Joel Helmes road tests and reviews the 2012 Toyota Prius i-Tech.
After years of waiting and wondering whether there would ever be an alternative to the traditional internal combustion engine the Prius was really the breakthrough model.
Now we are into the third generation of the Prius and the range has even increased to include a smaller model named the C, and a people mover named the V.
The 2012 Toyota Prius i-Tech is the top of the range version of the traditional Prius – a five door hatchback that seats five people.
Starting at $45,990 it certainly comes with a premium price tag but Toyota have done a great job making sure the Prius i-Tech is well kitted out.
In fact when you look at the list of standard features it is quite generous.
The i-Tech comes with features including – leather seats (front row heated), sunroof, rear-reversing camera, sat-nav, JBL premium sound system with digital radio and even a solar panel on the roof which helps ventilate the cabin.
Inside the Prius is a cabin which is as futuristic as the technology under the bonnet.
One thing that stands out is the clever twin level console that gives you extra, almost hidden, storage spots.
Storage areas right throughout the cabin are very generous and you even get two good sized glove boxes.
Leg room front and back is pretty good.
The leather seats and leather inserts on the doors are nice but there is a mile of hard plastic around the cabin which is well masked thanks to a nice finish, overall however it gives the cabin a bit of a cold feeling especially with the leather trim on the seats.
The seats are comfortable and supportive though.
The arm-rests are a bit on the hard side unfortunately.
The Prius i-Tech comes with a leather wrapped steering wheel that feels nice in your hands and is certainly a fair bit smaller than what you might expect.
One feature the Prius has which I think should be more common in our new cars is heads up display, it is such a great addition and really helps you keep your speed in check without taking your eyes off the road.
Another clever feature in the i-Tech is the way the button layout on the steering wheel comes up as a digital display on the dashboard when you run your finger over the buttons.
This again stops you from looking down to make an adjustment – really clever.
The boot space is easy to access thanks to there being no boot lip, this makes loading and unloading easy.
While it’s not particularly deep the boot size is probably adequate, under the boot floor you will also find a handy hidden storage spot as well.
On the road the Prius feels a little different to most other vehicles.
While the comparable sized hybrid Honda Odyssey had a bit of a “tinny” feel about it when I reviewed it last year the Prius is the exact opposite.
It weighs 1425kgs and while that’s pretty much what you would expect for a vehicle this size it certainly carries it a little differently to other vehicles.
No doubt this unusual feeling can be put down to the heavy battery pack behind the back seat.
Not a criticism just an observation that this changes the handling and dynamics of the car.
Under the bonnet you get both an electric and petrol engine which gives you a combined 100kW.
Without boring you with all the technical stuff essentially it has three driving modes…
- Normal – the car uses both engines to move you around.
- Eco – this mode essentially switches off the petrol engine at low speeds.
- EV – you use electric power only at speeds up to 15km/h.
The electric power comes from capturing the energy displaced while the vehicle is under braking.
All together you stand to use as little as 3.9 litres of petrol per 100 combined – that is outstanding.
The steering in the Prius i-Tech is just lovely, brakes are good and the suspension is ok, I think however that the low-profile, low rolling resistance tires don’t quite soak up the bumps as well as I would like.
On the safety front the Prius is jam packed with safety features and boasts a 5-star ANCAP rating.
Summing it up – don’t be scared of the technology because the Prius is as easy to drive and live with as any other car.
At $45,990 it delivers on all fronts, sure you may save a few dollars elsewhere but this is an extremely well-engineered machine which will provide you with years of on-going low cost motoring.
NUTS and BOLTS – 2012 Toyota Prius i-Tech
Engine: 1.8 litre petrol/hybrid delivering 100kW and 142Nm
Transmission: CVT Automatic
Safety rating: 5 Stars
Price: From $45,990