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.

New York motorshow update: The covers are finally pulled off the second generation Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

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 Family hatchbacks

  • Seventh generation Volkswagen Golf
    More than 29 million Golfs have been sold since 1974

    Volkswagen Golf

    1
  • The popular Ford Focus in 1.5 TDCi Zetec form
    The standout component of the Ford Focus has always been its handling

    Ford Focus

    2
  • Seat Leon
    Seat offers five engines for the Leon, ranging from a 104bhp 1.2 petrol to a 181bhp 2.0 diesel

    Seat Leon

    3
  • Mazda 3
    The SkyActiv platform used in the 3 features more high and ultra-high-strength steel, offering greater strength and less weight

    Mazda 3

    4
  • Peugeot 308
    The 308 marks the first time a carry-over name has been applied to an all-new Peugeot

    Peugeot 308

    5

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