Toyota Prius hatchback
Price £23,295 - £27,450
- Low running costs
- Good practicality
- Divisive looks
- Noisy when worked hard
- Limited rear headroom for tall passengers
At a glance
“Whether you love or hate the new design, the Toyota Prius is an efficient, practical and well-equipped hybrid.”
The Toyota Prius hybrid hatchback shows how quickly technology moves along. When the original model was launched in 1997, Toyota had to spend a lot of time explaining what a hybrid was, how it worked and why you should want one. Today, most drivers are used to the idea of a conventional engine working in conjunction with batteries and an electric motor, and most carmakers offer a hybrid model in their line-up.
Many of these cars, like the Volkswagen Golf GTE and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, are conventional models altered to accept the additional motor and batteries necessary for hybrid power. The Prius, on the other hand, has only ever been a hybrid. This means it was designed from the ground up to accept bulky batteries and a heavy electric motor. Unlike the Golf GTE, for example, the Prius doesn’t sacrifice boot space to the batteries, nor does it require extra-stiff and uncomfortable suspension to cope with additional weight.
A hybrid car lives or dies by its economy figures and the Prius continues to impress in this area. True, you’re unlikely to match Toyota's claimed 94.1mpg figure unless you drive incredibly conscientiously, but CO2 emissions of just 70g/km mean you won’t pay a penny in road tax, while the Prius is one of a select group of cars still exempt from the London Congestion Charge. Be warned, though, that due to larger alloy wheels, the two highest-spec models emit 1g/km above the magic 75g/km necessary to qualify for this exemption; they also increase the Prius’ Benefit-in-Kind company-car tax rate from 11 to 15%.
Despite these impressive efficiency figures, the Prius isn’t perfect. Like many hybrid cars, it uses a CVT automatic gearbox, which is noisy when accelerating and discourages spirited driving – although this, like the car's overall handling, is greatly improved from the previous model. Going from 0-62mph takes 10.6 seconds and while you’re unlikely to yearn for an open, quiet and winding B-road, the Prius acquits itself competently in all other driving situations – most notably its natural urban environment.
While hybrids are no longer seen as the technological wonders they once were, the fourth-generation Prius features an interior that reminds you it's a thoroughly modern car. The dashboard is dominated by two large central screens: the lower one handles sat nav and infotainment functions, while the top screen displays a variety of driver information, including your speed and how efficiently you’re driving.
It's a pleasant place to sit and, although there are some scratchier plastics lower down, this can be said of the vast majority of cars on sale today. In general, the Prius’ interior materials feel pleasantly soft to the touch, while the white trim details lift the general ambiance. Front-seat passengers are well catered for in terms of space and while the rear has adequate legroom, the tapered roofline means headroom is a little tight. Boot space is reasonable at 343 litres.
Toyota offers the Prius in four trim levels, starting with Active and rising through Business edition, Business Edition Plus and top-spec Excel trim. Active cars get 15-inch alloy wheels, all-round LED lights, Toyota's Touch 2 infotainment system, a lane-departure warning system, adaptive cruise control and a reversing camera.
Business Edition trim costs roughly £900 extra and adds wireless phone charging, heated front seats, a head-up display that beams information onto the windscreen, a leather steering wheel and a blind-spot monitoring system. Business Edition Plus trim is a further £1,800 and includes larger 17-inch alloy wheels, all-round parking sensors and a self-parking system.
Top-spec Excel models cost about £1,500 more than Business Edition Plus, and for that the Prius comes with leather seats, sat nav, an upgraded JBL stereo, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and 17-inch alloys. Note that you can opt for 15-inch alloys on this model for free, though, if London Congestion Charge exemption is important to you. Given the price jumps the two higher trim levels incur, we recommend the Business Edition model – true, you’ll have to do without built-in sat nav, but you’ll save serious money if you’re willing to make this sacrifice.
The latest Prius scored the full five stars in its Euro NCAP safety tests. Passenger protection is excellent, while the list of standard safety equipment also impresses: Toyota fits its ‘Safety Sense’ package to all cars. This includes autonomous emergency braking, high-beam assist (which dips the headlights automatically when it senses oncoming traffic) and traffic-sign recognition, which displays information like the speed limit on the dashboard screen.
Reliability is obviously an unknown with such a new car, but despite its advanced engine and motor setup, the Prius has an excellent reputation for reliability and longevity. This was attested to by the previous model's 29th-place showing out of 150 cars in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.
The cost of running the latest Toyota Prius should be very low
The Toyota Prius is competent rather than fun on the open road but feels nippy around town
The interior of the new Toyota Prius is smart, high-quality and comfortable
The Toyota Prius has more boot space than ever and a spacious interior
The Toyota Prius has proved very reliable over the years and the new one should be no different