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2017 vs 2019

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For the last couple of years I have been driving a Hybrid Excel. On the whole it is very good although a few things are frustrating. It is renewal time as it is a company car. While I can have many models from most brands, the Toyota Hybrids are very well priced for what you get, good dealer support and I like hybrids at least until we are allowed to go fully EV.

So the first thing I find annoying about the new range is the leather. I don't want to go top of the line as it is a little more but in my opinion you get less. For instance, the top model looses the seat memory function, the heated steering wheel and with more sprayed areas such as wheel arches I would guess would be more prone to supermarket scuffs. The top model does however come with synthetic leather rather than real leather. I prefer the synthetic TBH. Given the rise in the number of vegan and veggies in the UK and the fact it spears to cost less I would have thought Toyota would have given it as an option in the Excel grade. However in that grade you have to go full cow skin, unlike previous years and unlike the Prius + I also owned.

A few days ago a demo vehicle arrived in the Excel grade. First impressions are good. The boot is certainly bigger thanks to the improved Battery layout. The car feels like it was designed to be a hybrid rather than a bit of an after thought. The build quality also feels much better. It is certainly more refined and has less little creaks and rattles. While it does feel more powerful I did feel that the throttle response is slightly more hesitant than the older model. The new one has more of the feel of a turbo spinning up than the instant EV response I have become used to. More very little then shed loads of oompf. Handling wise the new model also feels better.

Inside it is nice to finally have electric folding mirrors that fold when the car is locked, not just when a button is pressed. I always thought Toyota were daft to not have that in the past. A tiny upgrade that probably costs pennies, but one that makes folding mirrors more useful. Next is the inclusion of all four windows being one touch. Again, sounds minor but I got used to having that on my previous Toyotas, all 4 of therm.

The cup holders on the new model are IMO not as good. The centre console is very high now, so the two cup holders are not only less versatile, if you put bottles in them they wobble about and hinder access to the gear stick. I also find the shape of that high centre console rubs on the side of my knee, just along the seam of my trousers. I am sure I will get used to that though. 

Next is the glove box, the old model had a nice large one, the new much smaller. The shelf above is however more useful. In the arm rest on the old rav4 there was a two compartment system, a small one at the top and a larger space below. The now model has replaced that with a single large cavity with a small tray that slots in place at the top. I prefer the old style but not too fussed. What I would like to see however, and is something many brands consciously design for, is either the glove box or preferably the arm rest space actually fit an iPad or similar table. I often carry one and it would be useful to have it on hand rather than in the boot.

Behind the front seats Toyota have decided to fit just the one pocket instead of two as per the previous model and all those before. Bit tight of Toyota if you ask me, especially on a £38k car.

Rear legroom is excellent. The seat belt for the centre occupant is a big improvement no longer being ceiling mounted and crossing over one of the passenger anchor points. The angle adjustment is not an improvement. I found it a bit more fiddly than the old leaver by the side of the seat system on the old model. The new one only has teenager slouch or full upright positions and these are set using the same handle at the top used to fold the seats. On the plus side gone is the need to fiddle with those silly flaps from the tonneau  cover. I also wish Toyota would use a system similar to the CX5 where the cover stays attached to the tailgate when you open it, much easier. That is a minor niggle.

Onto the safety stuff, all is improved. The cross traffic monitoring is excellent as is the blind spot monitoring. The radar cruise is excellent and improved over the old model. I am not a fan of lane keep assist, just doesn't feel quite right. The only area that could use improvement is the auto high beam, especially its detection of cars coming from side turnings and its detection of pedestrians. Mazda have a far better system in this area, not just with detection but with the way it works. On those the adjustment on high bean is more active, using shutters to direct light. This is handy on unlit dual carriageways where the high beam stays on but directs its light away from oncoming traffic while still illuminating the nearside nicely.

Ergonomics I feel has taken a little step backward in both the infotainment and the steering wheel controls. Toyota have removed the little stalk that was used to control the cruise control. This has meant cramming more buttons on the steering wheel. As a result they are smaller and less well configured, definitely less intuitive. I find myself having to glance down to find certain buttons.

The infotainment is a bit of a disappointment. Buggy is my first thought. Take the home screen for example, why? It is just cack and not configurable. For some reason the map on that page will sometimes pop up in 2d, occasionally in 3d no matter what settings are used for the map. Go to the actual map page and those settings are applies, but not on the home page. Now that would not be too much of a problem if Toyota had left an option for the car to not default to that page every time it is switched on. If I turned the car off in the map screen or the media screen then I want it to stay there, not default to the useless home screen. Hopefully Toyota will fix that in a future update. Hopefully they will add Apple car play here in the UK too like the rest of the world seem to have. The POI search is also terrible finding nothing I asked it to. Up until earlier this year we had Google POI search but Toyota decided to remove that feature not just from new models, but existing users too. So now I have to pull over and look up places in my phone to find a postcode or full address. A once excellent feature removed. Also on the map page you can no longer zoom into a level of your choosing, auto always takes over. The system is faster however, so hopefully those bugs and UI issues will be ironed out in the future. Of note though the buttons and controls have all been moved around. Especially annoying is the volume control moving to the far side meaning quite a stretch to turn it down in a hurry. I wish all manufacturers would put more effort into ergonomics of the cockpit. Comparing to the camera world, Canon get ergonomics right, make small changes to design so the feel and button positions to make transition easy. Sony on the other hand slap in loads of features but have a terrible habit of re-writing everything for each model so you cannot find those features. Toyota seem to lean towards the Sony camera design ethic. 

