The Prius and its sister cars add “greenery” to the Singapore landscape
Far East Green Movement

When Far East Movement burst onto the US hip-hop music scene with the hit song Like A G6, the group’s sudden rise to stardom came as a surprise to many. Few expected the Asian-American quartet to make it big in an industry segment dominated by African-American artistes. Far East Movement remains the only Asian-American group with a number one song on the Billboard charts.

A similar anomaly occurred in Japan 15 years ago, when Toyota stunned the automotive industry with the debut of the Prius, the world’s fi rst mass-produced petrol-electric hybrid car. Its name (which means "prior" in Latin) is befitting, for the Prius was introduced before eco-friendly automobiles became all the rage.

As a full hybrid, the Prius has both internal combustion and electric powertrains, which can either function together or independently. However, the Prius wasn’t the fi rst hybrid to enter production - that distinction actually belongs to Toyota’s Coaster Hybrid EV bus.

Featured here in its third-generation guise, the Prius has become the preferred vehicle for eco-conscious drivers. Apart from its frugal fuel consumption and low emissions, the materials used in its interior also include plant-derived "ecological plastic" to further reduce the car's reliance on petroleum (which ordinary plastics are derived from). An all-digital dashboard completes the Prius’ slightly nerdy, New Age feel.

But it isn’t just nerds who like this benchmark green machine, for it has attracted a large following among Hollywood celebrities, too. Being the preferred ride of the stars has given the Prius an extra "sheen", even though these personalities could just be playing to the sentiments of their peers and their fans.

Catering to the mostly non-celebrity Prius fans here is the GVR (Green Vehicle Rebate), a scheme started by the Government in 2001 that gives buyers of petrol-electric hybrids a 40 per cent discount on their OMV (open market value), which is used to offset the ARF (additional registration fee). Since hybrid cars typically cost more than regular vehicles (due to their extra electricals and greater technical complexity), the GVR made the price of a brand new Prius less of a shocker.

In 2010, Borneo Motors introduced the Camry Hybrid. Unlike the futuristic Prius, this saloon has a conventional design and resembles the regular Camry, apart from the large "Hybrid" badges and the smaller boot capacity. This was just the ticket for heartland towkays who want to enjoy the benefits of a hybrid without having to comprehend the technology behind it. Now in its second generation, the Camry Hybrid gracing these pages is quicker than before and better equipped, yet it is even more fuel-efficient.

Also big on fuel efficiency is the little Prius C, the newest member of the Toyota hybrid range. This snazzy supermini for the city (that’s what the C stands for) makes the Camry Hybrid seem fuddy-duddy and the Prius look funny. When it comes to the business of green motoring, the Prius C is no greenhorn, thanks to its thrifty hybrid engine (a mere 1.5L versus the Prius' 1.8L and the Camry’s 2.5L). This hatchback also boasts the lowest CO2 emission (77g per km) of any new car currently in town.

Like how Far East Movement’s hit song made the group synonymous with electronic dance music, the first-mover Prius and its two green siblings have made Toyota synonymous with hybrid driving.