Toyota NZ is bringing in used examples from Japan of the plug-in Prius, the car it tested when new but later rejected for various reasons, among them the price.
The Prius PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) are previous-generation models, no longer being built. The deal is they must be aged between two and four years with no more than 25,000km on the clock.
Toyota’s Signature Class operation in Thames restores them to what it calls ‘new vehicle standards’, using original equipment where needed. It replaces Japanese-language components – radio, instrument dials, reversing camera, owner’s manual and so on – with English versions. It’s a complete makeover, with a minor electronic compromise here and there.
The plug-in hybrids get a five-year warranty, a guarantee that the mileage is fair-dinkum, and a compliance check by the AA. They are then sold wholesale into a ‘pilot group’ of Toyota dealers – two in Auckland, and one each in Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Wellington, Christchurch – with free charging devices. Charge time: 90 minutes.
At home, from a three-point plug in the garage and using special cables that come with the car, it can be charged in two-and-a-half hours. EV mode should get you to the shops and back, based on Toyota’s research that the average daily commute for New Zealanders is 22km.
Toyota’s used vehicle chief Andrew Davis expects to sell around 100 re-born PHEVs this year, each retailing for between $30,000 and $40,000, depending on age and level of equipment. There’s the entry-level ‘L’, the mid-range ‘S’ and premium ‘G’.
“There is a lot of interest in the wider community around electric powertrains,” Davis said. “So while Toyota New Zealand does not currently offer a model in its new vehicle range we have opted to import the Prius plug-in hybrids as a used vehicle.
“Current new EV options can be expensive, but we acknowledge the market is slowly gaining traction so we want to deliver a cost-effective option and tackle some of the apprehension around EVs and plug-ins.”
The Signature Class Prius PHEV uses a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a 60kW electric motor driving the front wheels. It can run on all-electric (EV) mode for a claimed 26km, returning a theoretical 2.5-litres/100km (114mpg) along the way. Maximum speed in EV mode is 100km/h.
There is little or no regenerative charging in EV mode and the lithium-ion batteries can soon pack it in, certainly on the open road. Once that happens the car becomes a petrol-electric hybrid, good for 4.7-litres/100km (60mpg), says Toyota.
A brief drive up the Coromandel Coast from the Signature Class facility didn’t reveal much about the Prius PHEV, other than it is what it is: a pleasant and politically correct way of getting from A to B while saving fuel.
• Toyota’s new PHEV flagship is the Prius Prime, unveiled at the New York motor show last April. In EV mode it has a top speed of 135km/h and a range of 35km, says Toyota. It is not yet on the global market.