Overall though, the new Excel is excellent. MPG is noticeable better, the new dash is excellent and comfort is top notch. Inside is generally a nice place to be with plenty of space for all. I will order one with the JBL/Panoramic camera pack. I wonder if that comes with wireless phone charging, the demo car didn't but I know it exists in other regions. I will also not order the skyview roof as that deletes the spare tyre. I feel uncomfortable about not having one, at least Toyota still give you the option.

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Hi Phill, a good review.

I have had mine for about 2 K miles now, items that I would have liked different are :

Tonneau cover lifts up when the tail gate lifts up.

Volumn control on the steering wheel being on the right not the left

Australian information screen, ie vertical touch buttons being swapped over so the map button for instance is on the right not the left so not so far to reach over to operate. 

Home screen with the map view being in the direction of travel

USB connection in the centre arm rest being the same as in the centre consul so I could have an iPod connected via USB all the time rather than Bluetooth 

Seat height adjustment for the passenger seat

Sharper graphics for the screen would be nice

This is my first Toyota ( Excel with JBL / Pano camera ) and I am finding the drive, mpg and general experience great and happy with my choice. Being a company car driver, low CO2 and tax are welcome as well.

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Was your demo a 2WD?  The 4WD,m with the extra electric motor/generator on the rear axle has no hesitation at all.

The Gen 2 & 3 Prius had a top and bottom glovebox as well as the cubby under the centre armrest - I had no trouble getting my iPad in the bottom glovebox, as well as my SR shape digital camera.  [The Gen 4 Prius got one small glovebox and lost the space under the boot floor, which coupled with the poor rear headroom- probably explains why taxi firms no longer favour it.]

I tend to think of the Excel as the top equipment model (a Toyota person on their blog said the same too), wile the extra cost of the Dynamic is for the extra trim bits and wheels that would otherwise be £600 extra.

No wireless phone charging on any UK model.  I've bought this for about £12 on eBay (see pic)


20190729_111213 Wireless Charger.jpg

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Mine was the 4WD model. Not saying the hesitation is bad by any means, it is far better than any of those silly over turbo'd little diesels such as in the Renault Kadjar and similar. I just felt there was a little more lag on the new model compared to the old. However, once the power kicks in on the 2019 model, it is noticeably more.

In the Prius+ the same two glove box layout was present, as you say an ipad fitted fine. I had a hire car a few weeks ago, cannot remember which model, that had an iPad slot in the armrest pocket. That was excellent.

As for the wireless phone charging, that is a shame. I wonder why that decision was mad not to include it here. Probably decided by the same bean counter that decided we wouldn't get the video rear view mirror. Not bothered about that too much. Hopefully we will get Apple car play some time in the future.

One other thing, the rear view camera has noticeably more distortion than the old model. I know it has two modes and the really wide one the distortion is understandable. The normal mode it is still quite distorted in a non linear way at the edges. I am sure I will get used to that in time, I just felt it was slightly less useful for parking in tight spaces. 

One neat idea I saw on a Kia Nero recently was a little solenoid on the rear view camera that wiped the lens each time you put the car in reverse. Would love to see other brands do similar. At the moment I have got into the habit of wiping it with my thumb every time I open the boot.

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It is a shame about the wireless charger - I actually bought a new phone to take advantage of the one in my 2016 Prius Excel.  There's quite a few nice things that the newer, more expensive RAV4 Excel doesn't have that I miss from the Prius Excel, not to mention the things other RAV4 markets get that we can't even pay extra for, like ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heater front windscreen, camera-based rear view mirror, heated washer jets and kick sensor for hands free opening of the rear door.

I think it was TomfromFife that obtained a diagram and part number for the wireless charger after he found the connector was under the front of the console, but I see it's between £500-£600!  I'll stick with my £12 one!

The Chevrolet Bolt had a power washer for the rear camera.

Toyota are very slow at picking up some things.  I used to drive to London very early in the morning and for several months of the year the door mirrors would mist up on the way in.  By the mid 1980s I thought I'd never have to drive another car without heated mirrors, but even on top spec Toyotas they weren't fitted until the 2012 face-lifted Gen 3 Prius, which also gained electric folding mirrors that weren't automatic.  One of my staff bought a second hand Fiesta (not even a very high spec one) in 2005 which had auto folding mirrors.

Also I miss the Head Up Display the Prius has had for 10 years, which some much cheaper cars now have.  I also now appreciate just how effective the Prius laminated front side windows with the sound absorbing inter-layer were when a noisy diesel or someone with thumping music stops alongside my RAV4 which doesn't have them.

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I had 2 Prius+ over the years and I agreed about the side sound insulation. Shame Toyota seem to put so much into the Prius and neglect the other models to some extent. Take my 2017 RAV4 for instance, simple things like all auto electric windows are missing. I also find it disappointing that certain features the rest of the world get are missing from the UK models.

That aside, after taking test drives of a few cars from various brands, I have ordered a new RAV4 Excel. Not got a delivery date yet, hopefully before the end of the year,

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