"The Prius is undoubtedly the world's most famous hybrid – and for good reason. It's economical but it's also practical and pretty good to drive too."
There still aren’t too many hybrids on the roads, and even less that are truly efficient. The Prius is the exception, with a CO2 emissions figure that's among the lowest on the market. It all means that you don’t have to pay any Road Tax, plus drivers in London won’t have to shell out on the Congestion Charge. Trips to the petrol station will become rare, too. Performance is good, although this isn’t a car for driving enthusiasts as the steering lacks feedback.
The Prius mates a 98bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine with a 36bhp electric motor for a total of 134bhp. On the road, this gives stronger acceleration than a model of a similar size with a conventional engine, with 0-62mph in only 10.2 seconds. The Prius can also be driven for a short time on electricity alone, but if you’re heavy on the throttle the petrol engine will kick in. As you’d expect from an eco car, handling isn’t spectacular but the light steering makes driving in town easy and body roll is well controlled.
At low speeds, not many cars are quieter than the Prius, and driving in silent EV mode is an eerie experience. However, if you try to accelerate too hard, the CVT automatic transmission will hold on to the engine revs for too long, which can make progress quite noisy. Due to the extra weight created by the batteries for the electric motor the suspension is rather stiff, which means the Prius has a jittery ride over rough and potholed roads.
The Prius has been around in one form or another since 1997 and the technology has remained much the same. The good news is that since the car was introduced there have been no reliability issues with the running gear. There are concerns about the life of the batteries, but Toyota claims they are designed to last as long as the car itself. You’ll be safe, too, as the Prius has seven airbags and an array of technology to prevent accidents, and was awarded a maximum five-star crash test rating.
Some hybrids struggle for space because of the bulky batteries intruding into the cabin, but the Prius manages to overcome these issues. The boot is spacious at 446 litres, and can even be expanded to a maximum of 1,120 litres by folding the rear seats. What's more, there's plenty of room in the back seats to carry adults.
Value for money
The Prius comes in a simple range of trim levels: starting at T3, following on with T4 and topping out with T Spirit. List prices aren’t exactly cheap, but basic models still benefit from automatic air- conditioning, alloy wheels and electric windows. T Spirit cars get sat-nav, a reversing camera and the option of a solar-panelled sunroof, which can heat or cool the car while it's parked. However, if you select this option, you must revert to the 15-inch alloy wheels that come as standard on lesser cars.
Although the Prius commands a high price, you’ll be making plenty of savings elsewhere. Official combined fuel economy stands at 74.2mpg and CO2 emissions are among the lowest on the road, at 86g/km. With both those figures in mind, the Toyota is capable of travelling up to 715 miles on a single tank of fuel, plus it's exempt from Road Tax and the London Congestion Charge.