I have a distinct memory from a few years ago of driving into work and being behind some tool in a Toyota Prius with quadruple exhaust and thinking ‘What’s the point?’ I was driving a Honda Civic, mind you, so I didn’t really have a leg to stand on. And now, I suppose I’m eating my words since I’ve got my own pimped out hybrid.
I should explain how I’ve ended up here before getting to the proper review. About a year ago I was driving a 15-year-old POS Daihatsu Move that I had received for free from one of my neighbors. It was a generous gesture on the part of my neighbor to give me the car, but once we moved to our new house and I began my longer commute it was readily clear that I needed to get a vehicle more appropriate for the kind of driving I was doing.
The Move is a K-car, meaning it has a tiny-enough engine to qualify for lower insurance and inspection fees, and is theoretically really good on gas. K-cars, at least of the generation that I was driving, were built for puttering around town in never going much faster than 50 kph/30 mph. The speed limit on the road I take to work is 60 kph, but most people (myself included) travel at least 80, at which speeds the fuel-sipping, all-wheel-drive Move becomes a total gas pig. The speed, miles, and age mercifully caught up to the move after a few months of my new commute, and it was clear that a new vehicle was in order.
I wanted to get a Mini Cooper at first. In America these are reasonably priced, but in Japan they are pushing $35K. That’s not reasonably priced to me at the moment.
I was attracted to the idea of hybrid or electric vehicles, but torn between my desire for a car that was both environmentally friendly and fun to drive. Feeling defeated after my Mini dream was quashed, I was half-heartedly searching for a car that met these criteria when I stumbled upon the Toyota Aqua G’s (Prius C in America).
The G’s trim level is what Toyota uses to signify the sporty versions of their cars, and G’s versions can be found across their lineup, from hybrids to larger luxury cars. G’s cars typically involve performance enhancements that don’t involve any engine tuning. In the case of the Aqua, these include a lowered/stiffened suspension, 17-inch wheels, body moulding, LED light bars on the front bumper, sport seats, and few other non-noteworthy features.
I’ve got some dorked-out fuel economy figures to share, but first, some general impressions after nearly a year of driving this car.
-there’s no accounting for taste, but I think the car is pretty good looking
-handles well once you get it up to speed
-overall build quality is very solid
-fuel economy is fantastic (daily driving; highway is another story)
-this thing is a DOG getting up to speed unless you hammer on the gas, and even then it is way underpowered
-gets only average mileage on the highway since it never engages the electric motor at highway speeds
-I’ve grown used to it, but I can’t stand the crappy digital speedometer display that all Toyota hybrids seems to have.
Driving a hybrid has changed the way I drive a car, and I’ve become much more conscious of accelerating slowly, coasting, and anticipating red lights and other traffic. I think these are good things that I apply to driving even when I’m not driving the Aqua, which is great.
I enjoyed learning how to get the most out of the Aqua in terms of maintaining a balance of keeping the batteries with enough juice and using the electric motor as much as possible, and also experimenting with the different driving modes the car has.
From the time I took delivery of this car I’ve been keeping track of how many kilometres/miles I get out of each tank, and here’s the hot data:
*I’m giving the date of each tank, how many kilometres/miles I got from each tank, and the average per liter/mile. The Aqua has a 35 litter/9.2 gallon tank.
*The Aqua catalogue states 37 kilometers per liter (87 mpg). In my experience, that’s pretty impossible to sustain, no matter how conservatively you drive.
*In the beginning I was fueling up when the gauge telling me how many kilometers I had left in the tank got down close to zero, before the fuel light ever came on. I realised that I still had another 100 or so kilometers worth of gas when that gauge got to zero, hence the rapid jump in range after the first few tanks.
Tank 1 — (March 15) 650 km/403 miles/18 kpl/43 mpg
Tank 2 — (March 29) 689/428/19/46 (This entire tank was driven using ‘eco mode.’)
Tank 3 — (April 17) 762/473/21/51) (This tank was driven in ‘standard’ mode.)
Tank 4 — (May 13) 775/481/22/52 (This tank was driven using eco mode, but driving aggressively, i.e. accelerating quickly.)
Tank 5 — (June 2) 810/503/23/54 (I think by this point I’d settled on not using eco mode any more.)
Tank 6 — (June 22) 835/518/23/56
Tank 7 — (July 17) 855/531/24/57
Tank 8 — (August 7) 772/479/22/52
Tank 9 — (August 28) 800/497/22/54
*Tank 10 –(October 1) 861/535/24/58 (This is the best I’ve done so far.)
Tank 11 — (October 25) 826/513/23/55
Tank 12 — (November 21/22) N/A — Didn’t get a full tank because I had fill up for a road trip.
Tank 13 — N/A — Road trip.
Tank 14 — N/A — Road trip. Averaged 21 kph/51 mpg on the highway.
Tank 15 — (November 29) 771/479/22/52 (As the weather cools off, efficiency starts getting worse and worse.)
Tank 16 — (December 17) 714/443/20/48
Tank 17 — (January 9) 588/365/16/39
The reason, as far as I can tell, that efficiency decreases in the cold is because the engine is running more to keep itself warm. So even when the batteries are charged and would be running the electric motor in warmer weather, the gas engine is still going to keep itself running. Letting the car run for a while in the morning to warm up also puts a dent in overall capacity.
All in all, give the Aqua pretty high marks all around. I wasn’t expecting a race car when I bought it, so there’s no disappointment in that regard. It is fun to drive in the corners, build quality is solid, and I have no problems only filling up once or twice a month. If you do a lot of highway driving then this probably isn’t the car for you. But for anyone else I’d put this on you short list.
Back to gardening soon, I hope!