Is the Toyota Prius still the top hybrid available?

Posted on: 02 May 2018 by Gareth Hargreaves

It is the UK's biggest selling hybrid but does it still deserve the accolade of the best. Gareth Hargreaves takes the Toyota Prius out on the road.

Prius

At launch, in October 2000, there were just 184 Prius owners in the UK - a vanguard of forward thinkers who understood the value of a better, cleaner way of driving. Fast forward two decades and the Prius seems to be omnipresent on our roads - or, at least, whenever you order a taxi. It is clear that Toyota has nailed its hybrid proposition, so let's take a look at how it all stacks up.

The most compelling 'sell' comes in the form of its economics - both in fuel and emissions efficiency; Prius drivers today enjoy up to 94.1mpg (no that is not a typo) just consider that the next time you are emptying your wallet into your car's fuel tank. The petrol/electric model we tested scored an equally astonishing 70g/km of CO2. 

The new Prius showcases Toyota’s full hybrid technology and is streets ahead of the competition in terms of fuel and emissions efficiency. For those interested in going fully electric, the introduction of Prius Plug-in enables emissions-free, battery-powered driving. I'm not sure I'd put my faith in a fully electric drive given my understanding of British winter weather and how much batteries love cold, frosty mornings.

Prius exterior

Exterior

Let's just be kind and say the designers at Toyota had an off-day because the shell of the Prius has few redeeming features - it is just plain bland, borderline ugly. Nevertheless, beneath that uninspiring exterior sits a five-star NCAP safety rating and couple that with its fuel economy and generous safety features, it becomes clear that beauty is not just skin deep.

Prius

Interior

Once you open the door of the Prius, the car comes into its own. It is a deceptively spacious vehicle. Sliding into the driving seat is like sitting in your favourite armchair with all your favourite digital gadgets already neatly laid out for you. As I mentioned, on the outside, it is nothing to write home about. However, on the inner, it is very, very roomy and very well equipped as standard.

The instrument panel which you'd expect to be neatly tucked in behind the steering wheel has been shifted centrally into a well-designed digitised dashboard console. It sounds odd but you quickly adjust and, if anything, it makes it easier to see your speed, battery life etc. The cabin finish does have a plasticky feel but it is done in such a way that it remains aesthetically pleasing. I don't remember getting out of the car thinking 'that looks a bit cheap' as the interior design side of things is handled very well.

Toyota Prius

Driving experience

I actually really enjoyed this car, much more so than Toyota's C-HR that we tested last December. This is the perfect urban vehicle. The driver has good all-round vision - other than rear window view - but this is compensated somewhat by a rear-mounted parking camera. The car handles reassuringly well in traffic, on the open road and even over winter potholes, which is a bonus in Lambeth.

So what if the driving position is a little lower than I'm used to, it took 30minutes to get used to but didn't impact on the drive. The front seats are spacious and comfortable; the driver's seat is fully adjustable with lumbar support and makes for a really satisfying drive. 

Indeed, I ran around south London in a little capsule of calm - a super smooth, quiet engine in among rat-racing commuter traffic. It is also reassuringly quick off the mark thanks to its electric motor and runs 0-60mph in 10 seconds.

Taking to the motorway, I had a couple of trips along the M23 and was a little wary given the lack of under-bonnet oomph I got from the C-HR, which shares the same powertrain technology. However, any concerns I had about the car being underpowered were quickly put to rest. With foot down, I enjoyed a hushed cruise from the 120bph engine punctuated only by the JBL sound system and the noise of the odd HGV as I passed.

It is difficult to find anything negative to write about the Prius other than lamenting its exterior looks, because everything within is perfect. Seating room is ample and adjustable. Indeed, features offered as standard on the Prius are extremely generous.

Toyota Prius detail

Features offered standard, include:

  • Power assisted steering
  • Traction control
  • ABS
  • Air conditioning
  • Alloy wheels
  • Cruise control
  • Electric mirrors
  • Folding rear seats
  • Front fog lights
  • Heated mirrors
  • Electric height adjustable driver's seat
  • 3x3 point rear seat belts
  • Isofix child seat anchor points
  • Lumbar support
  • Parking sensors
  • PAS
  • Driver, passenger & side airbags

Conclusion

If safety is a key consideration, all trim levels get Toyota Safety Sense-P as standard, including forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, active lane control etc. But, surely, the clincher for the Prius is its benevolent fuel economy with up to 83.1mpg (fuel consumption combined). Toyota is no longer the only player in the hybrid market but it has stolen such a lead on the competition that the Prius remains the top of the crop.

The current UK range Prius starts at £24,245, with the Prius+ 7-seater from £27,830 and Prius Plug-in from £29,195

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