What is it?
As if you need to ask. It is the new Prius, of course. It is the car that Toyota hopes will take hybrids from being niche to mainstream, capable of offering a normal car experience with all the good stuff you get from a hybrid. The last one did all that, too, but this one promises to somewhat better resolved and better equipped to take on conventional five-door, five seat family motors.
So it’s a bit bigger, with more legroom in the rear, and more efficient, with a 90 per cent of its hybrid drivetrain renewed. That means a lighter, smaller electric motor, a slightly more powerful battery (although it’s the same unit), a new 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a completely new body and interior.
What’s it like?
Well, they’ve certainly created a more complete car this time round. Although it’s still recognisably a Prius, with its cut-off rear, tall taillights and split rear window, it’s a much sharper and cleaner piece of design, even if it still looks a little underwhelming on standard fit 15-inch wheels. They’re alloy, by the way, even though they have a plastic cover (making the Prius possibly the only car in the world to have alloy wheels with wheel trims) – the explanation is, according to a Toyota Europe exec, because the very light wheels are “not the best looking alloys in the world.”
Inside, too, it’s all been moved on; neat and cohesive touches include the ultra-slim air vents The wheel is very upright and dash rather slab like in front of you, but it’s clean and clear, even if the Eco Monitor (which tells you how “green” your driving is) is confusing.
Toyota’s added three driving modes to the Prius, selected by buttons on the centre console. So in EV mode you can drive the Prius on electric power (but only for 2km), Eco cuts throttle response and air-con output, and Power improves acceleration – or you can just leave them alone and drive normally.
And it drives well. It rides nicely (especially when you consider it’s got a torsion beam rear axle), doesn’t flop about too much and has some of that instant step-off afforded by electric motors, which deliver all their torque from 0rpm.