Toyota C-HR Brings Driving To A New Level

UNTIL NOW, TOYOTA hasn’t had a proper rival to the unfeasibly popular Qashqai, or trendy new arrivals, such as the Seat Ateca and Audi Q.2.That’s about to change, though. Although the new C-HR looks a bit like the love child of a Honda Civic and a Nissan Juke, it’s bigger than it appears. In fact, it’s almost the same size as the Qashqai, aside from having a lower, more coupe-esque roofline. Continue reading “Toyota C-HR Brings Driving To A New Level”

2017 Toyota Prius Plug-In

toyota-prius-plug-in-1

Seminal petrol-electric hybrid hatch applies plug-in technology to its latest generation in a bid to show that original is still best

Ten years ago, a group of engineers at Toyota’s japanese HQ had a daydream – and it has just led to this: the second- generation Prius Plug-in petrol-electric hatchback. “The idea that inspired us,” says chief engineer Shoichi Kaneko, who worked on the first Prius Plug-in before leading his team to produce its replacement, “was to come up with an electric vehicle that charged itself.”

Continue reading “2017 Toyota Prius Plug-In”

The Fortuner Experiential Drive Camp – Bringing Luxury

A NATURAL HABITAT is an ecological or environmental area where a specific species lives. A species is most comfortable and at its optimal best when it is within its natural environment. The concept of natural habitats also applies to the world of the automobile. Some cam are most comfortable on the road, some on a track, and some, like the new Toyota Fortuner, on a ground dotted with ditches, slush, hills and dirt. Continue reading “The Fortuner Experiential Drive Camp – Bringing Luxury”

Toyota’s New Hot Yaris Has Fiesta ST In Sight

TOYOTA has confirmed it is planning a high-performance version of its Yaris supermini – and the car could make its public debut within the next 12 months. As Auto Express revealed in Issue 1,443, the Japanese manufacturer intends to use its recently launched assault on the World Rally Championship to publicise its Gazoo Racing tuning division, with the goal of turning it into a performance sub-brand. Continue reading “Toyota’s New Hot Yaris Has Fiesta ST In Sight”

Toyota GT 86

AFFORDABLE, rear-wheel-drive sports all cars are becoming increasingly hard to come by. The Mazda MX-5 epitomises the lightweight formula, but is only available with a retractable roof, while its Fiat 124 Spider sister car adds turbocharging, too. If you want something with a fixed roof, then your options are even more limited. Here, the Toyota GT 86 stands proud as the driver’s choice – and now we’ve driven the updated car to see if enough has been done to steer you away from an Audi TT. The new GT 86 gets a few hard-to-spot visual changes over its predecessor. There’s a wider grille and new bum per design, fresh foglights and new LED headlamps. Continue reading “Toyota GT 86”

Late to the Party – Toyota C-HR 1.2T

toyota-c-hr

We say: Toyota’s crossover offering may be late, but it’s worth looking at

toyota-c-hrThis was going to be a Juke rival. But its engineers, very keen drivers, decided the company’s small platform wasn’t good enough, so they shifted up a size to the brand-new global platform. The project director said he’s happy to sacrifice rear room and bootspace for the looks, but because of that growth, neither are actually terrible. Sure, back-benchers have no view to their sides, but the Rolls Phantom is the same, styling it out as “privacy”.

It’s got a manga face, bulging arches, a laid-down rear window, peaked D-posts and a detached roof. But amid this storm of line and formwork, some cohesion emerges.

If that’s not weird enough, you should see inside. Still, the new textures, shapes and colours are wrought from far better quality materials than previous Toyotas.

You can spec it with the Prius’ powertrain. Don’t, not unless you’re confined to a city. Because the C-HR is too good for that: it steers and rides well and wants to be thrown about. The hybrid’s droney engine, its dissonant relationship between rpm and speed, its inconsistent brakes? No, ta very much.

You want the 1.2 turbo petrol manual. It’s a four cylinder, and can go to Atkinson cycle at light load. They say it’ll do better real-world economy than rival triples. It might only rev to 5,500rpm, but it’s smooth and dependable in its delivery, and the ‘box is slick. The new platform has a very low center of gravity, and it shows. For a crossover, this rolls little and steers with consistent alacrity, but rides with long-wavelength suppleness. The chassis could take more than this 1.2, and the engineers tell me a higher-performing C-HR is likely.

toyota-chrThere’s no stripped-out base car. They all have radar cruise, auto-brake with pedestrian protection, 17in wheels and a 7in touchscreen with a rearview cam. But as there’s no phone mirroring for nav, you’ll have to upgrade to get a built-in system.

You might say Toyota is tardy to this market, but I’d argue that in 1994 the first RAV4 led the world as a striking-looking but useless softy compact 4×4.

 

Verdict: Sure, looks are polarising, but if you want it you will really want it and the dynamic won’t dash your hopes.

Toyota’s New Fortuner Came Up With More Style And Refinement

toyota-fortuner-5

Toyota’s take on its massively successful Fortuner leans toward style and sophistication. However, at the heart of it is still a capable SUV with tonnes of road presence.

A drive through God’s own country, as scenic as it is, can also be a frustrating proposition. The incredible vistas have narrow roads snaking around them, but the towns are never-ending and the traffic never really thins out. Ideal SUV country? Possibly, especially ones like the four-wheel-drive Fortuner that I am shepherding around, because, let’s face it, you do want to get away from the transport buses sliding their way down the hill and catch a piece of green earth to marvel at what truly makes Kerala so special.

