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Aqua vs Prius vs Fit vs Vezel, A Japanese Auction Hybrid vehicle buying guide

Updated on October 14, 2016

Why buy from Japanese Auctions?

More and more people import hybrids through Japanese Auctions. Because it is cheap. You can get a good vehicle. In addition, compared to other auctions the auction sheets are reliable (probably not in accident vehicles R - grade).

Hybrids are the wave of future. Many auto makers now offer hybrid vehicles. Most countries offer tax incentives to buy a hybrid vehicle. E.g Sri Lankan government offer tax incentive to hybrids therefore it is economically not viable to buy a good Non Hybrid in Sri Lanka.

So what hybrid to buy. We have several options and I am going to talk about reliability of hybrid vehicles available to Asian countries that import Japanese used vehicles.

Recent update

Currently in Sri Lanka, Government has changed vehicle tax structure so there is no more tax benefits for hybrid vehicles.

Hybrid vehicles commonly imported from Japanese Auctions

Toyota Aqua
Toyota Aqua
Honda Vezel
Honda Vezel
Honda Fit GP5 or 3rd gen Fit
Honda Fit GP5 or 3rd gen Fit

Problems of importing vehicles from Japanese Auctions

Most of the time imported hybrid vehicles do not have problems. They run just fine. But you should know some of the problem associated with auction imports.

You do not get a warranty when there is no genuine dealership. E.g. even though Toyota Lanka claims they are the “agents”, they will not help with Japanese warranty. They only give warranty to vehicles imported through them. This even applies to vehicle recalls due to wide spread manufacturing defects (E.g Prius Gen 3 Inverter malfunction). So even if you buy a vehicle with genuine manufacturing defect, then you will end up paying millions of rupees in repairs.

So why are people buying lot of hybrids from Japan. Are they all stupid???

Do not make any decisions now, Just read the rest of the article.

Toyota Prius A time tested vehicle
Toyota Prius A time tested vehicle

Problems of Hybrid cars?

Hybrid vehicles have complex and new technologies. So chance of having a manufacturing defect is higher than Non Hybrids (Practically it is rare but do occur). In addition, with regard to newer technologies such as Honda iDCD Hybrid (Vezel and Fit GP5) the chances of failure is higher.

Old 2001 priuses are still running!!!

So why are we not seeing major problems in hybrid vehicles?

It is because most old hybrids are time tested. E.g Toyota Hybrid synergy drive (HSD) and Honda Integrated motor assist (IMA). Toyota Hybrid synergy drive (HSD) is developed in 1994 and first vehicle appeared in 1997. First export vehicle sold in 2001. After launch it had several recalls and manufacturing defects. Problems were corrected and warranty claims were paid because the countries originally used them had Genuine dealership. Toyota and Honda fixed initial problems in later generations and the reliability increased tremendously.

Now most agree that Honda Generation 2 insights and Generation 2 Priuses are very reliable. In fact, some of 2001 Priuses in US are running today without battery replacement and with original core parts!!

2004 Prius that has driven 360,000 Km

What about Hybrid batteries?

When hybrids enter into markets, people were pretty anxious to buy them because they felt that the batteries will not be reliable. Many myths were circulating in the internet that Hybrid batteries will fail within 5 years and they need to be replaced within first 100,000 kms. They are in fact most of the time Myths.

But there is a catch. The most reliable and time tested batteries were in fact NiMH batteries. They were the batteries that were incorporated into our yesteryear phones (Nokia 3310). The thing with NiMH batteries even in phones is they are very long lasting, if you maintain them properly.

However, from the experience of current Li Ion phone batteries is that they will be dead within four years how much you cared for them. But Li Ion batteries have large initial energy density and efficient charging compared to NiMH batteries. But I understand that vehicle batteries may be different but still they are not time tested. First mass produced Li Ion vehicles appeared in 2010.

Due to competition most vehicle manufactures now uses Li Ion batteries instead of NiMH batteries. They may have compromised the longevity to efficiency.


What are the vehicles that have Li Ion batteries?

Honda Fit GP5, Honda Vezel, and Prius Plugin has Li Ion batteries. In addition, Toyota Prius Alpha (Prius V in other countries) have Li Ion Batteries. Toyota Aqua, Toyota Prius and Honda Insight and Honda Fit GP1 has NiMH batteries.

What are the difference in fuel efficiency?

Fuel efficiency is determined by lot of factors. Most Toyota Hybrid synergy drive (HSD) vehicles are very fuel efficient. Honda IMA is not very fuel efficient. In fact they were called mild hybrids. However, Honda claims Gp5 and Vezel are best in their class (Newer hybrids iDCDi). However, only Toyota Hybrid synergy drive (HSD) is tested by independent agencies (US government and US Consumer reports).

Prius 4th generation
Prius 4th generation

New 4th generation Prius

Toyota has released its 4th generation Prius several months back. According to sources, Unlike previous generations, fourth generation prius was developed from ground up. It increases efficiency of power management inside various hybrid components, so it is around 10% more efficient than previous models. In addition, Toyota has changed its suspension and overall frame is more rigid.

Still Toyota is maintaining its NiMH batteries in regular 4th generation Prius. But they included Li Ion Battery in Prius ECO Model. It is more fuel efficient than regular model.

Since it is designed completely new it is safe to wait till the model matures. If you are in a hurry then better to buy it from Toyota Lanka. If problems crop up they will recall the vehicles and if you import it from japanese auctions then you will have to bear costly repairs.

