Hybrid Prius might help you save fuel but getting a mech for it?

To get good economy figures from a Prius, do the exact same thing you would with a normal internal combustion engine: drive gently... very gently. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Yield not to the temptation of keeping up with faster traffic, because then your fuel economy intentions will be laid to waste. BBC’s Top Gear televised a strange test where a Toyota Prius was driven in full-attack mode, and on its tail was a V8-powered BMW M3, a 4.0 litre performance icon good for 420hp, and the very manifestation of automotive thirst at its most German.
  • It really swings both ways: any Classic Range Rover on sale is a “cherished” example with suspiciously low mileage and is a worthy buy on the outset (I’m looking at you, barrister!) if you are willing to perform preventative maintenance, whose first step should be rust-proofing the frame.
  • The engine redlines itself, running on oil (diesel engines can do this), and this in turn causes more oil to leak into the intake, which in turn makes the engine run even more until it grenades itself shortly afterwards in one of the most fearsome automotive spectacles this side of a fatal accident.

Hi Baraza,
I am thinking of importing a 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid, 1.8cc engine. I am considering the hybrid model because I need to save on fuel. I normally drive a 60-kilometre stretch every morning and 60 kilometres back in the evening. The Toyota NZE 1.5cc engine I am currently using needs approximately 10 litres of fuel (to and fro) every day. I am hoping with the Prius I can cut this to between four and five litres (to and fro). My two major worries are: a) whether I will achieve this reduction in fuel; and b) the capacity to maintain the car in Kenya. I have asked around and found that most mechanics appear not to be conversant with the mechanical body of hybrid cars. I am worried that I might not get spare parts or someone to fix it,in case of mechanical problems.

What is your advice? Are there other options to consider?

Ngari    

An average of 12km/l from a 1500cc Corolla NZE isn’t half bad but is indicative of mixed use between intra-urban city centre assault and open-air highway cruising. Your target of 24-30 km/l with the Prius is not exactly unfounded, but you need to watch out for a few things, the first being that you will have to sacrifice performance.

An average of 12km/l from a 1500cc Corolla NZE isn’t half bad but is indicative of mixed use between intra-urban city centre assault and open-air highway cruising. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

Yield not to the temptation of keeping up with faster traffic, because then your fuel economy intentions will be laid to waste. BBC’s Top Gear televised a strange test where a Toyota Prius was driven in full-attack mode, and on its tail was a V8-powered BMW M3, a 4.0 litre performance icon good for 420hp, and the very manifestation of automotive thirst at its most German.

All the BMW had to do was keep up with the Prius. Guess what happened? The eight-cylinder BMW returned better economy figures than the haughty hybrid, a surprise revelation whose implication was not lost on viewers.

The long and short of it is: to get good economy figures from a Prius, do the exact same thing you would with a normal internal combustion engine: drive gently... very gently.

So to answer part (a), yes; these economy figures are achievable, but only just.

(b) I did say earlier that repairing a hybrid motor is not for everyone, and until now I am yet to come across a grease monkey with the bragging rights to comprehending fully the inner workings of this system. Sure, we all know how it works in theory, but if handed a No. 10 and a Phillips tip, would we know where to start? I don’t think so.

That being said... don’t let that stop you from your fuel-saving goals. There are a few Prii running around; I’m pretty sure there soon will be an owners’ club, if there isn’t one already (whose meets I would be extremely averse to attending, truth be told) - and these tend to be invaluable when it comes to acquiring in-depth knowledge of the subject matter.

Dear Sir, 

Your advice on matters motoring is, indeed, invaluable. However, I’ve noticed that in your frequent collisions (pun intended) with the Land Rover/Range Rover, the latter always comes second best. What gives, man? I’ve always thought this marque prides itself as “the best 4x4xFar”. I still see the two-door Range Rover my old man bought in 1974 (KPF 244), and which he sold in 1986, still doing service in Laikipia. Surely there’s something there if it’s still on the road at 43. One thing I don’t like about the current models is their loss of machismo... the damn things are becoming a little too pretty!

