Grab a taxi at any airport in Canada, and chances are pretty good you’ll find yourself sitting in a Prius. Cabbies have taken to Toyota’s thrifty hybrid hauler in overwhelming numbers, and those cars that aren’t Prius’, are likely Camry Hybrids, which have the same drivetrain.
Coincidentally, a few years ago, after hailing a cab in downtown Vancouver, I caught a ride with the driver who owned the first Prius taxi cab used in Canada.
He introduced himself : “Name’s Beggs!” he shouted. “Claire Beggs. Just think of bacon and eggs. Beggs! Claire Beggs.”
Beggs purchased a 1999 model new, and after racking up over 500,000 klicks, exchanged it for a 2004, which Toyota provided gratis, taking his well-used car in trade. They wanted to tear it down and see what components failed and which ones stood the test of time.
Beggs could have told them, no problem. “F*****g ignition button failed four times,” he growled. “The Prius car company (sic) gave me replacements, but the last time, they must have dropped a f*****g screw or something in there when they replaced it, ‘cause it got stuck in the switch and rattled around like crazy.”
Other problem areas apparently included the transaxle, which Toyota replaced free of charge, as well as giving him a spare, and the auxiliary battery, which had to be replaced five times. The main battery pack, however, never lost charge….not even at the end of the car’s life.
“I liked the ’99 better than the ’04,” Beggs continued. “It had a bigger trunk and could carry more suitcases. It was easier to get things in and out.”
How much did he like his first Prius? Enough to give his current car the number “99”, to commemorate the original. “Good f*****g car,” he added.
These days, Toyota has sold over a million Prius’, worldwide, and, coming in three variations, it is still the standard by which all other hybrids are judged.
On top of everything else, it’s a pleasant car to drive. Not a powerhouse, or corner-carver, but just a comfortable, easy to get along with people carrier that is practical, thrifty, and accessible.
These days, it’s powered by a 1.8 litre four cylinder engine that, in tandem with a 60 kilowatt electric motor, delivers some 121 horsepower, fed through a CVT. The base Prius has a nickel metal hydride battery pack, while the Technology version – which is what I drove – and Touring models have lithium-ion. Fuel consumption is 4.5 L/100 km, combined rating, these days, which is right near the top of the heap.
The Technology version comes with things like an integrated Sirius XM satellite/navy/Bluetooth/input jack/USB/Phonebooth, blah-blah-blah, lane departure warning, pre-collision system, auto high beam, and radar-controlled cruise control. None of which matter a damn to me, but, I suppose, do make the car safer and more accommodating. My car also had the “advanced package” of options, which include a tire repair kit (but no actual spare tire), blind spot monitor, heated front seats, integrated garage door opener and on and on, adding $2675 to the car’s base $29,690 sticker price.
Although most people gravitate towards the Prius because of its impressive fuel economy, this is also a very driveable car, hybrid or otherwise. You can run on pure battery power up until about 60 km/h, and when the engine kicks in, it’s virtually imperceptible….If you were blindfolded, you would not be able to discern whether or not this was a hybrid car, it’s that seamless. As Claire Beggs no doubt would appreciate, the Prius has a tidy turning radius: just 10.4 metres, which means you can do a U-turn on most city streets, no sweat.
Carries a lot too. With the back seats folded down, you’ll get almost 700 litres (24.6 cubic feet) of cargo area, and my own personal yardstick for storage capacity – a full set of drums – fits, no problems, with plenty of room left over. By way of comparison, Beggs’ original 1999 Prius would have offered just 390 litres.
Price-wise, the Technology version will set you back almost 35 large….more after taxes, so it’s not a cheap car. But it is a good one and continues to be one of the most reliable vehicles on the road, according to those who monitor these things.
Which includes, no doubt, Claire Beggs.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 1.8 litre four cylinder / 60 watt electric motor
Horsepower: 121 hp
Price: $34,434.92 as tested.
Fuel Economy: 4.4 L /100 km (city) & 4.6 (hwy.) Regular fuel.
Alternatives: Ford C-Max, Ford Fusion Energi, Honda CR-Z, Hyundai Ioniq, Audi A3, Chevrolet Volt, Kia Optima Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid.
Manufacturer’s Site: Toyota
Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist Of The Year twice and is past president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).