As an enforcement of your hypothesis, I’m struck by the similarities between this $19,000 car’s HVAC/Satnav/Etc, and the one installed in my SpaceGear:

    http://i480.photobucket.com/albums/rr161/DrKool/Delica/HVAC.jpg

    Keeping in mind that the spacegear is: 15 years old, the size of a Sienna, and retailed for something like $80,000 in 1996. The touchscreen/nav unit consists of the double-din screen, a computer under the driver’s seat, and another one in the rear luggage compartment.

    • 0 avatar
      Duncan

      My thoughts exactly on the style of the review. Interesting information and very fun to read.

      I’m looking forward to reading Alex’s follow up with a US spec Prius C. While I’ve never had an interest in the Yaris hatch or regular Prius, I’m very interested in the driving dynamics and real-world fuel economy of the Prius C.

    • 0 avatar

      what the hey is a spacegear?

      • 0 avatar
        Feds

        A Mitsubishi minivan based on the Montero/Pajero.

        I just imported one (to Canada) and am picking it up on Saturday:

        this one’s not mine, but it gives you an idea:

        http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4130/5206018602_02a64e54dd.jpg

  • avatar
    alluster

    “Building good large cars is fairly easy. Building good small cars requires heavy engineering.”
    Very well said. Large cars/trucks are very easy to engineer. This and the iQ should have been very expensive to engineer, which demands the question, why do it? With the Yen the way it is, there is no way they can make a profit on either. That and its not like the Prius is languishing on dealer lots so why build a car, $5000 cheaper car and better fuel economy than the hot selling Prius? The Prius C is only going to cannibalize a lot of sales of the more expensive Prius.

    “Solving this simple-sounding, but nasty conundrum did cost Toyota 1.5 years. ”
    Spend a year and half for a car that’s not going to make them any money!! Toyota is looking more and more like old GM. Don’t get me wrong, I think the car itself is great and I see myself owning one a few months after release. However, I don’t see it make business sense for Toyota. if they really didn’t care about profits but more about getting great products to consumers, kudos to them.

    This is how GM differs from Toyota. Toyota spends all this money and time on their small car platform to develop a great car in a small package, throws in LCD screens, expensive hybrid powertrain, innovative placement of batteries and gas tank and charges $19K. GM just raises the roof a bit, sticks some chrome on the exterior, fake leather in the interior, calls it a Verano and charges $25K.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      They may not make any money outside of Japan, but the high yen won’t stop them from doing well within Japan. And if Toyota can increase its domination of the hyrid market now, it may continue to increase market share until the time (if ever) when they can make money in NA and EU.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      “This and the iQ should have been very expensive to engineer, which demands the question, why do it? With the Yen the way it is, there is no way they can make a profit on either. That and its not like the Prius is languishing on dealer lots so why build a car, $5000 cheaper car and better fuel economy than the hot selling Prius? The Prius C is only going to cannibalize a lot of sales of the more expensive Prius.”

      This is certainly accurate, but also describes almost exactly what the U.S. manufacturers did in the 70′s into the 80′s, doesn’t it? Toyota is staying ahead of the curve here, rather then being forced to react. By the way, though they have improved, I think Ford is making the same mistake by not bringing the new Ranger to the U.S. Yes, it will cannibalize F150 sales (and Tacoma sales), but in the long run, they will have given those customers what they want, which pays dividends. I’m sure some hybrid drivers want a smaller, cheaper car…maybe they buy a new Prius anyway, or maybe they buy used or a smaller non hybrid.

  • avatar
    bills79jeep

    Not to be snarky, but it took them 1.5 years to figure out that in order to make the gas tank/battery fit in a smaller space under the seat they had to, wait for it – make the tank smaller!? Hell, I thought of that before I finished the paragraph. I just expected a more enlightening solution since you touted it as an “engineering feat.”

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      lol

    • 0 avatar
      Advo

      Maybe if they couldn’t get the battery smaller they’d only have a tank that’s half the size of the Prius.

      What I don’t understand is how important is it to retain that low drag coefficient? Since the car is going to be smaller and lighter, it will still be more fuel-efficient than its bigger sibling, and customers are going to want it more because it’s cheaper and still an effective hybrid rather than it’s substantially more efficient than the Prius.

      It looks to me like they wasted a year or year-and-a-half solely because they couldn’t compromise on searching for an ideal solution.

      • 0 avatar
        nvdw

        Well, it is a bit more complicated, really. And come to think about it, more man-hours have been spent on what seems to be even less important than reducing battery size in a hybrid car. I remember fondly how Mazda explained to me that a team of no less than ten people developed the folding luggage cover of the then-new Mazda6 liftback and wagon.

        Also remember that the drivetrain for this car is also used in the Europe-only hybrid version of the Yaris. Raising the Aqua’s roof would mean raising the Yaris’ roof as well. I can safely bet that repackaging the battery was definitely the cheaper option. The Aqua/Prius c might seem a ‘stand-alone’ model, but I am sure it shares its platform heavily with another Toyota. Otherwise, producing relatively few of these cars at these prices would not make any sense.

      • 0 avatar
        Advo

        Well, the article says that they at first wanted to keep the old packaging and just raise the seating. With the European Yaris, according to Toyota’s site, having a height of 1510 mm (59.44 in) and the Prius C being 56.9 in, I’m wondering if they could have done that with the Yaris.