Patrick

Yes. The Land Rover/Range Rover is the best 4x4xFar, no question... but only until the warranty runs out, and then what you are left with is a ticking time bomb without a digital/clock-face readout so you have no idea how many hours you have left until Judgment Day. It will go nuclear on you any minute, in any place, under any circumstances. Given the increasing complexity of these products, the cost implications of things going boom are frightening to say the least, which is why you can buy a pre-owned 21st Century supercharged Range Rover Vogue Autobiography for roughly the same money it takes to avail oneself a brand new 1.6 litre Toyota Corolla. Is it really that cheap? Yes. Is it worth it? No. Everybody has choices.
The older vehicles were built (loosely, I must add) out of concrete and pig iron, which means they can last a thousand years, unless the Rust Reich registers itself, in which case it will gnaw its way through the chassis like a pack of termites on a log of softwood... or a panzer division on a Polish border post.

It really swings both ways: any Classic Range Rover on sale is a “cherished” example with suspiciously low mileage and is a worthy buy on the outset (I’m looking at you, barrister!) if you are willing to perform preventative maintenance, whose first step should be rust-proofing the frame.

If not an over-pampered and underused sample, then it is the effort of a man trying to palm off a potential powder keg before it blows in his face. You need a checklist when shopping for these to avoid pecuniary pain in the near future and constitutional collapse in the far.

The looks are not as polarizing as you make them sound. Sure, contemporary cars are more of a result of the cold calculations of a Pentium processor thinking CAD-based thoughts; gone is the imagination, pot-luck and plucky passion that gave us design gems like the CSK. These computer-rendered outcomes are not half bad, however, are they? My only gripe is they all look the same now, and the baby Evoque has a rump that could do with some adjustment, but it is a dead ringer for the Sport which, from the C pillar forwards, is barely discernible from the Vogue. Are they fancy? Yes. Are they ugly? No. Everybody has choices.

I want an L322 so badly, yes. Sure, the air suspension will lead me to financial ruin and the car eats brake discs and is a willful dipsomaniac and the electrics are a nightmare, but nobody in this day and age marries a highly educated virgin who does housework and tends animals, no.

There are concessions to be made, and my only concession is that the car’s appearance is a perfect blend of the old and the new. We all have choices. Mercedes-Benz might be world-famous for the sense of gravitas the badge exudes, but if I pull up in a blacked-out L322, the bouncers will wordlessly step out of my way faster than that darn supercharged V8 burns through a quart of premium unleaded at full tilt.

Dear Baraza,

While I highly regard your knowledge of motoring, I am not sure with what Car Clinic is all about.

Although you cannot directly manage the views or questions sent in by the readers, I believe you can stop making the column as boring as they do. The column has basically been reduced to compare this and that vehicle… What would be the resale value of... I have a family...Advise between... Do you think...? I am a farmer… etc. 

This is boring and you have also acquired the art of humdrum. Kindly borrow a leaf from and capture articles in Readers Digest while featuring particular vehicles. They are informative, articulate and enjoyable to the readers.

With all due respect, I wish you could start featuring, say two makes of cars a week, indicating their pros and cons. This will stop the refrain in your column that goes, “You know my mechanic blah, blah, blah....” It will also help readers learn more than the English you stress.

Your honest reader, Justus Maranga

You are both right and wrong.

You are right, Car Clinic is 95 per cent “Compare this and the other one, which is exactly like the first, while giving weight to resale value, availability of spares and fuel consumption”; but you have to admit that the farmer’s test was a breath of fresh air in the midst of all the Allions, Foresters and Navaras.

Whether or not it’s boring depends on your expectations as a reader, but the vast majority seems to like it, so do not expect it to suffer an early death.

