- We like...Economy, emissions, silence
- We don't...Reverse beeping
New fuel-sipping, emissions-lowering version of Toyota's hybrid is the greenest 'proper' car you can buy just nowIf you want the ‘greenest’ car that’ll haul five plus their bags, the question’s settled: this is it. This, the third-generation of Toyota’s Prius, combines the energies of its 1.8 petrol engine and a revamped electric motor to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions to 89g/km.
That’s way lower than any other car you’ll currently buy unless it relies on electric power as its sole means of propulsion. The Prius is an easy and visible way to be green: anyone who knows cars at all gets at a glance what it is. And, if they don’t there are ‘Hybrid’ badges prominent on each wing, to help the penny drop.
Beneath its futuristic styling, this is an all-new car. The previous one did well in town, but its 1.5-litre petrol motor struggled when pushed and, as a result, its real-world fuel economy wasn’t that good, and was easily beaten by good turbodiesels.
So what’s the new one like? In a word, different. That is, quite unlike anything else you’ll have driven – other than the previous Prius. The first thing that strikes you is how quiet it is. Some of this is down to the way it operates. If the battery has enough charge, the car will move off silently using only electric power. The petrol engine kicks in once you’ve reached 20mph or thereabouts, or if the battery’s charge drops.
And even when the main motor is turning it is still hushed – whatever noise you’ll hear comes chiefly from the tyres moving over the road and the wind rustling around the car. Until you press on in it, that is. The Prius’ll hitch its skirts and dash, but the engine bellows protest. Keep your foot easy on the throttle, though, and it’ll be the easiest cruiser you could wish for.
That feeling is enhanced by a ride that’ll thump over bigger road scars but otherwise keeps occupants serene and settled. It’s light and easy to drive. There’s not much feel from the steering but it is easy to pilot and has a tight turning circle that’ll help when slotting into grocery store car parks.
That said, its nose falls away from view to make parking hit or miss, while the view out back is hampered by a split rear screen that dirties easily and which has a wiper that’ll clear only a portion of the upper screen. It’s roomy inside and while the batteries that power the electric motor sit under the rear seat, you can still drop them to free up a large load area.
To drive, it’s one on its own. Its transmission is automatic (there’s no manual option) and you pick the direction of travel using a tiny shift lever. There’s no option to pick your own gears but you can choose ‘B’ instead of ‘D’, which increases engine braking. Go for ‘R’ (for ‘reverse’) and your manuvres are accompanied by a loud, constant beeping. It’s there for safety reasons because the car could otherwise take off silently under electric power, catching pedestrians and drivers unawares, but just the same, it’s a pain. You can also pick between 'EV' (electric vehicle), Eco and Power modes. Pick the first and the car will run on its electric motor alone for as long it is able; 'Power' allows you to press on, sharpening thorttle responses, while 'Eco' is your default driving setting.
Our test car, the top-spec T-spirit (T3 and T4 are the other, cheaper models) had a natty head-up display that beams the digital speed readout on to the base of the screen ahead of the driver. It also, usefully, plots the correct route at junctions, provided the sat-nav is fired up to go. It also has a self-park system - hit the button and it will 'find' the space and take control of the steering to guide you in, with you controlling the throttle and brake. In practice, ours couldn't always 'see' spaces.
The speed also reads off a central display in the car, along with a choice of displays showing, various, how economically you are driving or how the car is switching power between its petrol and electric engines. It’s diverting (if not that informative) and any kid aboard will love it.
Should you buy one? It’s not for everyone. But its low CO2 rating means ‘free’ road tax and exemption from the London Congestion Charge. And, unlike older Priuses, it can get close to its published fuel economy figures. If you want to drive ‘green’ it is the best of its size and kind just now.
To read the motors.co.uk review of the previous-generation Toyota Prius, click here
To view and buy new and used Priuses on motors.co.uk, click here
- Engines1.8-litre petrol; electric motor
- 0-60 mph11.0secs
- Insurance groups9
Motors.co.uk value verdict: