Hybrids show how far the science has come

By David Linklater

Powertrains separate two eco-friendly machines with lots of appeal

The Prius V hybrid wagon (above) edges the Peugeot 3008  for cabin space.
The Prius V hybrid wagon (above) edges the Peugeot 3008 for cabin space.

On paper, the Toyota Prius V and Peugeot 3008 HY4 are very different vehicles. One's a seven-seat people mover with a petrol engine, the other a high-riding four-wheel drive crossover with turbo-diesel power.

In practice, they are perfectly aligned. They are both hybrids for a start, and the sheer cost of each ($55,780 for the flagship Prius V s-tech and $59,990 for the single 3008 HY4 model) compared with conventionally powered equivalents means that these two will only really be of interest to people who deeply desire such cutting-edge powertrain technology.

People mover, crossover: it's all semantics anyway, because both cars are so similar in their monoform profiles, high seating positions and passenger-focused cabin environments. The Prius V is slightly larger (an extra 67mm in the wheelbase and 50mm longer overall) and offers third-row seating, but take those occasional chairs as read and these two cars make for an intriguing eco-battle.

The Toyota and Peugeot hybrid systems are configured quite differently (see page 27), but for now let's look at the numbers.

The Toyota's combined system output is 100kW/349Nm, which looks a little underwhelming against the Peugeot's 147kW/500Nm (interestingly, the electric motors in both cars produce 27kW).

Some of that deficit in the Prius is offset by its lighter weight: it's just 1565kg at the kerb, compared with the hefty 1808kg of the 3008 HY4. However, the Peugeot is quicker by far, reaching 100km/h in 8.5 seconds compared with the Toyota's 11.3 seconds.

Fuel economy is remarkably similar between the two. According to official European Combined figures, the 3008 HY4 returns 3.8 litres per 100km, compared with the Prius V's 4.1 litres. So there's nothing in it (but plenty left in the tank), although remember that you do have to pay Road User Charges for the diesel car.

The stats are interesting, but what they don't tell you is how different the driving experiences are.

Toyota essentially invented the mainstream hybrid (apologies to Honda) and the Prius V's powertrain is seamless, thanks to slick co-ordination of the petrol and electric motors and its continuously variable transmission. The Japanese maker is really rather good at this stuff.

With the Prius, you just get in and drive and don't have to worry about a thing. It's tempting to say you'd never realise you're driving a hybrid, but of course that's hard to ignore because Prius is styled in such a self-consciously weird way, inside and out.

The 3008 looks weird too, but it's not because it's a hybrid: the 3008 has been around with a conventional engine since 2009. Maybe it just looks weird because it's French. No problem with that.

The interaction between the combustion engine and electric motor is much more obvious in the Peugeot than it is in the Toyota. That's partly because there's more of a contrast between diesel clatter and electric silence, partly because the former drives the front wheels and latter the back, but also because the 3008 has a robotised-manual gearbox that does little to hide the workings of the hybrid system.

The HY4's six-speed transmission is an automated single-clutch unit that can mimic an automatic - just not very well at times. In self-shifting mode, gear changes are very obvious and under full throttle the car sometimes lurches while the transmission swaps cogs. It's much better if you drive it like a manual - feather the throttle on upshifts, even take full The new face of hybrid vehicles

The Prius V hybrid wagon from Toyota has a dial that explains the fuel economy and which engine is working.

The Peugeot 3008 HY4 has dial next to the gearstick that you can pick drive modes.

control with the gearchange paddles - but regardless of technique, you never escape the feeling that there's a lot going on around you.

In the HY4, you can choose from four drive modes via a rotary dial: Auto, Sport, 4WD and ZEV (zero emissions vehicle). Auto is the default, but the difference in responsiveness with Sport engaged is impressive, as the battery is used to boost power to maximum effect.

The Peugeot 3008 is the first diesel-electric hybrid car in New Zealand.
The Peugeot 3008 is the first diesel-electric hybrid car in New Zealand.

Peugeot makes much of its ZEV mode and claims up to 4km solely on electric power with a full charge, but I'm not convinced. For a start, it's hard to get a lot of juice into the battery without a good open-road run, because the throttle-off recharging system creates a lot of drag and severely reduces the car's ability to coast. I could do no better than 2km in town; besides, the HY4 switches into ZEV mode as often as possible in Auto, so why not leave it there?

The Prius also has an EV mode (again, only good for about 2km) and it's more effective at recharging because it has a proper brake energy regeneration system. Like the Peugeot, it will switch into battery-only mode whenever possible, without being asked.

The upside of the way that the HY4 demands a hands-on approach to powertrain technology is that it drives as well as a conventional 3008, extra weight notwithstanding. You could even argue it's better in some respects, because you have the option of four-wheel traction.

The Peugeot's steering is far superior to the Toyota's, the brakes have real progression (the regenerative system robs the Prius of pedal feel) and the chassis corners with flair. Prius is certainly easy to drive, but there's little to be gained from getting enthusiastic behind the wheel.

The Toyota takes pride in being an efficient conveyance; the Peugeot wants you to drive and enjoy.

The Prius takes the prize for space (and chair-count of course), but the Peugeot's cabin has superior comfort. Look past the idiosyncratic dashboard styling of both and the Prius has better ergonomics - that ease-of-use thing again - but the 3008 boasts much better quality materials.

The bottom line

Which is the better hybrid? The Prius V, for its seamless powertrain and ease of use.
Which would we take home and keep? The 3008 HY4, because it's a hybrid designed to be driven enthusiastically and enjoyed.


Different routes to a similar end

The Toyota Prius V and Peugeot 3008 HY4 both blend internal combustion engines with battery power: that's why they're called hybrids. Beyond that, they are very different indeed.

The Prius powertrain is based around the Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) system that Toyota has pretty much perfected after 16 years (earlier versions were known as Toyota Hybrid System, or THS).

In the Prius V, a 1.8-litre internal combustion petrol engine is combined with an electric motor, driving the front wheels through an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission.

The Prius is a full hybrid: it can be powered just by the petrol engine, just by the electric motor or both together. The battery pack is recharged during braking, when the car is coasting or even by the petrol engine when required.

The V is the first Prius to employ lithium-ion batteries, similar to those used in a smartphone or laptop. These are expensive, but compact and more powerful than nickel metal hydride units, meaning they can be packaged in a small space to liberate more passenger and luggage space - in the Prius V's case, under the centre console.

The 3008 HY4 is the world's first diesel-electric hybrid. While Prius is a bespoke vehicle, in the HY4 the hybrid hardware is packaged into an existing model (the 3008). It's done
in a brilliantly simple manner.

Up front, the HY4 is essentially a standard 3008 HDi: the 2.0-litre turbo diesel drives the front wheels through an automated manual gearbox. The nickel metal hydride battery pack and electric motor are both installed around the rear axle.

The HY4 can be powered just by its combustion engine, just by the electric motor or both together. Same as Prius then? Not quite: the 3008 is either front-drive, rear-drive or four-wheel drive, depending on which mode is operating.

The battery pack is recharged whenever the throttle is off or by the diesel engine. However, the HY4 does not have a full regenerative braking system like the Prius: that
means inferior recharging ability, but much better brake feel.

- NZ Herald

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