Where you go wrong is in your encouragement of me to plagiarize material from a publication as reputable as Reader’s Digest, a rag I have lived on for more than five decades.

I am not that old, but I am a descendant of great men, and these men were voracious consumers of the said magazine, so as soon as I learnt to read, I had at my disposal a sizeable treasure trove of fine writing in the form of Reader’s Digest magazines dating as far back as the 1960s.

You could say that they have contributed in part to shaping my writing style, but what you cannot say is that I should lift content piecemeal or wholesomely from their innards and palm it off as my own in a national newspaper. There is a word for that: plagiarism. And the victim will be my career. Expect it to suffer an early death.

There is a finite number of cars that can be reviewed, and the limitation is steeped in availability and relevance. I can’t review what I have not driven (availability), and my few attempts at coercing the petrolhead in my reader to come out didn’t quite go as expected, so even if I drive a Lamborghini or set a lap record at the Nürburgring, chances of such a full-length article seeing the light of day are a bit slim because of relevance (or the lack thereof.

Your suggestion that I do comparisons weekly is oxymoronic relative to your complaint. A large part of Car Clinic comprises the self-same comparisons you suggest, the only difference being sometimes the number of starring vehicles exceeds two and the analysis is “as soft as the journalism on an in-flight magazine” (I have plagiarized that analogy), lightly touching on one or two issues.

So what you are telling me is: “You are not allowed to dance, but you are allowed to move your body rhythmically.”

Hey Baraza,

I’d like to make a choice between the Honda Stream RSZ, the Mazda 5 the Toyota Wish and the Nissan Lafesta.

The Honda Stream RSZ is the uptown girl – the make is chic, and it has great looks.

Mazda 5 the country girl; she is loyal to you no matter what.

The Wish is the seasoned girl, but I don’t know about the Nissan Lafesta – that ugly girl, perhaps?

All the above look good. I want one as a family carrier for my two kids, wife and the nanny.

Which one would you advise me to buy, considering it will be my first car.

Note:

No satisfying online comparison for the four MPVs.

I would highly appreciate your input.

Sam

What?
Okay, the Lafesta is out, you clearly don’t want it. The Wish is the new Probox, driven by maniacs who have little regard for their own well-being. I also think its looks are a little off. Honda Stream vs Mazda Premacy... inky, pinky, ponky, mortal donkeys and tearful fathers and... get the Mazda. The USP of minivans is their practicality, so stick with the programme, follow it to the letter and go for the champ.

Dear Baraza,

Thanks for the great and useful advice on cars.

I won’t waste your time and mine either so straight to the point: when deciding on purchasing a Pajero, what should I be aware of in terms of choosing between a 3.0 petrol and a 3.2 Diesel?

Mwaniki Mburu

The engine redlines itself, running on oil (diesel engines can do this), and this in turn causes more oil to leak into the intake. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

You should be aware that the diesel turbo can go monster on you at high mileage when the turbo seals give way and allow oil into the combustion process and the engine then proceeds to eat itself since the oil seepage is self-perpetuating.

The engine redlines itself, running on oil (diesel engines can do this), and this in turn causes more oil to leak into the intake, which in turn makes the engine run even more until it grenades itself shortly afterwards in one of the most fearsome automotive spectacles this side of a fatal accident.

This is not common, but it has happened. The problem is you cannot even stall the vehicle since diesel engines are notorious for the torque they produce and keep in mind this one is turbocharged. It will defeat your puny brakes and surge forwards, if it doesn’t burn out the clutch first or ruin the transmission. It really is an ugly eventuality, but again... not a common one.

Advise the person who had issues with the Toyota Rush to get a Honda Fit Aria, 1300 cc. I have owned one for three years now and counting. It does 15-16.5 Kms/litre in Nairobi, with all the traffic in the morning and evening on Thika Road, and 20-21Kms/litre when going upcountry (Nanyuki)

Boniface Kamau

Rush person, I hope you are reading this.

Cheers and see you next week!

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