More often than not, there is a little trail at the end of the tarmac that leads up to the best vantage point and that is where this Toyota comes into its own and makes sure you have the best seat in the house. Don’t forget the fact that since its launch in 2009, the Fortuner has been an absolute favourite in India, especially as a symbol of power. It did grow to look fairly dated, especially on the inside and in need of a proper makeover.

toyota-fortuner-4

It is of little surprise that the Japanese manufacturer has decided to carry the same basic formula forward – big dimensions, massive road presence and of course, a fair amount of chrome, just to make sure all bases are covered. The difference though, is the styling. No longer is it a brute, it has some clean lines and shiny finish that makes it look more upmarket. Toyota did acknowledge that the Fortuner needed a thorough upgrade and decided to develop an all-new car starting from a fresh piece of paper. Consequently, the new Fortuner sits on a new ladder frame that has been re-designed and made stiffer and it is powered by a new 2.8-litre diesel motor. While it looks less like the Prado now, the designers have used various elements to maintain some sort of resemblance to the rest of Toyota’s line-up.

It sits high up, with the bumpers well off the ground and the waistline is pretty high too with a prominent kink at the C-pillar adding a bit of flair. All the chrome and clean lines make the new Fortuner look very different from the previous generation and it is certainly less macho and more chic. Even the lamps have a sleek design with LED elements in them to stick with the scheme of things.

toyota-fortuner-5

On the inside, the Fortuner still feels familiar. A large dashboard, leather upholstery for the seats and steering-mounted controls.

There is a large touchscreen that sits in the middle of the dash now with the air-con controls sitting below it and off-road aids right at the bottom. Four-wheel-drive is selected via a rotary switch now and you have the option of leaving it in regular two-wheel-drive for everyday use (not full-time four-wheel-drive anymore).

There are plenty of practical touches as well to make the cabin superbly functional. There are two glove boxes, cup holders, bottle holders and even baggage hooks behind the front seats for your carry bags. Although Toyota has managed to pack in all the essentials, there isn’t any bit that particularly catches your eye. T he materials used also vary greatly in feel and aren’t consistently plush. It also misses things like dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming mirror, power seat adjustments for the passenger seat and parking sensors up front. What it does get is a powered tailgate that can even be set to open till a height of your choice,if you so desire.

toyota-fortuner-2
Gets all essentials but isn’t particularly attractive. Materials used vary greatly in feel

On the move, however, the new 2.8-litre diesel engine provides enough poke. Power peaks at 175bhp with 420Nm of torque being made available in the manual version and 450Nm in the automatic. Although it is slightly more than the older 3.0-litre diesel, the new car is roughly 200 kilos heavier. But, you don’t have to worry, the way this power is delivered makes sure you always have enough – maximum torque is available as low as 1600rpm and it stays constant till 2400rpm. This ensures seamless power delivery with barely any lag. Get past 2000rpm and you can feel a surge of power to get things moving at a brisk pace. The six-speed manual gearbox has well matched ratios and you can leave it in a higher gear while you cruise, no problem at all.

toyota-fortuner-3

However, push the motor hard and it gets very noisy. Beyond 3000rpm, there is little action from the motor and a lot of noise filling up the cabin to make things rather bothersome. Shift up a gear and let the engine turnover at lower revs and peace will return to the cabin. Hovering around the 2000rpm mark is where it works best and the engine feels the most lively. The six-speed auto, on the other hand, isn’t as much of an upgrade and you still need to time yourself well to execute overtaking manoeuvres as the gearbox takes its time to sort itself out, especially in the narrow highways around Cochin.

In ‘S’ mode, it always switches to S4 automatically, regardless of what position it is in and does not change the number indicated even when you hear the ‘box downshift. Even when you want to upshift, the ECU takes into account how far you have depressed the accelerator and decides whether to allow an upshift or not. In case you are flat with the right foot, it will hold revs till you hit the redline before shifting up, regardless,of you selecting the next gear via the paddle shifter. This may have been nice in an angry sounding sports car, but here you are just forced to listen to an unrefined drone or lift your foot off thegas to shift when you want to. There is also the option of engaging ‘Power’ or ‘Eco’ mode or just leaving it in normal. There is a very slight difference in throttle response that can be felt with the manual transmission, however, this tends to be lost when using the automatic gearbox.

Toyota also has a 2.7-litre petrol engine on offer. This is the same one that goes into the Crysta and makes 164bhp along with 245Nm of torque. Unlike the diesel, this comes with a five-speed manual ’box or a six-speed automatic. We were offered the automatic version for a drive and it is safe to say that this is the one you leave alone when you go to the showroom.

toyota-fortuner-8

Ride quality is impressive though and the new multi-link suspension manages to smother even large potholes (there are a few that have been left behind by the monsoon), without a second thought. The stiffer frame also makes it noticeably better at highway speeds. There isn’t the typical way wardness that you expect from a ladder-frame chassis, which makes it pretty relaxing even for long stints behind the wheel. However, the steering communicates nothing more than bumps. The electrically assisted mechanism does not weigh up in any situation and does little more than indicate the general direction your wheels are pointed at. Moreover, the tall stance causes a fair amount of roll and a lot of lateral movement at low speeds over larger potholes/off-road situations.

toyota-fortuner-6

What is interesting though is the number of new technologies that have been introduced to assist in off-road situations. Apart from being able to choose between two-wheel, four-wheel and four-wheel-low, it employs additional driving aids with the brakes. In case you have a free-spinning wheel, the brakes stop it and transfer power to the other wheel using active traction control (A-TRC) and in case of a steep downhill gradient, you can now engage DAC (downhill assist control) which uses pre-installed programs to determine your descent speed automatically (depending on gradient and lateral movement) and uses the brakes independently to do so. These should make the Fortuner a more capable off-road vehicle, although the first impressions about these technologies are mixed, especially the DAC.

toyota-fortuner-1

Overall, Toyota has thrown a bit of a mixed bag at us with the new Fortuner. While the exteriors have moved away from its brute-like character, the interiors remain strictly adequate for a $44,000 car. Yes, it’s an upgrade over the older vehicle,but it doesn’t feel particularly plush or stylish. The slimmer dash and rearranged seats have freed up enough legroom for all passengers and the adjustable second row seats make it a very comfortable place to be in.

