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In the Womb Of Optimus Prius

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An astounding chronicle of one man and his (borrowed) hybrid. A tale of love found, lost, and regained

Hybrids have become the fad for new car buyers, especially in countries with strong economies like the US, Japan, and Germany. Launched in 2009, the first hybrid vehicle sold in the Philippines is the Toyota Prius.

Hybrid cars use two power sources: a gasoline engine and an electric motor complement. Therefore, hybrid cars are advertised as both fuel efficient and environmental friendly.

Though my experience with the Prius was short lived, I was convinced that it served its purpose. It brought me around the metro and it took off my guilt of damaging the atmosphere, at least for a while. So here goes a narrative on my three-day affair with the Prius.

I was scheduled to pick up the Prius at night after work. Since waking up, I could not stop thinking about what to expect. At around 8 p.m. I drove out of Makati using my everyday sedan, a typical gearhead vehicle which ironically consumes a lot of gas and creates noise pollution. I had the family driver meet me at the China Business office in Greenhills so he could take my car home, while I stay preoccupied with a flashy new hybrid.

There was no better person to give me the keys than the magazine’s editor herself! We both went down to the basement and there it was parked. My Prius was beautifully colored in pearl white mica and contoured with hyper-modern curves. There it sat waiting, inviting, alluring

I did my initial inspections and popped the hood to check the 1.8L inline-4 hybrid engine with its permanent magnet synchronous electric motor. It looked hi-tech, of course, and even smelled good. I checked the trunk and my first reaction was it could barely fit a golf bag. However, there was enough real estate to accommodate the groceries.

A touch of the finger opened the door lock and as I sat down in the cockpit (read: driver’s seat) I appreciated the updated interior design. A funny thing occurred though; as I pushed the start button and the dashboard details went on I mistakenly thought the car malfunctioned because I didn’t hear any engine start. It took a while for me to realize that this was part of the Prius’ character! There’s absolutely zero noise when starting it.

The real test began on the last day of the work week.

The first obstacle was the Katipunan traffic. It has always been a burden that I have to pass through this area everyday when children are being brought to school. Advancing through Libis/C-5, the slow area in my route was the flyover before the famous elevated U-turns. Past the U-turn was a stretch of light traffic and wide concrete. This is where I put the Prius’ 181 horses to the test. Acceleration was relatively powerful and I was able to speed up to 130kph in about nine seconds while still being cautious. I reached my office building in Pasong Tamo Extension just in time to sip the remaining coffee from my tumbler and ogle the parked Prius before checking in for work.

Come the evening, off I went with the Prius. As expected, congestion in Magallanes immediately greeted me with a harsh hello. It took me 30 minutes until I reached the ramp going up to EDSA. I consciously avoided the traffic by passing through McKinley road into Global City, en route to C5. Apparently, it was slow everywhere. Fortunately, the Prius maintained its cool and composure despite the stressful journey. It even calmed itself up to complete silence every time it found itself idle.

Passing through White Plains and the Valle Verde areas, I ran through a couple of white stripe lumps on the road, thereby realizing the Prius’ single greatest flaw: its suspension. Every time I passed by a hump, the car shook uncomfortably. I guess what the Prius wasn’t prepared for are uneven streets.

The first task of the day was to visit the gym in the nearby sports club. I was gratified by the ego-boost the Prius gave me when I eased it into a parking space. It’s a certified head turner when out in the street.

After the morning exertion, I had a lunch meeting planned with my dad and some key people with regards to the family business. No matter how serious the occasion was, the aura changed when they looked at the Prius, curious and almost reverential. My dad even joked, “Ask if I could borrow it for a week too.” I replied that maybe it’s time to save up for the next few incoming hybrid models

Finally, I brought it back to the China Business office building and left it in the basement. I slowly stepped out and I tapped its door handle for the last time to lock it. Then I walked towards my Dad’s car feeling accomplished. It was such an enjoyable and fruitful drive with the Prius.

Is It a Wise Buy?
I covered a HUGE amount of distance and based on my calculations, it managed 7 1⁄2 hours of urban cruising. Definitely, the hybrid has lived up to its purpose of being a gas-conscious ride. Moreover, you’ll be surprised how quickly a Prius’ tank gets filled up when you visit a gas station. Which is why this car will save you pesos in the long run.

However, despite being as endearing as an Apple gadget, signs still point that Filipinos are not ready for hybrids. First, the proper green scenery where a Prius can blend in are conspicuously missing. Far- fetched perhaps, but a sociological transformation is long overdue to improve our streets and main thoroughfares. Second, a luxury tax was imposed on the Prius, just like how it is with brands for the rich. This shows that those who buy the vehicle are the ones who really want to be associated with the car.

Lots of Filipinos were alarmed when the price tag came out, including me. At 2.25 million pesos (an additional 15,000 pesos for the Pearl White Mica paint job), it may turn out that the Prius is not worth the buy yet. For one, an additional 80,000 plus will avail you with the Lexus CTS, a sporty wagon with a Hybrid engine as well. For another 150,000, an entry level Mercedes. If the price difference is this small, I’ll choose the luxury brands equipped with more advanced features anytime. Potential Prius buyers even get more demoralized when they learn its actual price. In America, the Prius is US$23,050. Just 996,912.50 pesos. Half the price, basically.

Value for money is very important as far as I’m concerned. Although there’s no need to be too practical in every purchase you make, other models in the market that are worth it for the same price range. But of course, we won’t stop you from bringing home a Prius if you have the funds to spare. We know and understand. Its eco-friendly charm is simply irresistible.

Print ed: 10/11


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