Toyota began work in 1994 on what became the first Prius. That car appeared in 1997 — an odd-looking device with a 1.5-litre engine, a 100bhp hybrid powertrain and 120g/km CO2 emissions.

Europeans could buy one from 2000, but not many did. The second Prius, revealed in 2003, has proved much more popular thanks to a touch of science fiction about its styling and better power units (112bhp, 104g/km). Unlike the first one, it has even made money for Toyota.

The shape of the latest model isn’t dissimilar to the previous model but it’s actually an all-new car, with a more powerful 1.8-litre engine, more efficient electric propulsion and CO2 down to just 
89g/km in its greenest form.

No other family car of this size produces less of the greenhouse gas, continuing, for now, the Prius’s iconic green status. It’s an easy and very visible route to greenness: a futuristic-looking hybrid with a near-evangelical following among those who would demonstrate their environmental concern. Hollywood celebrities apparently love it. It’s the closest thing to an anti-car car while still doing the things a car should do.

There are just three different trim levels using the same power source. The recent addition of the Prius Plug-In has enhanced the real-world practicality of the Prius, offering more power and an extended overall range. New battery technology also allows for a greater EV-only range.

Top 5 Hybrids

  • BMW i3
    Two versions of the BMW i3 are on sale: a pure electric model or a range-extender variant

    BMW i3

  • Volkswagen's Golf GTE is priced from £28,035

    Volkswagen Golf GTE

  • The A3 e-tron's powertrain produces a combined 201bhp and 258lb ft

    Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

  • All-new Prius blends hyper-low CO2 with credible real-world pace

    Toyota Prius

  • The CT200h is Lexus’s first compact model

    Lexus CT200h


First drives


Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    27 November 2015
    We try the turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol version of the Golf Bluemotion. If you're not doing mega miles, it's a better bet than the diesel
  • 2015 Mercedes-AMG A45
    First Drive
    27 November 2015
    Mercedes couldn't let the Audi RS3 get away with having more power than its AMG A45. As part of a wholesale A-Class facelift, it now has 376bhp and a host of other revisions
  • First Drive
    25 November 2015
    More powerful Clubsport version of Volkswagen's iconic hot hatch proves thoroughly entertaining on our track-only first drive in Portugal
  • First Drive
    25 November 2015
    Suzuki has added an automatic diesel powertrain to its S-Cross crossover line-up. Does it offer a compelling choice over the manual versions?
  • First Drive
    24 November 2015
    Alpina’s D3 saloon and estate benefit from the latest BMW 3 Series updates. We've always loved it, but is it still as beguiling as ever in this latest form?