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+, then with its impressive fourth generation car, it will introduce a plug-in version.
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 Icon achieving an impressive 95g/km of CO2 to make it the only sub-100g/km MPV. Frustratingly, the bigger-wheeled Excel Plus 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.
As for trims, there are three to choose from - Icon, Excel and Excel Plus. The entry-level model adorns the big Prius with 16in alloy wheels, cruise control, climate control, heated front seats and Toyota's Touch 2 infotainment system. Upgrading to Excel adds 17in alloys, sat nav, adaptive cruise control, reversing camera and an automated parking system, while the range topping Excel Plus trim garnishes the Prius with leather seats, rear TV screens, and automatic lights and wipers.
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.