From £26,2147

Given its extraordinary success with the Toyota Prius, the 2.6m sold since 1997 making it the planet’s most popular hybrid, it’s surprising that Toyota’s taken so long to exploit the name’s shiny reputation. But it is now, first with this bigger MPV called Prius+, and next month with the Prius plug-in. 

The Prius+ provides three rows of seats and more load capacity within a longer, reshaped body and uses the familiar 1.8VVTi hybrid drivetrain, but with the vital difference that the battery is now lithium-ion rather than nickel-metal hydride. This more energy-dense pack lives between the front seats, freeing space for the third row. 

Low emissions are the aim, the forecast best-selling T4 achieving an impressive 96g/km of CO2 to make it the only sub-100g/km MPV. Frustratingly, the bigger-wheeled T Spirit slips to 101g/km, though.

Room in the middle row, whose three seats recline and fold individually, is decent, while row three will be comfortable enough for kids. Folding the seats is one-handed and produces an almost flat (but high) floor, though with all seats erected there’s only 232 litres of load bay. 

A fully laden Prius+ won’t be speedy, especially with eco mode engaged, its power parcelled in austerity style.

Sink the accelerator and the CVT transmission provokes a sharp, continuous and unappealing drone that needs much better suppression, although quiet is restored at a cruise.

Handling is tidier than you’d expect and the ride pleasingly level, although sharper bumps betray a lack of pliancy.

Mostly it’s comfortable and well-kitted despite a slightly depressing shades-of-grey-cabin that’s not good enough at this price. Which is too high in this class, low emissions or not.

Toyota Prius+ T4

Price £26,195; Engine 4cyls in-line, 1798cc, hybrid; Power 134bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 142lb ft at 4000rpm; 0-62mph 11.3sec; Top speed 103mph; Gearbox hybrid CVT; Kerb weight 1495kg; Economy 68.9mpg; CO2 96g/km

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

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Toyota range

Driven this week

  • 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron UK review
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    First UK drive finds the facelifted A3 Sportback e-tron remains a first-rate plug-in hybrid that is packed with tech if a little short on driver appeal
  • Citroen C11.2 Puretech 82 Furio
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    Citroën's city car gets a new sporty-looking trim level, adding visual adornments, but no premium for the 1.2-litre Puretech triple we're driving
  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka