Review of Toyota Aqua (Prius C)

Introduction

Toyota Aqua is a full hybrid mini hatchback car developed for Japanese market. It is rebranded as Prius C in other countries. This review is focused on Toyota Aqua as there are many reviews about Prius C in the internet.

Toyota Aqua in a Motor Show
Toyota Aqua in a Motor Show | Source

Differences in Aqua and Prius-C

Since Prius C is targeted to European and US markets, safety features are different. For an example basic Aqua has two air bags and even the base grade of Prius C has eight air bags. In addition, Prius C comes with special display which shows energy flow from battery/engine to wheels. Only high end Japanese Aqua models (G grade) have this display.

In addition, grades are different in Aqua and Prius C. Toyota Aqua comes in L, S and G grade. Prius C comes in 1, 2, 3 grades. Features of each comparable grades are markedly different between Toyota Aqua and Prius C. Most Japanese Aquas are customized vehicles for the original Japanese buyer, except zero mileage vehicles in Japanese Auctions. So options will vary widely.

Other than that, these two cars are essentially similar. Both have same engine and hybrid power train. Both have same external and internal appearance.

In addition, marketing wise Toyota Aqua is marketed as having Fuel efficiency of 37km/l according to JC008 test cycle. But according to the independent Environmental protection authority of US government assessment, Prius C is marketed as having 50 miles per gallon (US) equivalent to 21.7km/l.

Meet the new Aqua X Urban

Toyota has developed a new Aqua model named X - Urban in 2014. It has more ground clearance (160mm compared to 140mm) and it is slightly longer (length) than the current Aqua models. It is developed for more off road travelling. However, it has the same engine and power train configuration. Therefore, the fuel economy is less than the current model (Due to aero dynamic changes and increased vehicle weight). But it would be useful for less developed or rural roads.

New X - Urban trim model

Aqua X - Urban
Aqua X - Urban | Source

Images of Toyota Aqua - Courtesy Toyota.jp

Interior of Toyota Aqua
Interior of Toyota Aqua
Interior of Toyota Aqua
Interior of Toyota Aqua
Interior of Toyota Aqua
Interior of Toyota Aqua
Picture of Cargo space
Picture of Cargo space
Don't Waste fuel
Don't Waste fuel

Fuel economy of Toyota Aqua

It is quite confusing to have two very different fuel economy ratings for an essentially the same car. I usually got fuel economy rating in between these two values for my Aqua. I gets around 26km/l for average highway and urban driving. Therefore, EPA rating is more real world than Japanese JC008 test cycle.

However, the point is that it has the best fuel economy compared to all other vehicles after excluding plugin hybrids such as Prius PHV and Chevrolet Volt.

Popular Plugin and electrical vehicles

Chevrolet Volt - Electric vehicle with gasoline range extender.
Chevrolet Volt - Electric vehicle with gasoline range extender.
Prius PHV or Plugin Hybrid Vehicle. Can go upto 26km per charge in EV mode.In addition, it has an gasoline engine.
Prius PHV or Plugin Hybrid Vehicle. Can go up to 26km per charge in EV mode.In addition, it has an gasoline engine.
Nissan Leaf - Full Electric Vehicle without gasoline engine.
Nissan Leaf - Full Electric Vehicle without gasoline engine.

Models of Toyota Aqua

Toyota Aqua is offered in three different grades. They are L, S and G grade. In addition, there are limited edition grades such as GS, and special leather edition.

L grade is the base grade and it does not have rear wiper, power shutters in rear doors (however, it has power shutters in front doors), smart key, vanity mirror in front passenger sun wiser and has smaller tires. However, L grade is 30 Kgs lighter than other grades (Probably best fuel economy in Aqua class?). In addition, L grade comes with spare tire (other grades comes with puncture repair kit).

Features of other grades vary widely depending on the customization ordered by the original Japanese buyer.

S grade is medium and G grade is the premium grade. Features specs list can be seen clicking following link to Toyota.jp site. It is in Japanese and you need to have translator enabled.


Toyota Aqua - Home video

Look, performance and build quality

According to my opinion this is a handsome car. It has good interior and luggage space. It is built aerodynamically to improve fuel efficiency in highway speeds.

However, I felt the space in the passenger compartment is restricted. In addition, build quality looks very cheap. Since you are buying one of the cheapest cars with full hybrid power train you need to expect low quality cosmetic material.

Performance wise Toyota Aqua is similar to other hybrid cars. Initial pickup is not very good. However, if you want to have good pickup then, disable ECO button. It will cost you more fuel but you will get performance kick. When you press gas paddle hard then the hybrid power mode initiates. In hybrid power mode both engine and hybrid battery gives power to the vehicle. It is useful in very tight overtakes. I find it very responsive compared to Toyota Vitz i had.

Toyota Aqua is built on Toyota’s proprietary Hybrid Synergy Drive© system. It has 1500cc Atkinson cycle engine with 1Kwh NiMH battery.

Problems of Toyota Aqua

Even though, Aqua has unbeatable fuel economy, compared to Honda Fit it has following problems

1. Compared to Honda FIT has les interior space

2. Has less ground clearance, Except Xurban model

3. Cheap interior materials

4. Bumpy ride (Even compared to Toyota Vitz, ride is quite bumpy and uncomfortable)

5. Less cargo space

6. Small rear window

According to Edmunds.com


Hybrid system indicator of Toyota Aqua

Here the curved meter indicates amount of power you are applying. If you keep it below eco level then your vehicle runs mostly on EV mode. In right hand side you may notice PWR range (Here both battery and engine gives power to the vehicle).
Here the curved meter indicates amount of power you are applying. If you keep it below eco level then your vehicle runs mostly on EV mode. In right hand side you may notice PWR range (Here both battery and engine gives power to the vehicle). | Source

Hybrid Synergy Drive system Animation

Atkinson cycle Engine animation

Basic Dimentions of Toyota Aqua

 
 
Drive System
Front
Doors
5
Riding Capacity
5
Weight (kg)
1080
Length (mm)
3995
Width (mm)
1695
Height (mm)
1445
 
 
Steering
Right
Wheelbase (mm)
2550
Tires Front Tread (mm)
1480
Tires Rear Tread (mm)
1475
Ground Clearance (mm)
140
Minimum Turning Radius (m)
4.8

Poll

What is best Hybrid hatchback vehicle in the Market?

  • Toyota - Aqua
  • Honda - Fit
See results without voting

Tips to drive a hybrid vehicle economically

1. Drive the vehicle without prolonged (Quick acceleration is OK) hard acceleration and without applying sudden brakes. Quick acceleration and then gliding will save fuel (Pulse and Glide method). Pulse and glide method is where you rapidly accelerate to achieve little above the desired speed and then glide with slight pressure on accelerator. E.g If you want to drive the vehicle 50km/h. Then accelerate to 60km/h and use glide method to slowly decelerate to 45km/h.

Apply enough power to fill one square of Hybrid system indicator to glide. If you want more power then do not excessively use EV mode, just push little harder to start the engine.

2. Sudden braking loses energy as heat. During gradual braking part of the energy is stored in Hybrid battery.

3. In highways, keep vehicle speed below 100km/h. In highways, do not change speed frequently.

4. Keep short distant trips to minimum. In between engine warm-ups degrade fuel economy.

5. Excessive and artificial use of EV mode will decrease fuel efficiency and it will degrade the hybrid battery life as well.


How to drive a Toyota Aqua ?

Unlike a regular vehicle, the engine does not start when you switch on the vehicle. When you switch on the vehicle, hybrid system initiates and it will be notified in the display as “READY”. When the vehicle is in the READY mode, you can drive it. Engine starts depending on the condition of battery and engine temperature. Till then the vehicle will be driven in EV (Electrical vehicle) mode.

To achieve maximal fuel efficiency you need to drive the vehicle below 60km/h in normal roads without prolonged hard acceleration and without applying sudden brakes. You need to apply brake gradually.

In highways, you need to keep the vehicle speed below 100km/h and need to keep same velocity throughout the journey.


How to buy an Aqua?

If you are not in Japan, then you need to go through Japanese used car auctions to import a Toyota Aqua. But you need to consider that importing a used vehicle from japan would have warranty problems unless your country have genuine Toyota dealership.

Therefore, buying a zero mileage hybrid vehicle could expose you to costly repairs if there is manufacturing defect that comes out after some time. e.g. Third gen prius inverter malfunction. in the vehicle. It is safer to buy a vehicle that has at least a mileage of 5000km with more than six months of use.

In addition, you need to consider that it is a right hand drive vehicle. Therefore, it is mostly imported into the Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Some countries offer tax reductions for Hybrid vehicles such as in Sri Lanka.