So what are the best options?

If you look for reliability and peace of mind then go for tested hybrid technology (Toyota Hybrid synergy drive (HSD) and Honda Integrated motor assist). If you want to be more fashionable and have risk taking in your personality then newer hybrid technologies are for you.

Do not buy newest models (Not the vehicle) that came just from the design board. Allow at least one year for the model to mature. It is also risky to buy zero mileage hybrids. Because again manufacturing defects could crop up after some time. It is both safe and cheap to but at least a vehicle that is driven 5000km and more than 6 months old. Because if there is a manufacturing defect then it would have been sorted out in Japan.

It is also prudent to check for known vehicle recalls and note down model numbers before buying. E.g. Prius Gen 3 inverter malfunction which costs around Rs. 900,000 to replace.

Accident or R grade vehicles

Do not buy accident vehicles (R grade) from Japanese auction sites, especially Hybrids. Because the auction sheets of R grade vehicles are not very reliable and they do very slip shot job in repairing vehicles (Repairing is done by non-professionals). They just want to pass the vehicle through export certification.

If you happen to buy a vehicle from a local agent ask for Auction report and compare chasis no to no in the auction sheet. Also check letter R on the top right hand corner of the Auction sheet (It is in Japanese so you would understand a thing). If the R is there then it is an accident vehicle.

Japanese Auction sheet - Look for R in upper right hand corner

Poll

What is the best hybrid vehicle to Buy?

See results

Summary

It is safer to buy hybrid vehicle that is time tested, accident free and that has a some mileage on it and a vehicle that is at least 6 months old(Not zero mileage).

Disclaimer

I am a doctor by profession and this article is written with my personal experience and research I did before buying my Toyota Aqua. I am anyway not responsible for the decisions you take and this article is for information only.

Comments

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    • profile image

      Chethiya Abeysinghe 2 years ago

      Very helpful. Thanks.

    • njmanura profile image
      Author

      Dr Manura Nanayakkara 2 years ago from Sri Lanka

      Thanks Chethiya

    • profile image

      Hiran 2 years ago

      I'm a GDP ;) makin up my mind between aqua Gs and vezel x . Feel like Aqua is peaceful thank u for the blog

    • njmanura profile image
      Author

      Dr Manura Nanayakkara 2 years ago from Sri Lanka

      Thanks for the comment

    • profile image

      Rajitha 2 years ago

      Nice article.

    • profile image

      Chamika 2 years ago

      Hi,

      This and your other blog posts on hybrid vehicles are very interesting and helpful. If you can, could you do an article on the various indices, meters, lights on a toyota aqua hybrid dashboard?

    • profile image

      Shahid 2 years ago

      Toyota Aqua is a good vehicle.

    • profile image

      Wiji 2 years ago

      Thanks for your valuable article

    • profile image

      Zubair Khan 23 months ago

      What's your opinion about Vezel.

    • njmanura profile image
      Author

      Dr Manura Nanayakkara 23 months ago from Sri Lanka

      Vezel has newer dcd technology with similar power train as gp5. Due to high weight to power ratio it has less pickup and has difficulty in hills. But it is a comfortable spacious and has good ground clearance. Do not buy vehicles built before 2014 February. They have software problems.

    • profile image

      nilanga 23 months ago

      Good study.

    • profile image

      sadaqat 22 months ago

      Can you tell us more about Toyota Aqua? I am interested to buy it but it is 2012 model and already ran about 75000 km. So, will be the battery reliable?

    • njmanura profile image
      Author

      Dr Manura Nanayakkara 22 months ago from Sri Lanka

      Battery will be reliable, as it is made to run around 8 - 10 years and around 200,000 kms.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 22 months ago from Oklahoma

      Wonderful overview of hybrids.

    • profile image

      Hassan 22 months ago

      Vezel or aqua? Suggestions plz

    • njmanura profile image
      Author

      Dr Manura Nanayakkara 22 months ago from Sri Lanka

      These are two classes of vehicles, Vezel is an SUV and Aqua is a small hatchback var.

    • profile image

      NEWTON 19 months ago

      YOUR ARTICLE IS VERY INTERESTED TO THOSE WHO ARE IN SERCH OF HYBRID VEHICLES.

    • profile image

      Suranga 16 months ago

      This is awesome,very logical article. It solved all my doubts. Thanks a LOT.

    • profile image

      Nuwan 15 months ago

      Thanks .. It was very helpful...

    • profile image

      Shahid SHAH 14 months ago

      Learned it too much.very useful article.I am interesting to buy hibrid aqua.

    • profile image

      Rehan 14 months ago

      Thanks for awesome info on the Toyota Aqua. I would like to know if you could trust the Japanese auction grades. IE : 5 , 4.5 , 4 etc.

    • njmanura profile image
      Author

      Dr Manura Nanayakkara 14 months ago from Sri Lanka

      Rehan,

      Japanese auction grades can be trusted except R grade.

    • profile image

      Alpha 9 months ago

      Honda fit or toyota aqua? I'm totally confused.. Any suggestions?

    • njmanura profile image
      Author

      Dr Manura Nanayakkara 9 months ago from Sri Lanka

      Honda fit is comfortable roomy and more features but Aqua more reliable

    • profile image

      gahakeryyer 4 months ago

      i love ur article so much

    • profile image

      Jaleel 2 months ago

      Very informative article,as I was interested in aqua G you did not mention difference between S and G model.thanks anyway.

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