They have even implemented a roof-mounted seatbelt for the middle passenger to ensure full use of the most comfortable seats in the car. The front seats are pretty supportive as well, although the seat squab could’ve been longer. It’s safe to say the petrol motor is simply a case of Toyota hedging its bets against any sort of ban situation. The diesel is the obvious choice although the manual/auto debate is open for the sort of driving you prefer doing and, funnily enough, how strong your arms are – try engaging reverse in the six-speed manual and you’ll know what I mean.

SPECIFICATIONS


toyota-fortuner-7TOYOTA FORTUNER

Price: $40,500-46,000
Engine: Diesel: 2755cc, 4cyl, turbodiesel, 175bhp@3400rpm, 420Nm(MT)/450 Nm(AT)@1600-2400rpm, 6M, 6A
Petrol: 2694cc, 4cyl, petrol, 164bhp@5200rpm, 245Nm@4000rpm, 5M/6A
LxWxH: 4795x1855x1835mm
Wheelbase: 2745mm
Tank capacity: 80litres
Tyres: 265/65 R17 (2WD), 265/60 R18 (4WD)
Pros: Clean, crisp exterior styling, ride quality, off-road ability
Cons: Ordinary dashboard, automatic gearbox, refinement at higher revs
Bottom line: The Fortuner has taken off in a new direction. It still has the ability but has traded its brutish character for style. Interiors could have used more inspiration. Ride quality and cruising ability are impressive.

Save

Toyota C-HR 1.8 Hybrid

toyota-c-hr-hybrid-7

Funky-looking crossover takes on the Nissan Qashqai with hybrid tech

Now, far be it from me to get your pedantry radar pinging, but if you’re going to call a car a coupe, high-rider (C-HR), you might expect an element of accuracy within both of those statements. But, well, this is a post-fact world, or so The Guardian keeps reminding me, so let’s allow Toyota some poetic licence. The C-HR – in effect the firm’s new mainstream five-door hatchback – does have a swooping rear window and sits a hand’s width higher than its own Auris hatchback. But a GT86 SUV it ain’t.

toyota-c-hr-hybrid-7

You remember the Auris, right? Go on, you do. Replaced the Corolla? Competes against the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, that sort of thing? No? Well, anyway, you can still buy one, only not many people do, hence the requirement, I suppose, for something else. Something crossover-shaped, because if you want a new mainstream hatchback to sell in Europe, these days you’ll need to make what we used to think was a niche one.

The C-HR is precisely one of those. Toyota expects to sell no fewer than 100,000 of them a year within Europe, which is the only market where Toyota initially thought it would sell the car, before other regions got a look at it and demanded it, too. So the C-HR will sell in Japan and other parts of Asia, and before long other regions as well. A crossover is, in effect, the new global family hatch.

toyota-c-hr-hybrid-4
Dramatic-looking bodywork is underpinned by technology and tuning that give Prius-like road manners

In none of those markets, though, will the C-H R be offered with anything other than petrol or petrol-electric propulsion. Even in a Toyota, this is slightly surprising but probably shouldn’t be. Toyota long ago decided that a combination of petrol and electricity – then, further away, hydrogen and electricity – was its future, because it foresaw that although CO2 emissions were the factor that most affected new car legislation, that situation wouldn’t last forever. Air quality – particulates, nitrogen dioxide and so on – are about to replace CO2 as the bigger concern facing legislation makers, despite the non-end to global warming fears. City dwellers trump polar bears, in other words. I suppose they have better lawyers.

toyota-c-hr-hybrid-3

The C-HR, then, comes with either a turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engine (£20,995-£27,995), which can drive the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox or, when mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), can propel either the front wheels or all four wheels (it’s a crossover, innit). Or it can be had with front-wheel drive and the 1.8-litre petrol-electric powertrain (£23,595-£27,995) that you’ll find in the latest Prius, whose architecture the C-HR also shares.

toyota-c-hr-hybrid-8
A 1.8-litre petrol engine and an electric motor power the front wheels

At 4.36 metres long, the C-HR is more or less the same length as the Nissan Qashqai. (Toyota’s own RAV4 got a bit larger this time around to make room for it in the range.) That the C-HR has some funky surfacing and a steeply raked rear window mean that it isn’t quite as large as a Qashqai on the inside. With its seats up, the Qashqai has 430 litres of boot to the C-HR’s 377 litres, but you can seat adults behind adults comfortably, although the rising rear window line makes the C-HR’s back chairs feel quite claustrophobic.

toyota-c-hr-hybrid-6

“It’s hard to think that the Auris and C-HR could come from the same company”

That’s not the case in the front, where there’s not only a relatively low scuttle (thanks to a platform designed for a lowish centre of gravity) but also some wickedly radical styling, if you’re coming from another Toyota. Honestly, it’s hard to think that the Auris and C-HR could come from the same company. It’s finished pleasingly, too. Pretty lovely inside, in fact. What did we do to deserve this?

Be European, apparently, with our insatiable demand for nice things. That’s where the design work was done, as well as most of the chassis development, including a couple of stints in the UK but mostly on the roads around the Eifel mountains, because Toyota, like most car makers, has an engineering base near some track or other based around there.

toyota-c-hr-hybrid-5
Front is airier than the rather hemmed-in feel of an otherwise roomy rear

To drive, then? Well, the C-HR is one of those cars in which it’s useful to make a lot of detailed notes when you’re driving it, because otherwise your driving impressions are a whole lot of ‘fine’. In fact, even with copious notes, it’s not far off that. Toyota doesn’t monitor feedback from its customers about dynamics, partly because it’s hard to decipher layman’s terms into engineering ones, but mostly because Toyota buyers don’t care. They won’t here, either. Toyota said the C-HR wanted performance on a par with a ‘good’ C-segment hatchback. I’m not sure what one of those is. A Vauxhall Astra, maybe?A Hyundai i30? Something that doesn’t constitute aiming high, anyway. So there’s a tight turning circle, the ride is fine and the steering is smooth.

toyota-c-hr-hybrid-2

The 113bhp 1.2-litre engine drives through its manual gearbox really sweetly (don’t mention the CVT), but the real action for Toyota will be with the hybrid, accounting for more than 70% of sales. It makes only 96bhp, so you’re not looking at a brisk car (0-62mph is 11.0sec), but although the engine is sometimes vocal, Toyota’s clever, compact hybrid system, which constitutes planetary gears so that the electric drive motor and petrol engine can spin at whatever speed the car wants, is wickedly effective.