Service and maintenance of Toyota Aqua

According to the Toyota Prius C manual, Engiine oil and Engine oil filter should be changed every 16,000 km or 1 yearly, whichever comes first in normal driving conditions. In severe driving condition (e.g. Taxis, police cars with frequent small trips), engine oil should be changed every 8000 kms. It is contrastingly different from the people at service stations tell you. They usually tell that every vehicle should change their Engine oil every 5000 km.

Usual engine oil type for this vehicle is 0W- 20 which is a fully synthetic oil which is slightly expensive. However, if you put any other engine oil then it should be changed within 8000km.

In addition, you need to change Transaxal (transmission) fluid at 50,000 kms. It is very important to change this as it is one of the most complicated parts in a hybrid vehicle.

Due to regenerative braking, brake pads will usually lasts around 120,000 kms. It is an advantage of a hybrid vehicle.

Vehicles with hybrid synergy drive does not have Fan belts, Engine belts, AC belts and has electric radiator pump and electric brake pump (Beltless). These functions are performed by electric motors. Therefore, you do not need to replace them. It is another advantage of a Hybrid vehicle.

However, Aqua has a lead acid battery(As do normal vehicles). Therefore, you need to replace it every three years.

In addition, main hybrid battery does not need manual servicing. However, usually it need to be replaced within 8 to 10 years. When it is in need of replacing, you will experience drastic reduction in fuel efficiency and continuously running internal combustion engine (Minimal EV distance). In addition, it will be indicated on the dashboard. But as i mentioned earlier there are reports that some NiMH batteries lasts more than 12 years.




Toyota Prius C (Aqua) Maintenance page for 5000 - 10000 miles

It clearly mentions oil change intervals. If you want to see the original then click on the link above.
It clearly mentions oil change intervals. If you want to see the original then click on the link above. | Source

2015 Prius C features - Similar to Toyota AQUA

2015 face lift of Aqua and Prius C

In latter 2014, Toyota has made some changes to the exterior of Aqua and the Prius C models. However, they have same engine and hybrid system configuration. They have icluded LED head lights and the tail lights have been modified for futuristic look. In addition, now the Aqua is available in combinations of colors. You can check them at the Toyota.jp site (Link is provided above).

Summary

Toyota Aqua is Japanese version of Prius C. Compared to Prius C it has minor interior and safety differences. It is the most fuel efficient vehicle in its category. But it has mediocre built quality.

© 2014 Dr Manura Nanayakkara

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30 comments

kamal bandara 2 years ago

Hi Dr,

This is an interesting article describe the Prius C/AQUA.

There are couple of things I would like to add here. MID (multi information display) unit comes in the Prius C is not a common feature in AQUA but there are some comes with it (depend on the customer who bought the car in Japan). I have seen some cars (JDM) in SL also with MID units.

Second, if we drive below 47kmph then we can achieve 36kmpl very easily ( I have done many times) and average we get around 22-24kmpl in Colombo traffic.

Three, there are some S grade cars (JDM models) without a smart keys (this also comes for customers requirement).

Four, 16000km service interval is if you are using TDR oil (special oil used for Toyota racing) else its 5000-6000 since the car is running lot of time in the start-stop intervals in the traffic.

Hope this helps.


njmanura profile image

njmanura 2 years ago from Sri Lanka Author

Thanks for the input


njmanura profile image

njmanura 2 years ago from Sri Lanka Author

Regarding the fourth comment, It is clearly mentioned in prius c warranty and maintenance guide that the oil change interval is 10000 miles (us) for normal driving and 5000 miles for heavy driving. It is widely accepted in priuschat .com forum that 10000 mile oil change is enough if you use 0w 20 toyota genuine oil.


kamal bandara 2 years ago

Good point.. I wonder why Toyota local dealer says to change the Oil every 5000Kms when driving in SL roads.


Dr. Nuwan De Zoysa 2 years ago

First I want to thank you for publishing this article for the people who are interested in the aqua. Your explanations are very descriptive and easily understood. I personally gained a lot of information regarding the vehicle. I encourage you to further publish such articles educate car fans. Keep up the good work :)


Dr.Nisha Dharmarathna 2 years ago

Thanks a lot. I got a better understanding of my Aqua. Continue your excellent work.


njmanura profile image

njmanura 2 years ago from Sri Lanka Author

Thank you Nisha


arjun 2 years ago

really well exlained article and igot much use of this because im gona to buy and aqua thanks a lot


nishan 2 years ago

How can i check my aqua is grade S or G??


