LONG-TERM UPDATE 4 | Toyota Prius ride vs handling

The best thing about having a car to drive for a month is that you can really get a feel for how it copes across different roads, surfaces and driving scenarios. Even more so when you take it on a long cross-country jaunt from Gauteng all the way to the...

2021-06-15 12:38:00 AM

The best thing about having a car to drive for a month is that you can really get a feel for how it copes across different roads, surfaces and driving scenarios. Even more so when you take it on a long cross-country jaunt from Gauteng all the way to the...

The best thing about having a car to drive for a month is that you can really get a feel for how it copes across different roads, surfaces and driving scenarios. Even more so when you take it on a long cross-country jaunt from Gauteng all the way to the Western Cape

This is exactly what I did with the Prius and I discovered that it rides with an impressive amount of sophistication for what it is. From the potholed avenues of Parkview to the coarse and somewhat rippled asphalt so characteristic of the R318 (a lonely rural road that meanders between the N1 highway and the small Karoo town of Montagu), this Toyota deflects and absorbs imperfections with an unflustered polish many luxury executive saloons would do well to match. What makes this even more commendable is the fact that there's no adaptive trickery here, no fancy adjustable dampers that can be made harder or softer with a quick prod of a button. Instead Toyota has just stepped up to the plate with an honest steel-sprung suspension set-up perfectly tuned for SA conditions.

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Complemented by small 15-inch alloy wheels shod with squishy 195/65 rubber, it goes without saying that the Prius is an immensely comfortable thing to spend time in whether you're going on a quick jaunt to the shops or tackling over 1,000km before the sun sets. 

The fourth-generation Prius is built on Toyota's competent TNGA-C platform.Image:Thomas FalkinerSo what about handling then — is this even worth bringing up? Well in the past the 'h-word' was not something you would usually make mention of when discussing the Prius because, well, it was pretty rubbish at it. However I must say that this fourth-generation model does actually put in a good effort. Reason being that it rides atop the same headtopics.com

TNGA-C platform that's used in the Toyota Corolla Hatch with MacPherson struts up front and a more sophisticated double-wishbone arrangement at the rear. This is a big step up from the chassis used in the third-generation model and you really can notice it. Particularly, for example, through those looping high-speed sweepers between Worcester and the Huguenot Tunnel where the Prius felt confident and stable. Body roll is noticeably more controlled and the steering is for the first time nicely weighted and reasonably direct.

The Toyota Prius' newfound enthusiasm for the curvy bits meant that I had to point it in the direction of the deliciously squiggly Tradouw Pass (why not if it's on your doorstep?) where it put up a gallant fight before those eco-orientated Dunlop Enasave EC300+ tyres quickly started squealing and slipping in protest. With some larger alloy wheels shod with more aggressive rubber this hybrid could prove an even better steer, however this would undoubtedly prove quite detrimental to its fuel-saving ways as grip equals resistance.

Look, don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying the Prius is a rival to the GR Yaris (far from it) but it is does thread through corners with an unexpected degree of poise and dexterity for what it is. I think even so-called driving 'enthusiasts' would be pleasantly surprised.

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