That’s just as it is in a Prius, which is no surprise. The surprise, instead, is that all of those Prius characteristics come in a package that looks and feels quite as funky as the C-HR, so you look less like an Uber driver and more like someone with, y’know, an active lifestyle. Which is quite appealing in itself.

SPECIFICATIONS

Toyota’s rival to the Nissan Qashqai is interesting to look at and sit in but entirely forgettable to drive


toyota-c-hr-hybrid-1TOYOTA C-HR 18 HYBRID DYNAMIC

Price: £ 27,995
Engine: 4cyls, 1798cc, petrol, plus electric motor
Power: 96bhp at 5200rpm
Torque: 106lb ft at 3600-4000rpm
Gearbox: CVT
Kerb weight: 1420kg
0-62mph: 11.0sec
Top speed: 105mph
Economy: 74.3mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 86g/km, 15%
Rival
: Nissan Qashqai 1.6dCi

Save

Save

Save

Toyota Poised To Rival AMG And M: The Best Car Around

TOYOTA IS CONSIDERING transforming its Gazoo Racing motorsport arm into a performance road car brand to rival the likes of B MW M and Mercedes-AMG. In addition to co-ordinating Toyota’s international motorsport activities in, for instance, the World Endurance Championship and World Rally Championship, Gazoo Racing fettles road cars that are sold on the Japanese market. It sells limited-edition machines under two banners: G RM N (Gazoo Racing Masters of Nurburgring) and G’s.

Gazoo Racing wants to link race and road efforts
Gazoo Racing wants to link race and road efforts

Koei Saga, the boss of both Gazoo Racing and Toyota’s powertrain division, said it “is my intention” to increase Gazoo’s presence in road car markets other than Japan to promote the link between its racing and road car activities. He said: “In Europe, the challenge is bigger because we have more competitors here, and it is also an issue of cost. However, I am very much working on that so we can have a brand like the M brand.” The latest Gazoo-tuned carwastheGT86GRMN.

Lt featured a raft of changes, including modest power and torque increases, tweaked suspension and aerodynamics and a weight reduction through the use of lightweight panels. Limited to 100 units, it quickly sold out. Another GT86, the GRMN Sports FR Concept, was showcased at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2012. It had a 2.0-litre engine that was turbocharged and supercharged to 315bhp. Saga would not comment on whether Gazoo Racing has a role in the project between Toyota and B MW that will spawn the next Supra and Z5.

Few Points of View About The New Toyota 86

toyota-86

toyota-86

The coveted Toyota 86 is back with a new face, and it looks better than ever. We’ve even said that this sports car is mature now, and it has to be. Competition in the sports car segment is stiff in this days and age, especially with the Mazda MX-5 available. These cars are bitter rivals, but 86 fans will continue to praise the Toyota’s robust platform, fixed roof, and the boxer engine under the sloping hood with its superior horsepower output. It’s a great time to be an enthusiast.

Save

Toyota Sprinter – A Father’s Legacy to His Son

toyota-sprinter-2

Toyota Sprinters these days are like collector’s items, seeing as many of them have succumbed to time and rust. But there are still a few that ply the city streets, a reminder of days gone by.

Stop by Alfred Motor Works in Quezon City and you might just be lucky enough to see one of the most finely restored Sprinters in the country. This 1972 KE25 model is as pristine as they get, bu t its story is really what brings life to this immaculate piece.

toyota-sprinter-1

In the late ’80s, this car was passed on to Alfred Perez, then a college student, by his dad, the original owner and proprietor of the shop. Before that, it was the shop’s beater—the workhorse that was loaded with parts, got dirty, and was pretty beat-up. Alfred received it in a sorry state, but where others focused on rust, scratches and dings, he saw an opportunity.

“This Sprinter would be Alfred’s first major restoration job”

The environment he grew up in surely influenced his decision to give the Sprinter a second life, but he was equally motivated by the fact that this would be his first major restoration job. It would also be (perhaps unknowingly) a rite of passage for someone who would one day inherit the family business.

toyota-sprinter-2

After a few months of owning the Sprinter, Alfred disassembled the car and started the task of rebuilding it from the ground up. Sourcing parts wasn’t difficult, he recalls, because the model was still quite ubiquitous then. Parts were cheap, too; he is amazed at how enthusiasts today are able to sell certain pieces of interior trim for ridiculous amounts, and chuckles a little bit knowing his Sprinter is loaded with hard-to-find items.

toyota-sprinter-4
It’s like stepping back into the ’70s. Everything is impeccable in here

This being the first vehicle he would ever strip and rebuild, Alfred was careful throughout every step. Restoring a car requires a lot of patience; this was one of the major lesson she learned while fixing up his Sprinter. Nothing was rushed and the result was quite impressive.

Following a local market’ theme, the Sprinter features the original 3K engine, a fully stock Philippine-spec interior, and TRD fiberglass fender flares that were locally available then as add-ons. Rounding out the look are a set of 13-inch, period – correct ATS performance rims.

After completing the build, Alfred wasted no time and entered it into a car show. On its first try, the Sprinter won an award for being the best Japanese classic, therefore validating Alfred’s work and giving the car even more on-paper value.

toyota-sprinter-5

For Alfred, however, the real value of his Sprinter lies in the fact that it was a gift from his father. Maybe the older Perez was simply supplying his son a set of wheels to get to and from school; maybe there’s a deeper meaning, like a test to see if his kid was worthy of one day running the shop. Whatever the reason, this Sprinter represents both a devotion to craft and the powerful bond between father and son. And when anywork is fueled by anything as strong as that, you can bet your ass it’s going to be really good.

