A blight on God’s clean Earth #5 – Toyota Prius

“He’s badmouthing a Prius, is he? He must be some petrolhead, Clarkson-loving Mother Earth-hater!” Nay, my dear brethren, nothing could be further from the truth. I think hybrids are an excellent idea. First, from the eco-viewpoint, with less emissions and consumption, and second from the personal economics perspective, where you don’t have to dish out so much cash at the pump. And I’d have thought so-called “petrolheads” would’ve loved the idea. A piddly-little engine that gets lots of extra power from some electric motors, like the Fisker Karma, that sports 450bhp, goes like the clappers, yet has a consumption of 2.4l per 100km (100mpg). It’s one of those win-win situations where everyone comes away happy.

So what’s wrong with the Prius? I’ve said this before, but the Prius is what comes to mind of the average driver when mentioning the words “hybrid car”. It’s the poster child of one of the most significant leaps of car technology. And what a tremendously ugly, off-putting poster child it is. I’ll put it this way: if it were a conventionally-powered ICE car, would you buy it? It’s horribly proportioned, with a huge backside and a too-sloped bonnet, and the wheels look like they’re off a caravan because they’re so small in relation to the car.

And this is a problem inherent to nearly all early hybrids. The Japanese car-manufacturers responsible for these must’ve thought that making a hybrid look pleasingly normal wasn’t the right way of going about things. “No,” they probably said. “It must look like it’s out of an early 90’s sci-fi comic book! It must look different!” This actually could’ve gone rather well, had it been anywhere else. It might have come out looking like a cool concept car, like an Audi Avus or a Citroen Activa II. But being Japan, where local aesthetic taste gave us visual horrors such as the Power Rangers, Dragonball, Doraemon, Bakugan and countless samurai-inspired armoured and robot heroes, the end result was the usual codswallop the rest of the world finds embarrassingly, awkwardly, cringe-worthy bilge.

Fortunately, the rest of the world has picked up on hybrids, making cool stuff like the aforementioned Karma or BMW EfficientDynamics-thing. Hopefully it will mark the shift from arse-ugly crates-on-wheels to proper-looking road cars.

Long live the hybrid. Death to the Prius.

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