Emilia Riera profile image

Emilia Riera 2 years ago from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Interesting. It reminds me of the 1976 Honda Civic hatchback I had long ago. That little car got 30 mpg. I am wondering about price comparison. While prices vary by location, I am wondering what percentage of the standard Prius price an Aqua (or the equivalent) is.


Sam 2 years ago

This is very valuable site, people can have clear ideas about what they need to buy.


hiran 23 months ago

thanks a lot man...very good article...learn lot of things about aqua...keep up the good work...pls post a about

article how to maintain an aqua


njmanura profile image

njmanura 23 months ago from Sri Lanka Author

Hiran,

Thanks for the comment, I have updated the maintenance section.


eranga 23 months ago

should we always try to keep the indicator in 'EV' mode? is that save fuel?


njmanura profile image

njmanura 23 months ago from Sri Lanka Author

When you are travelling in urban environment then keep in the eco mode. But when you need acceleration then use engine to do it. Without crawling in ev mode. It will degrade battery life and fuel economy as battery power is also coming from engine. Engine is most efficient in rapid acceleration. So use p and g mehod mentioned earlier. When you are travelling in highways then use the engine in a stable speed.


Gayanath 21 months ago

Highly appreciate your commitment and nice article.

But I'm disagree with your statement "you need to change Transaxal (transmission) fluid at 50,000 kms." Because I couldn't found it on the manual. According to the manual erliest time to replace is 60,000 miles or 72 months means 96,000 km (only if heavy vehicle towing) but it was not applicable to aqua as it has not design for towing.

Agreed for all others.


njmanura profile image

njmanura 21 months ago from Sri Lanka Author

Thanks for the comment. It was mentioned im priuschat.com. They have mentioned several cases that caused transaxal failure with oil change at the 100000 kms. Since transaxle failure virtualy kills the vehicle, i have mentioned 50000 as a more safe value. However I agree with your point. Most vehicles will not have problems with changing transaxle oil at 100000kms.


njmanura profile image

njmanura 21 months ago from Sri Lanka Author

Thanks for the comment. It was mentioned im priuschat.com. They have mentioned several cases that caused transaxal failure with oil change at the 100000 kms. Since transaxle failure virtualy kills the vehicle, i have mentioned 50000 as a more safe value. However I agree with your point. Most vehicles will not have problems with changing transaxle oil at 100000kms.


Priyantha 19 months ago

great input for us.


Muhammad Ahmad Chishty 17 months ago

Fantastic article


Sanjeewa A 16 months ago

Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Great job.


Kashif 13 months ago

Good article.

Can i install 185/65R15 tyre? As the current tyres are 175/65/R15. Need increased road clearance and less bumps


njmanura profile image

njmanura 13 months ago from Sri Lanka Author

I think it is possible, But better check with a tyre dealer. Anyway increasing road clearance will reduce fuel economy as there is more friction.


jeewaka 13 months ago

Thanks a lot


cnwarna 10 months ago

aqua engine get raise abnormality while it is running but this comes after run 12 kms. even after i release the gas paddle engine get raise for few seconds.


Nishan Wanasinghe 9 months ago

Thank you very much. This a very useful article.I appreciate it lot.


Chithaka 6 weeks ago

Well done Sir..

So the question is that there is a reasonable price change in 2012 and 2014 AQUA market in Sri Lanka. I'm finding a one now (a GOOD AQUA in Fuel). So will I feel any differences between them after I brought one from 2012...?

Thanks in advance.


njmanura profile image

njmanura 5 weeks ago from Sri Lanka Author

I have no practical explanation. Because I have not compared 2012 and 2014 models. Since second gen prius was very reliable and even after 8 years of use, there is only minor reduction in fuel efficiency. We can expect same with aqua. There will be minor reduction in fuel efficiency as there will be reduction in battery capacity and ev distance but overall you won't feel any difference. But Aqua is not a comfortable car.


Muhammad Asif 9 days ago

I want to know what is difference between aqua L grade and S grade


njmanura profile image

njmanura 5 days ago from Sri Lanka Author

L grade is the basic grade, It does not have rear wiper, no push start and seats are less comfortable without headrest. Rear doors do not have power shutters only manual lever.But it has spare tire and does not come with tire repair kit which is good. All the other core features (engine, hybrid system, engine control, A/C) are same. It is the core Aqua without any fancy features (So having 30kgs less weight).

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