The 4th Generation of Toyota Prius Looks Oddly Satisfying

toyota-prius-hybrid-4

The all-new Toyota Prius is a sharp-cornered vehicle that takes its time to grow on you

The fourth-gen Prius has just been delivered to our office basement, and my first thought is, What did they do? What had inspired Toyota to pen that squished face, those…indescribable headlamps, and those weird edges? Its predecessor had a design so friendly you wanted to hug it. This looks like a mutated deviation in the gene pool.

toyota-prius-hybrid-4

I shouldn’t be surprised—this isn’t my first meeting with Toyota’s newest hybrid flagship. A month back, I was in Japan trying this out along with an assortment of blue-badged Toyotas. And what a trip it was.

FOUR WEEKS AGO…

For several years now, I’ve been going to the Toyota Technology Tour in Japan. In 2013, I was shown how a plug-in hybrid could be part of a whole town’s electric grid, and we got to race Prii around a race track. In 2014, I drove the Toyota Mirai hydrogen vehicle. This year, Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) invited us again and filled our itinerary with test drives, discussions, and a factory tour.

DAY 1

At the Mobilitas safety center in Fuji Speedway, waiting for us were hybrid Crown Majestas. Since its absence in our market, the Crown has reached Lexus levels of refinement, but on the track,it displays an athleticism that belies its tito-car stature. I’m grinning as I dive into corners and let the electronics stop me from massacring pylons.

toyota-prius-hybrid-5

Then it’s time to drive the fourth-gen Prius for the first time. Now, I adore the Prius line since I drove the second- generation, and I’ve spent many enjoyable hours behind the wheel of these cars. But the new model is just…odd-looking. It’s as if the designers have been given too much free rein after the success of the predecessors. Having said that, there’s a Lime Green color that suits the unique shape well.

toyota-prius-hybrid-6

I slide inside and get a little overwhelmed by the radical dashboard layout and the much higher quality of the digital displays. Before I can take it all in, I’m directed toward makeshift barriers to test the new pre-collision system. I’ve been exposed to so many Japanese safety demonstrations, so I don’t even flinch as I hurtle toward a barrier with my braking foot not doing anything. As expected, the system works seamlessly.

But can the Prius take a hit? In the afternoon, we find out through a crash-test demonstration. A reinforced concrete slab is hurled at a sitting Prius, and it produces a deafening crash that sends out a shockwave of compressed air.

Bun the tire where the concrete hits doesn’t even deflate.

DAY 2

It’s more hybrid-vehicle testing on the second day, and morning options on the menu are the Crown, the Alphard and the Corolla Fielder, which is a JDM model akin to a wagon version—not hatchback—of aVios.

The Crown shines brightly again, despite the inclement weather. Seeing this tito car diving around the cones is like watching an uncle do the FettyWap challenge — a little surreal. The Alphard feels the same as our version, albeit springier because of the extrahybrid 00mph. But the Corolla Fielder makes me a bit sad. It’s a workhorse with a hybrid powerplant, and I can’t help imagining how this model would be so well-suited to our market. Butwithout tax breaks, having a fuel-efficient model like this remains a pipe dream.

toyota-prius-hybrid-6

My mood improves with the next batch of test vehicles: a Lexus RC300h, a Prius, and a Mirai. And now we have a proper— although small—track to play with. If what we‘ve been driving these past days were buffet selections, these three models would be the wagyu beef.

I try the Lexus first. Despite the right-hand-drive orientation, the RC300h is a willing animal in my hands. Only hushed hums come out of the engine bay, but it surges forward like there were eight cylinders in there. I confess I’ve never driven the gasoline version, but I’ve heard about its significant heft. There’s none of that here. The RC gives me gobs of power every time my size-13 foot nudges the go-pedal.

With the Mirai, there’s that Batmobile-like whine — seriously — purposeful linear acceleration. It isn’t sporty like the RC300h,but it handles brilliantly for a first-generation model, its e-motor pulling it out of corners like a tractor beam. Amazing. It’s definitely more fun than the Prius, which I drive after. On the same track, I’m braking sooner and feeling the body sway. After being enamored with this Prius’s predecessors, I feel doubt starting to creep in.

DAY 3

The highlight of the last day is the factory tour of the Prius assembly line. Prii are made in Toyota’s Tsutsumi plant. I haven’t been to a lot of car factories, and to be honest, the ones I’ve seen are all clean and well-organized. Tsutsumi is like this, but in fused with an extradose of Toyota quality. We walk above the workers doing their tasks with that Japanese single-mindedness. We see Prius bodies being fitted with electrical systems and dashboards. On two assembly lines, this process produces about 1,500 hybrid vehicles a day.

toyota-prius-hybrid-3

As with other Technology Tours, I depart Japan filled with memories, but saddened about the disparity of technology and environmental awareness between our two countries. Toyota doesn’t build hybrid vehicles just as a business endeavor. It truly wants to make the world a better place by lessening dependence on fossil fuels.

MANILA

Back here, I am reminded of the Prius’s oddness once more. From certain angles, there is an angular beauty to be found in its lines. But in the grim harshness of a dimly lit parking area, its flaws are exposed.

The cabin makes a better impression. It’s a bit Star Trek inside, with the two-tiered dashboard and the multiple digital screens. For those not used to hybrids—and most of us still aren’t— those screens are the closest thing to peering into a Prius’s soul. Its electric and petrol vital systems beat and blink, and the hybrid’s life is rendered in colorful digital animations.

toyota-prius-hybrid-2
Look at that cabin. Spock would be right at home in the Prius

The white panels are a bit distracting because they’re unusual. But once I settle in and push the Start button, the Prius clicks into life, ready to serve. Through the minuscule gearshift, operating the transmission can now be done with flicks of the finger. I immediately notice there’s none of that forceful initial push that the e-motor used to provide.

