Road test: Toyota Prius

Posted on May 30th, 2016 by James Luckhurst

Smarter-looking, better-driving, the Prius has upped its game in all directions.

Road test: Toyota Prius

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What is it?

Toyota’s pioneering mass-produced hybrid car, irreverently known as the ‘Pious’, significantly updated. The Prius now has much improved looks, is better to drive, with improved efficiency and enhanced eco-friendliness.

How safe is it?

No worries here. The previous model was a Euro NCAP five-star car. This new one has yet to be tested, but Toyota expects the same result.

Who should buy one?
Green-minded drivers with an eco-conscience who want to do their bit to save the planet, but who also value their independence and still need to get around.

Road test by Sue Baker published 28 May 2016

 

 

DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
Road test: Toyota Prius

Over nearly two decades since the original Toyota Prius appeared, and over the past three generations of the car, it has never been particularly known as a ‘driver pleaser’. That has not really been the main point. The car has been a success, selling almost 3.6 million around the world, not as a fun drive but for its high economy, low emissions and all-round eco credibility. It is noticeable that with this fourth-generation model, Toyota has upped its game with the Prius and made it a bit more engaging to drive.

The car’s body rigidity has been improved by 60 per cent, a significant upgrading, and it shows in the way it feels on the road. Driven across country on a twisty back-road, it feels more agile and assured than the previous model. It is tauter on the bends, is more responsive and a bit less bland in its behaviour. Ride comfort is noticeably improved, and handling is tidier with better poise and more grip. There is also a little more feel to the steering although it is still relatively numb.

General refinement has undergone an upgrade. There is less intrusion of both engine noise and road rumble into the cabin. The Prius has always been good for low wind noise over quite a slippery-shaped body, and this one is better still. It helps to make it a more relaxing car to drive over a long distance.

The 1.8 litre petrol engine has 97bhp, boosted to 121bhp in combination with the car’s electric motor. You couldn’t call it sporty, but it’s a robustly long-legged performer with a 112mph top speed and 0-62mph acceleration time of 10.6 seconds.

The car’s CO2 output is the lowest it has yet been. The original Prius had emissions of 120g/km, the next one was 104g/km, then it dropped to 89g/km, and this latest model is down to 70g/km if you go for 15-inch wheels, but 76g/km with 17-inch wheels fitted.

SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
Road test: Toyota Prius

Toyota has shoehorned a bit of extra space into this latest Prius. It has modestly benefitted rear legroom, and that’s reasonable, but headroom in the back isn’t particularly generous. It feels quite roomy in the front, though, and the car is light and airy and gives an impression of having good elbow-room.

Boot space isn’t too bad at all, with 457 litres of standard luggage space in an uncluttered square shape that fits in a good few bulky bags. That can be upped by another 45 litres to a total of 502 if you opt for a tyre repair kit instead of having a temporary spare wheel in the boot floor. With the rear seat backs folded, the extended cargo bay usefully increases to 1,054 litres.

One worthwhile addition to the car’s repertoire is an ability to tow a modest trailer. This Prius is the first to be rated for towing, and has a braked capacity of 725kg.

SAFETY
Road test: Toyota Prius

It would be nice to know how the MINI Convertible performs in crash When the Prius undergoes Euro NCAP crash-testing, it is predicted to have a five-star result like its predecessor. Every model comes with seven airbags and a pre-collision safety system. Most versions have additional collision-avoidance safety kit. The car’s battery pack has been re-located further inside the body structure, moved from beneath the boot floor to under the rear seats, and so is now at a greater distance from any rear-end shunt.

EQUIPMENT
Road test: Toyota Prius

The Prius kit-list is reasonably generous. Standard equipment across the range includes good basic safety features, all-round electric windows, a multi-media display screen, six-speaker audio, automatic headlights, and selectable drive modes: EV, Eco and Power. All but the base trim model have standard rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring and a wireless charging tray for your mobile phone. High-spec Excel models come with standard satellite navigation, otherwise it is optional.

COSTS

Road test: Toyota Prius

With its lowly 70g/km CO2 emissions, its super-frugal 94mpg combined fuel figure, and its band A rating for Vehicle Excise Duty, the Prius should be very economical to run. It’s a good choice for company car drivers too, with a very modest 11 per cent Benefit-in-Kind taxation rate. Insurance costs shouldn’t be too bad either, since the Prius is rated at group 16. Toyota’s trend-setting hybrid scores well for its modest running costs.

WE SAY
Smarter-looking, better-driving, the Prius has upped its game in all directions.

AT A GLANCE:
Price: £27,450 as tested
Performance: 0-62mph in 10.6 seconds
Economy: 94.1mpg combined
Insurance: Group 16
Tax: Band A (£0)

Figures for the Prius 1.8 VVT-I Hybrid Excel