The Auto Trader expert verdict:
The Toyota Prius offers a compelling mix of petrol-electric hybrid technology within a conventionally packaged family car. The result is the most convincing 'green car' currently on sale.
Reasons to buy:
- Environmentally sound
- Durable interior
- Fantastic running costs
How good does it look?
The unique shape of the Toyota Prius is dominated by its aerodynamic roofline, which flows into a split boot window with a flat top section and vertical rear window. The ultra-modern headlights are a real feature of the car, as is the optional solar roof when fitted. For the ultimate in economy you will want the standard 15-inch wheels – our test car came fitted with 17-inch alloys which look better, but increase CO2 emissions from 89 to 92g/km. Blue Toyota badges and tinted light covers mark the Prius out as a hybrid model.
What's the interior like?
If driving enjoyment is all about a sense of occasion, even hardened petrolheads should find sitting in a Toyota Prius enjoyable. Pulling out of the garage feels like embarking on a mission aboard the USS Enterprise thanks to the array of displays, buttons and the head-up display (HUD) which projects information onto the windscreen so it hovers directly in your line of sight. The execution of this futuristic digital display seems better executed than, say, the Honda Civic. The light carpet fitted to our test car looked like it could age quickly, but the rest of the interior was typically Toyota – durable and functional.
How practical is it?
The batteries required in a hybrid are bulky and tend to infringe on interior space, but the only evidence of them in the new Prius is a slightly raised floor. It’s a fairly tall, so there’s still plenty of headroom and legroom in the front and rear legroom is competitive with other cars in its class. The Toyota Prius can feel like a big car at times and its rear parking sensors come in useful. With the rear seats in place the boot can accommodate 445 litres of luggage, which can be expanded to 1,120 by folding them down.
What's it like to drive?
The Prius shares its basic chassis layout with the new Toyota Avensis and Verso and feels perfectly competent out on the open road. It’s at its best on the motorway and sweeping A-roads where it feels stable and precise with very little effort required from the driver. On tighter, twisting roads the suspension resists body roll well and you have to drive in a very un-Prius-like manner to get the low rolling resistance tyres to lose their grip.
How powerful is it?
Driving a Toyota Prius is unique – its engine, electric motor and CVT gearbox work in harmony to gather speed in one seamless lunge. The absence of any gear changes makes it a smooth and flattering car to drive and it’s very quiet, unless you really floor the accelerator and cause the revs to flare. A 1.8-litre petrol engine producing 98bhp works in conjunction with an electric motor producing a total of 134bhp, getting the Prius from 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds. Select ‘Power’ mode from the dashboard and the engine response and urgency is noticeably better than ‘Eco’ mode for overtaking.
How much will it cost me?
We drove the Prius twice over the same 47-mile route incorporating town, motorway and country lanes to assess its performance. We drove in ‘EV’ mode (using just battery power and no petrol) for as long as possible in town and accelerated gently to keep up with the flow of traffic. The result was 75.4mpg at an average speed of 29mph. Then we swapped drivers and drove the same route in a fully climate controlled cabin, accelerating briskly, leaving the Prius in its normal driving mode. The result was 61.2mpg at an average of 30mph.
How reliable is it?
Toyota has the most experience of any manufacturer when it comes to hybrid technology and the battery pack is designed to last for the life of the vehicle. The hybrid components have their own five-year or 60,000 mile warranty.
How safe is it?
The Prius has performed extremely well in Euro NCAP crash testing with a five-star score comprised of 88 per cent for adult occupant protection, 82 per cent for child occupant protection, 68 per cent for pedestrian protection and a score of 86 per cent in the safety assist category.
How much equipment do I get?
The entry-level T3 Prius includes a head-up display, seven airbags, automatic air conditioning, 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps and a six-speaker stereo system. Upgrade to T4 and you get 17-inch alloy wheels, Smart Entry & Start, cruise control, automatic wipers, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker stereo. The top of the range T Spirit Prius is fitted with a Hard Disc Drive satellite navigation system with a music library and reversing camera option. T Spirit owners can opt for better economy by fitting the Solar Pack, with a roof which can power some of the car’s electrics and 15-inch alloy wheels.
The Toyota Prius is still the undisputed leader when it comes to the forefront of hybrid technology, and now its real-world economy is as impressive as the most frugal diesels. It also looks good, makes a quiet and relaxing cruiser and is well suited to family motoring.