The new car moves forward like a typical gasoline vehicle — responsive but not instant. The powerplant is more integrated now. This new hybrid has a more refined powertrain that feels like the gasoline engines we’ve known for decades, but it can do 13km/L easily— although Toyota claims40.8km/L can be achieved during testing.

What strikes me during my daily commute with the Prius is its build quality. The chassis is solid thanks to a frame that’s 60% more rigid. I remember seeing how the Prius was built in Japan, and I can feel the precision that has gone into building this. It isn’t long before the quirks are forgotten and driving the Toyota becomes second nature.

toyota-prius-hybrid-7

The Prius may have been a little awkward on the trackback in Japan,but that really isn’t its natural environment. On Metro Manila streets, it’s an urban ninja, gliding around smoothly via battery power in slow-moving traffic.

On instances when the road opens up, the petrol engine (97hp and 142Nm) and electric motor (71hp and 163Nm) rockets the car easily to 90kph even on uphill stretches.

As of this writing, Toyota hasn’t given us a price yet, which is a little odd. I dream of the day when the Filipino motorist appreciates how enjoyable hybrids are to drive. A friendlier price will help make that happen.

On my last night with the Prius, I glance at the graphic that shows the battery, the engine and the motor interacting. In older models, this illustration was rendered in blocky pixels and crude animation. But the new display is sharper and has a higher resolution. The arrows are brighter and more legible, and have a mesmerizing effect if you stare too long. I think I finally understand why. They’re pointing toward the future.

Save

Save

The Little Toyota Wigo Gets Big Love From Its Owners

toyota-wigo-2

What their rides lack in size, these guys make up for in camaraderie

It might be the smallest car in the Toyota lineup, but the Wigo is a heavyweight when it comes to being likable. This subcompact has rock-star popularity for a number of reasons: It’s cute, easy to drive, and abreeze to set up (if that’s your thing), and arguably the best thing about it is it comes with a sticker price that won’t run you into the poorhouse.

toyota-wigo-2
When together, these Wigos look like little road warriors

For these reasons, the Wigo has engendered a loyal following. This little car has spawned one of the biggest one-make car clubs, the Wigo Auto Club Philippines.

Composed of 385 official members and over 6,500 forum and online members (in its first three months, total membership grew by 300%), the group provides its members a unique environment when it comes to learning more about the car they all love. Sourcing aftermarket parts is now a little easier because of the large network, and there’s surely no shortage of car-related tips. Some members have even made the effort of filming instructional videos to share with the rest of the group.

Recognized by Toyota Motor Philippines as a legitimate Toyota car club, Wigo Auto Club Philippines has access to regular plant tours at the Japanese carmaker’s Laguna facility — and this is just one of the regular group activities. There’s regular dialogue, too, between club members and Toyota’s local marketing and technical teams, for anything Wigo-or Toyota-related.

toyota-wigo-1

Naturally, camaraderie develops between people with the same interests. But the members likewise believe in giving back to the community, and this is perhaps what really ties them all together. Going on relief missions and partaking in charitable exploits are among the club’s most anticipated events – especially to a home that is close to the hearts of the members, Ang Bahay ng Parolain Santa Rosa, Laguna. We’re pretty sure the kids there get pretty excited, too, when they see a whole bunch of Wigos pulling up into the property.

toyota-wigo-3
Doesn’t matter how big or small, it’s how you make the car your own

The members concede that their club fun runs are great, and so is their network of excellent contacts. But for these Wigo owners, keeping the group together so they can continue their charitable exploits is what really matters. It’s nice to know that even the biggest of gestures can stem from the smallest of packages.

Toyota Prius Plug-in

toyota-prius-plug-in-main

The latest Toyota Prius betters its predecessor in nearly every area, Styling is subjective, but the driving dynamics and interior quality are greatly improved and it’s hard to criticise the car’s fuel economy, with the manufacturer claiming up to 94.2mpg.

A plug-in version of the new Prius was revealed at April’s New York Motor Show, while the European model debuted in Paris. Now, though, weve driven an early US-spec car, badged Prius Prime in the States.

toyota-prius-plug-in-front

There aren’t many differences between the Prius and the Prius Plug-in. Low-profile headlights similar to those on Toyota’s Mirai fuel-cell saloon set the Plug-in apart, as do more subtle tail-lamps. The longer hatch lid with its double-bubble rear glass conceals an 80mm extension at the rear to accommodate the larger battery pack, making the car a bit longer, lower and wider than a regular Prius.

“Economy of 282mpg and 22g/km emissions are almost twice as good as old Prius Plug-in claimed”

The Plug-in has a high-capacity battery that can be charged from the mains. Its 8.8kWh capacity is twice that of the previous Prius Plug-in, with range increased in kind: Toyota estimates 30 miles of electric-only driving versus just 15 miles for the old car. Charge time is just over two hours, compared with 90 minutes for the previous model.

toyota-prius-plug-in-rear

The company anticipates a best-in-class fuel economy figure of 282mpg, with CO2 emissions of just 22g/km; those numbers are almost twice as good as the previous Plug-in claimed. But the big battery has its downsides: the rear accommodates only two people and the boot is far smaller, at 360 litres with the seats up and 1,204 litres when they’re folded, compared with 502 litres and 1,633 litres in the conventional hybrid.

Under the bonnet you’ll find the same 1.8-litre petrol engine and CVT transmission as in the standard Prius. The primary difference involves one of the two electric motors, called MG1 and MG2.

