Toyota Prius. Worth The Fuel Savings?

by : Kerry Plowright

With today's petrol prices not appearing to be heading south any time soon, it is little wonder that more and more hybrid cars are coming onto the market. These cars use a combination of petrol and electrical power so that you save at the service station. And if you have a social conscience, they'll also help save the planet through reduced emissions. While Honda was first to introduce a hybrid into the Australian market, it was the Toyota Prius that made hybrid motoring a real option for fuel conscious motorists.

The Toyota Prius has a small petrol motor and a small electrical motor that work in unison to propel the car along. To the driver, there probably isn't much difference between driving the Prius or any other smallish car. The engine switches from the petrol to electrical motor without any need for the driver to do anything, so in that respect, it's business as usual for the driver. The electrical motor recharges its batteries during deceleration. All these actions are performed automatically thanks to the on board computer under the bonnet of the Prius.

If you enjoy a little power under the bonnet, then the Prius is obviously not for you. The small motors push the car along respectably but the acceleration is not what you would describe as being exhilarating.

The Toyota Prius comes with power mirrors and windows, a CD player and remote central locking as standard equipment. It also comes with dual front air bags and anti-lock brakes.

So, how much fuel will you save by driving a Toyota Prius? Well, you can expect to go through five or six litres for every 100 kilometres you drive. This figure is pretty much the same regardless of whether you are driving about town or on the freeway. As the Prius is not a particularly cheap car, you'd need to be spending quite a bit on fuel around town before it really became economical for you. If your driving is mainly on the freeway or in the bush, then it's probably not going to be such a viable option.

One important aspect to check if you are in the market for a used Prius is to check the log books for regular servicing. As these engines are rather complicated, you'll be best avoiding any car serviced by anyone other than a Toyota dealer. Also remember that the batteries, when they do need replacing, will not be cheap. So make sure you check the condition of the batteries first in earlier models.

If you're worried about the spiralling prices of fuel at the petrol pump, and if most of your driving is about town, then a Toyota Prius may be right for you. But remember, if you're only buying one in order to save money on fuel, do some calculations first. With the higher price of the Prius compared with other comparable non-hybrid cars, it may take a long time before you start saving any real money.