In 1997, Toyota launched Prius - the first ever hybrid car the world had ever seen, in Japan. A car powered by both a conventional combustion engine and electric motors, came with a very affordable price tag, and could be mass produced.
It was nothing less than a revolutionary machine at that time.
Over the years, Toyota has been working on the Prius to make it better and has even added two more cars to the Prius family – Prius V and Prius C.
The third member of this family – Prius C or Toyota Aqua, as known in Bangladesh, is a subcompact five door hatchback. It has a size almost similar to Vitz or Yaris but comes with a hybrid powertrain.
It was initially released during the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show. In 2015, the Aqua received a facelift and team Wheels had the opportunity to review such a unit.
When it comes to the overall aesthetics of the car, Toyota has made it as aerodynamic as possible while keeping practicality in mind and not compromising the looks like they did with the early generations of the Aqua's big brother - Prius.
The main goal Toyota had with the Aqua was to cut down fuel cost. From the roof to even the taillights, everything was engineered to ensure the lowest drag coefficient possible of only 0.28.
Despite prioritising fuel economy and aerodynamics, Toyota has not desperately tried to make the Aqua look like "a car from the future" like it did with Prius back in the days. Other than the blue Toyota badging, one can barely say that it is any different from any regular car on the road.
The Aqua is offered in a wide range of colours; regular black and white to more eye catching vibrant colours like this flashy orange on the one we tested out, or a shade of green that Toyota calls as "fresh green mica".
When it comes to performance, the Aqua is the polar opposite of the new GR Yaris is. Despite the similarly sized platform, when planning the Aqua, Toyota's only target was to make it the most fuel efficient "non plug-in hybrid" compact car and it has surely managed to achieve that milestone.
With an amazing fuel economy of about 22-24km per litre, that too with the poor fuel quality of Bangladesh, the Aqua almost uses half the fuel that a combustion engine does.
The combined power output of 99 hp from the 1.5 litre 1NZ-FXE paired with the HSD motor is no less than adequate for city driving, especially in Bangladesh. The new hybrid Axios and Fielders also come with the same engine but the Aqua, with its aerodynamics and light weight, is the fastest among all.
The Aqua is offered in three different packages- G, L, and S. L is the base grade with manual windows, a plain steering wheel, 14-inch steel rims, and fixed headrests. G is the luxury grade and this Aqua comes with features such as electric windows, a multifunctional steering wheel, interior lighting as well as 16-inch alloy rims.
The seats, despite being fabric, are comfortable and should get the job done when it comes to city driving. The Aqua might seem small from the outside, if compared with other regular cars but the legroom as well as headroom is just perfect for any Bangladeshi with an average height.
Even the boot space is not too bad. It should be sufficient enough to carry school bags or groceries. The rear seats can also be folded if one needs even more luggage room.
Since the Aqua was made for the international market and is sold all over the world, Toyota could not cut down on any safety features. In fact, it is the first Toyota to come with "seat cushion airbags" and has nine airbags in total.
Moreover, there is a cage installed around the batteries under the seats to protect it from impact during a crash.
You might be wondering how well it drives? Team Wheels managed to interview the owner of this orange Aqua, Parvez Khaled, and this is what he had to say about the Aqua after driving it for almost six months, "It is a good car to drive. It is totally value for money for me as it gives me a mileage of 20-24 kmpl. The acceleration is smooth but the car struggles to speed up, especially after crossing 100 or 120 kmph.
The interior is decent for the price of the car. My unit came with features such as heated seats, a back camera as well as parking sensors and that is a plus point. The new facelift that my one came with also looks pretty good!
The stock ride height is also okay for full average weight passengers but the 'X Urban' variant of the Aqua could have definitely done a better job at tackling the poorly designed speed breakers of Bangladesh."
Overall, the Aqua is an amazing car, both for its class and as a car in general.
Offered at prices ranging from TK14 - 16 lakh based on model year and grades, it is a great value for money.
Yes, you can surely get other hatchbacks at this price such as the Toyota Vitz RS, the brand-new Suzuki Swift, or the MG3 but none of those are hybrid and offer the industry leading fuel economy the Aqua offers.
Despite the rest of the world going for large crossovers and SUVs, a compact car such as the Aqua might just be the smarter decision for Bangladesh.
Congestion, poor quality and expensive fuel, and hot weather over two quarters of the year makes the Aqua with small dimensions and amazing fuel economy more practical as well as the better choice.
Also, since the Aqua is made by Toyota, spare parts are widely available, and the resale value will hold up more than any other car mentioned above.