In the normal car, MG2 provides power while MG1 works as a starter and generator. In the Prius Plug-in, MG1 provides power as well, requiring the addition of a one-way clutch. Toyota claims a 0-62mph time of 11.1 seconds-just one-tenth slower than the regular hybrid – which isn’t bad considering this version is 150kg heavier.

toyota-prius-plug-in-on-road

The car we tested (which Toyota says has the same suspension tuning as the UK model) bounced up and down over bumps, often hitting the lower end of its suspension travel. Like the normal Prius, the Plug-in is far better than its predecessor in corners; it steers accurately and grips well, with the tyres howling long before they lose grip. However, the soft suspension does it no favours, and mid-corner bumps can get the car jumping like a pogo stick.

Along with Eco, Normal and Power drive settings, the Prius Plug-in has a mode switch specific to the plug-in system.

EV Mode forces electric-only operation, with the petrol engine staying mostly dormant. While the old Plug-in could only reach 53mph on battery power, the new one hits 84mph without petrol assistance.

toyota-prius-plug-in-side

In HV Mode, the Prius Plug-in operates like a regular hybrid, although it draws liberally from the battery to improve fuel economy, while EV Auto automatically switches between EV and HV modes. During our test drive it favoured the battery, only calling on the petrol engine for maximum acceleration. There’s also a Charge mode that uses the engine to recharge the battery.

The cabin of the Prius Plug-in we drove featured an optional 11.6-inch touchscreen display – positioned portrait-style, as in a Tesla Model S – that displays climate, stereo and phone controls simultaneously with the map. We liked the big display, but the small on-screen buttons were hard to press while driving, and the system doesn’t have a volume knob. We don’t yet know if this screen will be fitted to UK-spec cars, but that shouldn’t concern too many buyers as we’re not sure the wow factor is worth the added complexity over the current set-up.

toyota-prius-plug-in-interior

Like the conventional hybrid, we see the new Plug-in as a massive improvement over its predecessor. The extended electric-only range makes it a viable alternative to models like the BMW i3 and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV – and with real-world fuel economy that pips even the regular Prius, the Plug-in is great for long journeys as well as local commutes. UK pricing has yet to be announced, but if the numbers are as attractive as the car itself, then Toyota is on to a sure-fire winner.

PRACTICALITY

toyota-prius-plug-in-rear-seats

Larger batteries in the Plug-in mean the rear has been changed to a two-seat layout, so the car now offers space for only four people, A set of cup-holders fits in between

POWER

toyota-prius-plug-in-charghing

Charging the Prius Plug-in now takes around two hours, giving a claimed all-electric range of more than 30 miles – twice as far as the previous model – at speeds of up to 84mph

VERDICT

Like the standard Prius, the upcoming Prius Plug-in is a big improvement over the old version. It offers all of the refinements of the latest Mk4 Prius, as well as a bigger battery that doubles the electric-only driving distance, and over a broader speed range. With anticipated claimed economy of 282mpg, the Prius Plug-in is the perfect bridge between regular hybrids and pure EVs.

ESSENTIALS


toyota-prius-plug-in-logoToyota Prius Plug-in

Price: £28,000 (est)
Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl petrol plus electric motor
Power/torque: 98bhp/142Nm
Transmission: CVT, front-wheel drive
0-62 mph: 11.1 seconds
Top speed: 110mph(est)
Economy: 282.5mpg
CO2: 22g/km
On sale: Spring 2017

NEED TO KNOW

CO2 emissions of 22g/km put the Prius Plug-in ahead of Volkswagen’s GOLF GTE by 17g/km. Big screen isn’t confirmed for UK models

 

Save

Save

Mitsubishi L200 vs Toyota Hilux (Toyota Hilux Double Cab Invincible Auto)

toyota-hilux-front

Toyota has improved on all the areas that make a solid pick-up with its latest Hilux, so there’s a new engine, a larger load bed and an increased towing capacity to further its appeal as a working vehicle. But it’s also more luxurious than ever, so here we test the high-spec Invincible Double Cab Auto model, which costs £31,350.

Styling 3.8/5

Compared with the previous Hilux, which was a bulbous, bulky-looking pick-up, Toyota’s latest truck sports a sharper design. That’s evident from tip to tail, as the new Hilux’s nose juts out, with its flattened, wide grille and narrow headlights.

toyota-hilux-front

The bumper is relatively deep, but the Hilux stands so tall it doesn’t quite have that appearance. This extra height brings a benefit when it comes to approach angles, however, so the Toyota will be able to traverse some steep slopes if you need it to.

There’s lots of chrome on this high-spec trim level, too, with the chrome bars in the grille, bright mirror caps and little extras like the chrome door handles and £617 foot plates adding to the visual appeal.

But the features that give the Hilux real presence are its wheelarches. Along with the pointier nose, the heavily flared bodywork provides the Toyota with the look of a larger, wider, American pick-up compared with the narrow-bodied Mitsubishi.

There’s some subtle sculpting to the bottom of the doors that, along with the sills, have a rippled metal finish for extra protection if you’re likely to be using the car away from the tarmac.

Inside the Hilux Double Cab, the changes are just as wide-reaching as to the exterior. Toyota’s designers have smartened up the interior so it now looks more like an SUV. You climb up into the Hilux, meaning those running boards are functional as well as a design cue, and once you’re in there youll notice some familiar features: the central seven- inch touchscreen is taken from the Prius, while the switchgear is borrowed from other Toyota models.

toyota-hilux-interior
Cabin: Hilux looks like an SUV inside, with seven-inch touchscreen and switchgear from Toyota cars. Six-speed automatic box is standard.
toyota-hilux-gauges
Blue-backed instrument dials look smart.

Invincible spec comes well equipped, with features like DAB radio, keyless go, LED headlights, cruise control and a reversing camera gracing the standard kit list. Youll have to fork out £750 for sat- nav, although there’s a host of safety kit included.

The upshot is that it feels more SUV-lilce inside, even though material quality in places highlights the Toyota’s pick-up roots. Leather is an £1,800 extra if you want to upgrade the cabin to an even higher spec, while heated seats and metallic paint will cost you £750 and £545 respectively. The Mitsubishi gets these as standard, though, and is £1,112 cheaper.

toyota-hilux-side

Although the focus here still has to be on usability, the question is whether the Hilux’s smarter interior is matched by an improved driving experience.

