Compromise is not necessary

Dr Arun Aggarwal has driven an eco car for three years and tells us why he would recommend it.

Like many GPs, I choose my car for practical reasons. Three years ago, I went green, and replaced our Golf with a hybrid petrol/electric Toyota Prius.

It is one of the first mainstream hybrid vehicles in the UK, if not the world.

The car can run on its large battery alone at speeds below 30mph, and is recharged when the car slows or the brakes are applied. Fill up with ordinary unleaded petrol for the conventional engine.

It is intriguing from the beginning, with a curious start-up with no ignition key but a digital fob and button-push.

I was surprised at the power from the 1.5 litre engine, which is more than adequate to accelerate on to dual carriageways and roundabouts, but not enough for any sporty racing car driver.

I have had to make few compromises for my driving to go green.

Two years and 30,000 miles of electric motor and petrol engine working and the Prius has remained a pleasure to drive and cheap to run.

My combination of journeys has averaged 58 miles to the gallon during the warmer months of the year, and around 50 miles to the gallon during the frostier winter months.

Road tax has gone down each year and is now £15 a year. It would be ideal for London GPs and its low emissions means you can avoid congestion charges.

The running costs are helped by knowing that there is an eight-year warranty on the power train and unusual battery.

I have estimated that we have saved £150 a year on road tax and £800 a year on petrol and, assuming we keep the car to the end of the eight-year warranty, we will have saved several hundred pounds on the parts that normally need attention.

Safety and comfort
On the safety side, the Prius excels with eight airbags and a top five-star NCAP rating.

It has brilliant audio facilities and climate control, and is quiet to ride in.

When in traffic jams you can switch to electric vehicle mode and it is totally silent. When pulling away from the surgery, or home visits, the car is totally silent.

Its exhaust emissions are among the lowest in the country, hence the very low road tax.

The car is much larger inside than the Golf. It carries two adults and two teenagers very comfortably and five pretty well too. It also manages the large loads that we need for holidays.

I think that this is a great car and we would buy another one. New, they cost around £20,000, but I recently saw plenty of under-three-year-old models for sale online below £12,000.

An added bonus, as we discovered from our accountant, is that a green car attracts 100 per cent write-down allowance tax relief in the first year of purchase. This is never achieved with any other car and means a big reduction in your tax bill that first year and overall more tax relief than you would ever get with any other car.

Dr Arun Aggarwal is a GP in Cambridgeshire

Do you drive an environmentally friendly car? Tell us your recommendations at www.community.healthcarerepublic.com

Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius 1.5

Hybrid T Spirit

  • Price: £20,677
  • Engine size: 1,497cc petrol/hybrid electric
  • Acceleration 0-60mph: 10.9 secs
  • Top speed: 106mph
  • Insurance group: 8
  • MPG: urban 56.5/ex-urban 67.3/combined 65.7
  • Real cost: (three years/36,000 miles, ownership cost based on fuel,
  • depreciation, insurance, services): £13,418
  • What Car? rating: 3 out of 5
  • What Car? verdict: Impressive fuel economy. Sprightly around town, but
  • the engine is noisy when you accelerate hard.
  • Go to www.whatcar.com for news, reviews, deals and data

 

What Car? Review

The Prius doesn't suffer the dearth of performance most would expect of a hybrid. There's enough go to exploit gaps in traffic, and it copes easily with A-roads and motorways. However, the electric motor only delivers peak pulling power below 22mph, so it doesn't have the pull of a good turbo diesel at higher speeds.

The continuously variable auto gearbox will hold high revs under hard acceleration and adjusts the gear ratio as speeds rise - efficient, but noisy. Drive more gently and it smoothly blends electrical and petrol power, and engine noise all but disappears.

The Prius topped the 2007 JD Power survey, with mechanical reliability being one of its strongest areas.

The quality of the cabin is every bit as good as you'd expect of Toyota. Inside, it is spacious for a car of this size. A passenger of six foot can comfortably sit behind an equally lanky driver, and three adults should be reasonably comfortable in the back.

This is a super-clean alternative to mainstream family hatchbacks that demands few compromises to own or drive. Spacious, fine-riding, refined and cheap to fuel.

You won't want for anything with the T Spirit: it comes with sat-nav and a Bluetooth connection, as well as cruise control, climate control and four electric windows.

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