        It’s not like the side profiles of either car show that the rear height where the passengers are is greater than the tallest point of the roof, either.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        the low drag determines the hwy mpg.. you know the number that gets plastered all over the US ads.

        A short stubby car such as this will always have poor aerodynamics, but they still have to work at it to get decent numbers. The C will shine at city driving due to its light weight.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Does it have a spare tire? If I was looking for battery space that would my solution. Runflats are perfect for a car like this, as I assume they are already using ultra low rolling resistance tires.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Looks like a nightmare to work on; forget about working on it yourself, what is the dealer going to charge labor to do simple stuff?

    Pass.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    So that begs the question, which would you spend your $19k on, this, or the Sonic Turbo reviewed recently? In reality, not a realistic comparison given that the Sonic will likely be a couple grand cheaper in real life, and the Prius C a couple grand more expensive given how Toyota packages their options. Seriously though, regardless of the engineering feats, I think the real feat is the price point.

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      Apples and Oranges..

      I’m sure GM will put lots of cash on the hood of the Sonic soon.. but if you want a sporty stick shift then its the Sonic for you.. if you want the proven reliability, resale value and mechanical simplicity of Toyota HSD plus 300k miles durability then its the C. Dont forget the C does not have: belts, alternator, starter, AT, clutch, torque converter, a turbo, and direct fuel injection with its high pressure fuel pump.. few things to go wrong on the long haul.

      Not sure how the long term TCO of a $14k Sonic will compare to a $19k C but you may be surprised.

      • 0 avatar
        Truckducken

        Good points, Herm, but as the car dealer I last worked for was fond of pointing out, 95% of customers only care about the size of their monthly payment. I suspect you are right about TCO, although the batteries would be the question mark for me.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        Batteries on a Prius (or Ford) should be the least of your worries, but do worry about the batteries in a Honda. Its all moot anyways, everyone is going towards lithium due to cost and weight advantages.. Toyota is just taking advantage of their paid-for battery factories.

  • avatar
    BigFire

    Is the Iwate plant one of the Toyota plant in a box concept that can be quickly be build anywhere quickly?

  • avatar
    orick

    to properly assess how much Toyota influenced this review, you have to disclose what’s included in the box lunch (Bento?)

    how is the ergonomics, comfort, space compared to other cars in this size class – Yaris, Fit, Versa, etc.? Backseat can fit any humans?

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Did the bento include octopus-shaped wieners? Those are apparently all the rage.

  • avatar

    @Bertel: Did anyone at the test drive mention the weight distribution? With the battery mounted beneath the back seats, I imagine it’s better than other FWD economy hatches. I’m not saying this Prius will have sporting pretensions, but it’s just extra icing on the cake if the weight balance is better than competitors.

  • avatar

    Honestly I would rather have Fit (actually shopped that one, and my friends have them), but this looks very, very attractive — from Bertel’s review. It is difficult to judge size from pictures, as always.

    I can never understand why Japanese still use the face-flip “DVD” navi, but I’m sure that monstrosity is not making its way into U.S. spec anyway.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know that this thing is exactly attractive, but it’s definitely less ugly than the Fit. I’d consider a Fit if it weren’t so damn ugly.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The Fit will haul more and probably drive better, but 53 mpg vs. 27 mpg around town is going to be hard for many to ignore.

      • 0 avatar
        boltar

        More and more it looks to me like it’s designed to take on the Fit. Particularly since Honda appears unable to decide on whether to actually build a hybrid Fit or do something else to improve Fit’s unimpressive fuel efficiency.

      • 0 avatar
        supersleuth

        30-mile and Boltar, my Fit (2009, base, stick) averages around 35 mpg in mixed driving, I easily get 37 – 38 on the highway in good weather (typically around 75 mph), and I’ve never seen a tank lower than 32 under any circumstances. Short of hypermiling it doesn’t realistically get a whole lot better than that in any gasoline non-hybrid. Don’t mistake EPA numbers for real life.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        Supersleuth, if you do that good with a Fit you will do better with a Prius.. congratulations on not having a lead foot. How is the engine drone of the Fit on a hwy cruise?… Honda desperately needs to add a taller cruising gear.

        Note that the Honda Insight is based on a Fit platform.. but without the magic seats or handy cargo space.

      • 0 avatar
        supersleuth

        Really, I’m not featherfooting it (though I can certainly do worse if I really leadfoot.) The engine noise strikes me as typical for a small car and less than the (also typical for a small car) road noise, though the gearing is certainly one thing I would change. But really for the $15,000 that a 2009 base model cost, I’m more than happy with it as a commuter, and I intend to run it into the ground. (I don’t think the Sport is such a good value proposition.)

  • avatar
    Herm

    Notice how flat the roof is from a frontal view?

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    As a person who thinks even the current Prius still looks like a science fair project, I find this car to be pretty nice looking (of its type). Whether the incremental fuel savings (better expressed in gallons (or liters) per mile) over the same vehicle powered with an optimized gasoline engine are worth all of this effort and expense is another question.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I like this over the Prius as it appears that it won’t have the “swoopy” center console that tall drivers (like me) would have to rest their knee on. Now, if it has 42″ of “real” (to the gas pedal) legroom, I may be stalking the dealer when this hits.


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