Driving 3.1/5

There’s no doubt the Toyota pick-up is better than before, but this automatic version still leaves a lot to be desired out on the road. It won’t let you hold a gear on maximum throttle, so our 30-somph and 50-7omph tests were recorded in kickdown.

Even with this allowing the strongest acceleration in theory, the Toyota wasn’t as fast as the Mitsubishi, completing the two tests in 5.2 and 8.7 seconds.

The Hilux delivers 3oNm less torque than its rival, at 400Nm, and the extra 235kg in weight meant it was also 3.5 seconds slower off the line and on to 6omph than the L200, taking 13.5 seconds overall. But its 2,095kg kerbweight impacts more than just its straight-line performance.

toyota-hilux-on-road
On the road: As well as offering improved load capacity, the new Toyota is better to drive than before. But it’s still far from perfect, suffering from slow steering, poor body control and a noisy diesel.

Double-wishbone front suspension copes fairly well with bumps, but with less sophisticated leaf springs at the rear, the whole of the body is upset over rough roads. It means the Toyota pitches and rolls, with the rear axle never quite feeling settled.

Combined with its slow steering, it means the truck isn’t that agile, but that’s not exactly what it’s been designed for. The speed of the steering aids stability, which will help if you’ve got a big load on board or are pulling a trailer, plus the electronically controlled four-wheel drive gives it great traction in slippery conditions but reverts back to rear-drive when the extra grip isn’t needed to improve efficiency.

toyota-hilux-rear

While it’s certainly more car-like in this mode, the new 148bhp 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel is still noisy at anything other than motorway cruising speeds, although vibrations are damped out well.

Ownership 4.3/5

During nearly half a century on sale, the Hilux has become known as dependable. Add Toyota’s reputation – it ranked fourth out of 32 brands for reliability in our Driver Power 2016 satisfaction survey – and it shouldn’t let you down.

toyota-hilux-back-seats
Rear seats: There’s plenty of room in the back of the Toyota, but while our flagship Invincible model comes with lots of kit, sat-nav is a £750 option.

There’s a good level of safety kit as standard, too. Although Euro NCAP hasn’t tested the pick-up, Trailer Sway Control, autonomous braking, hill descent control and hill start assist, lane departure warning and seven airbags all come fitted on Invincible spec.

Running costs 3.6/5

Pick-ups like these have to earn their keep, so potential owners will have a focus on the bottom line. That means fuel efficiency is key, but the Hilux loses out to the L200 here, having returned 30.8mpg on test compared to the L200’s 3i.5mpg result at the pumps. But even over 20,000 miles a year, youll only spend an extra £74 on fuel according to our figures.

Company car tax rules for double-cab pick-ups are different to regular vehicles, with the Benefit in Kind figure fixed at £3,170 if the truck can carry more than a 1,000kg payload – so both these cars fit the criteria.

It means lower-rate taxpayers will have to find £634 a year, and higher-rate earners £1,268. However, the higher 204g/km C02 emissions count against the Hilux compared with the cleaner L200 at i89g/km, so you’ll pay an extra £25 for a year’s tax, at £290. But the Toyota is predicted to resist depreciation better; our experts expect it to retain 54.8 per cent of its value.

Practicality 4.2/5

The Hilux can carry slightly less weight than the L200, with a maximum payload of 1,045kg. However, its load bed has slightly larger dimensions, plus it offers four tie-down points. A 3,200kg towing limit gives you slightly more scope to pull heavier loads than the Mitsubishi can manage, but only by 100kg.

toyota-hilux-back-space

This mix of utilitarian ability is combined well with space, as there’s lots of room in the rear of the cab. Grab handles help you climb inside, while the Hilux’s large dimensions mean there’s plenty of storage room, with accessible trinket trays and cup-holders dotted around. There’s also an extensive options list with features to customise the look of the car and add extra flexibility.

Toyota Hilux Double Cab Auto Invincible Auto


Price: £31,350
Engine: 2.4-litre 4cyl turbodiesel, 148bhp
0-60mph: 13.5 seconds
Test economy: 30.8mpg/6.8mpl
CO2: 204g/km
Annual road tax: £290

HEAD TO HEAD

mitsubishi-l200-vs-toyota-hilux

Numbers game

If you’re in the market for a pick-up, your decision might come down to the cost of ownership. Factoring in the purchase price, depreciation, fuel, road tax, servicing and insurance for three years, the L200 works out the cheaper model to run by £407. Its advantage will be enhanced if plans to tax trucks based on CO2 emissions go ahead.

Refinement

mitsubishi-l200-interior-h2h

What the 200L loses in practicality, it definitely makes up for in the way it drives. It’s more settled, the auto box is better abd the more powerful engine is also quiter. This means the Mitsubishi is the easier pick-up to live with if you’re working behind the wheel a lot.

Load luggers

toyota-hilux-mitsubishi-l200-load-luggers

Toyota has adressed the old Hilux’s major flaw by offering 13cm more width across the load bay than before, along with an improved towing limit. The truck is more usable than ever, but is still only a slight step up, and can’t quite compete with rivals.

Save

Toyota 2000GT

toyota-2000gt-main

Toyota’s 2000GT is more than a “might have been”—it’s a “should have been.” A pretty coupe with performance and equipment to match its good looks, it predated the rival Datsun 240Z, which was a worldwide sales success. The Toyota failed to reach much more than 300 sales partly because of low capacity, but even more because the car was launched before Japan was geared to export.

Continue reading “Toyota 2000GT”

Toyota Prius NHW20

toyota-prius

The urgent search for environmentally responsible cars and the economics of fuel efficiency are between them the harbingers of a real automotive revolution. In addition to questioning the very nature of a car and what makes it work, it’s essential for drivers to become accustomed to new mechanics of driving.

Continue reading “Toyota Prius NHW20”