Although the S-Hybrid's motor assists the vehicle's driving power at very low speeds, you can't actually feel it.

It's more apt to say that "you accelerate naturally and move naturally." Rather, what's impressive is how unnecessary engine output through the CVT while idling is cut by the clutch. Also, the uncomfortable vibrations found in typical in Eco cars, as well as their noise, is kept under control, bringing us a hybrid with a truly comfortable ride.

What's more, despite our test drive taking place in 32 degree weather which necessitated the use of air conditioning, even during idling stop periods, there was an impression that the engine had just "turned off" much more than we thought "possible". Never once did we notice a shock from restarting or a slowness of timing when we switched over to using the belt drive motor. Thanks to an air condition with a capacity suited for a minivan, even a switch of the air conditioner to "ventilation" while in idle stop can be handled by the vehicle without difficulty.

By monitoring the "Eco Drive Monitor" on the dashboard, you can keep an eye on your over and under use of the accelerator while you drive, and it feels like by using this you can learn how to drive more efficiently. As always, this monitor is positioned perfectly within your line of sight at the waistline. The sense of safety while driving has also improved over the first model.

■ 5 Star Rating
Packaging: ★★★★★
Interior/ Comfort: ★★★★★
Power Source: ★★★★
Foot Work: ★★★★
Recommendability: ★★★★★

Naoto Shimazaki | Automotive Journalist (Automobile Journalists Association of Japan)

Born in Tokyo in 1958. After graduating university, he worked at an editing and publishing company for nine years. After working as a writer, editor, and photographer for magazines and independent publications, he began working freelance in 1991. Since then he has continued to expand his activities as a writer for magazines and the web. Sometimes called a "convenience journalist", he approaches and reports on cars from a layman's point of view.