Toyota Prius+ Hatchback (2012 - ) Expert review
Read the Toyota Prius+ car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives.
- The cleanest seven-seater on the market
- Potentially very economical
- The first Prius in the UK with hi-tech Lithium-ion batteries
- Mediocre interior design and quality
- Bland, uninvolving driving experience
- Small load space with third row of seats in place
At a glance
The signature triangular, aerodynamically dictated profile of the Toyota Prius hatchback translates well into the larger Prius+. It’s less obviously different from the rest of the MPV herd, but the shape is still designed to cleave the air as cleanly as possible, aiding those all-important economy figures. Toyota has been so successful in this, that the Prius+ currently has the lowest drag of any seven-seater car. The wide, flat bumpers both front and rear serve not only to reduce turbulence over the wheels, but also lend the Prius+ a broad, planted stance on the road. A blue tint around the grille aims to highlight the car’s part-electric transmission, but can look somewhat tacky, particularly against the lighter of the seven colours the Prius+ is available in.
Toyota interiors traditionally major on functionality rather than design flair, and the Prius+ is no different. All of the controls are logically placed and intuitive to use, but the layout and switchgear are generic and the quality of materials is lacking compared to rivals. Grey plastic is the dominant feature, with a finish on the dashboard that looks hard and scratchy, but is actually a soft, velour-like material. It’s a similar story for the door trims and centre armrest, which are a mix of hard plastic and cheap-feeling fabrics. It’s certainly worlds away from the austere solidity of the Volkswagen Touran, or the funky styling of the Ford C-Max. The interior ambience is lifted somewhat by the standard panoramic glass roof and the touch-screen entertainment system, which adds a splash of colour and distracts from the otherwise dull fascia.
This is the reason for the Prius+’s existence, albeit not an area in which it can claim to hold all the aces. Stretching the wheelbase of the Prius hatchback and switching to more compact Lithium-ion batteries has indeed freed up room for a third row of seats, but they're cramped and only really suitable for children and short journeys. Even the middle row suffers from a lack of legroom, though headroom throughout the car is plentiful. With the rearmost seats in place, load space is severely compromised, with just 232 litres to play with. Best to fold them flat when not in use, which increases available space to 784 litres. Handily, both the second and third row of seats can be stowed flat to the floor, maximising usable space (then 1,750 litres) and fitting flush with the boot lip, which would otherwise get in the way when loading bulky items. Storage around the cabin is plentiful, with two gloveboxes and large door bins designed to accept drinks bottles. The standard-fit rear parking camera helps get around the visibility issues raised by the car’s thick C-pillar, but otherwise the Prius+ is generally easy to manoeuvre in tight spaces, with a tight turning circle that belies the size of the car.
Ride and handling
Where many modern cars aim to solve the issue of adjusting a car’s compromise between a comfortable ride and sharp cornering ability with multiple settings and adjustable suspension, the Prius+ sits firmly and unashamedly in the camp chasing good ride comfort - but it's not always successful. Generally, the car will glide down an A-road or motorway, but when it hits poor surfaces, rather too many imperfections in the road surface are transmitted into the cabin. Coupled to a hushed cabin (near silent when the car is running in electric only EV mode), it is a mostly relaxing way to travel, and likely to be a boon if your children are prone to car sickness. Toyota’s Pitch and Bounce Control takes some credit for this, as it uses torque from the electric engine to quell body movement over undulations in the road. The trade-off for this magic-carpet ride is that the Prius+ is a car best driven at a fairly relaxed pace. Enter a corner briskly and the electronic stability program will intervene early to keep everything in check. This lack of dynamism and the somewhat lacklustre performance from the engine mean drivers are best adopting a more relaxed driving style.
The Prius+ is available with only one engine option: a 1.8-litre 98bhp petrol engine mated to an electric motor, which can put out up to 36bhp. Toyota claims a 0-62mph time of 11.3 seconds and a top speed of 103 mph. These are not particularly spectacular performance figures, but from behind the wheel the Prius+ feels even slower. The standard CVT automatic gearbox (the only available option) doesn’t help in this regard, making the car sound and feel strained when you want any more than very relaxed performance. It can be a frustrating sensation, particularly if you’re used to the turbocharged oomph of modern diesel engines, which MPVs of this type are commonly equipped with.
Economical motoring is the main reason for buying the Prius+, as it is the lowest-emitting seven-seater on the market. In Icon trim, it is the only seven-seat car on the market that falls below the 100g/km threshold for road tax-free CO2 emissions, emitting just 96g/km. This impressive cleanliness is spoilt slightly if you opt for the Excel model, though. The larger wheels have the effect of upping CO2 emissions to 101g/km and also reduce the combined fuel economy from 68.9 to 64.2mpg. Over a 50 mile test route, we managed 54.5mpg – more than acceptable for a petrol-powered car of this size, but it’s nothing that can’t be achieved with a conventional diesel engine. Another thorn in the side of the Prius+’s economy mission is its high purchase cost: at this price, the Prius+ is unlikely to make sense for families looking to save money, as there is a vast range of competitors, which are similarly frugal (if not with quite such low emissions), but with much lower sticker prices.
While little is properly known about the ultimate longevity of the battery packs fitted to hybrid cars, Toyota has the most experience in the field, with the largest number of hybrid models on the market. It also enjoys a deserved reputation for reliability, so it’s unlikely that the Prius+ will let you down mechanically. For peace of mind the car is covered by Toyota’s five-year, 100,000 mile warranty, while the battery pack itself is covered for eight years.
The Prius+ has yet to be tested by Euro NCAP, but the regular Prius hatchback, on which it is based, was awarded a full five stars, with particularly high scores for adult occupant protection. Driver aids such as the reversing camera and intelligent cruise control help reduce the risk of collision, and there is a plethora of airbags, including side impact and curtain bags, so you should be well protected if the worst happens.
The Prius+ boasts a generous standard equipment list, with entry-level Icon models coming with climate control, a six-speaker stereo, rear-view camera, Bluetooth connectivity and cruise control. Beyond that, the Excel adds sat-nav, leather upholstery, a better stereo and larger alloy wheels, while the options include metallic paint, and front and rear parking sensors,
It’s the Prius for people who need more Prius, according to Toyota. They’re right too. If you’ve ever been tempted by a hybrid but have a large family in tow, then the Prius+ could well be the ideal proposition. If you’re just looking for an economical seven-seater, there are plenty of alternatives available, which offer similar practicality and economy, and more entertainment behind the wheel.