From £21,214
It's not for car lovers, but it is in a different league to Honda's Insight
10 June 2009

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.


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It falls down on refinement, though – there is plenty of road noise, and it’s not all down to the tyres, as well as a near permanent disturbance from wind noise around the windscreen at much over 60mph. It’s not a deal breaker but you would expect more from a car that, in its cheapest format, is still £18,370.

Should I buy one?

This is still not really a car for anyone who really enjoys, well, cars. But the engineering is well developed and the Prius is much improved – closer now to being a genuine alternative to more mainstream fare then ever before.

It’s still outclassed by a 1.6 petrol Focus when it comes to ride and handling but the efficiencies of the drivetrain are much harder to argue against – even if you can’t match the claimed 89 g/km of CO2 and the 72.4mpg, you’re still going to be reaching at least 65mpg if you’re conservative with the throttle.

It’s not cheap but it’s the same price as the old one, and compared to the rather clunky Honda Insight (which, admittedly, is more than £5000 cheaper in base trim) it’s in a different league.

Dan Stevens

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11 June 2009

Can't believe it falls down so badly on refinement; other Toyotas are normally pretty good in that respect, presumably having learned lessons from Lexus.

11 June 2009

Why do they have to make it so ugly? :-\

11 June 2009

Losing a bit of refinement seems to be one of the trade offs of eco cars of all kinds - presumably less sound deadening material etc in the name of weight saving.

11 June 2009

As "clunky" as the Insight may be, I believe it will be the price that will sell these cars. Yes, the Prius will sell, but it is still going to be a select audience, where as the Insight will appeal to every man.

As for the Prius itself, I am glad see it looking a little more conventional, it was the one thing when I test drove the last version that really put me off.

11 June 2009

I still can't see the point : why go to the expense of engineering these cars if they are going to be expensive and no cleaner or more economical thant a normally engineered car ?

And given the Prius's past, who in all honesty is going to manage even 65 mpg in it ? I would be ready to believe maybe 55. That's of course without motorways or ever accelerating, ever.

... Even in our old 406 we get 700 miles from a tank of diesel, fully laden and driving spiritedly. Can't see how the Prius moves the game on.

11 June 2009

[quote The Hermit]why go to the expense of engineering these cars if they are going to be expensive and no cleaner or more economical thant a normally engineered car[/quote] Maybe you read different articles to me, but they're significantly cleaner than diesels and significantly more economical than conventional petrol powered cars. We get 50MPG from our current generation Prius, using plenty of motorways and acceleration, so it doesn't seem unreasonable to think that a design that is 10 years newer is going to improve things. I think Toyota knows their market well too - as a company car they're very cheap, loaded with toys, and pleasant enough places to be on dull commutes.

11 June 2009

Seems like every car costs £20k nowadays...

11 June 2009

What's the story with that steering wheel? Is it suffering from gigantitis?

11 June 2009

Looks pretty aerodynamic (as I guess it should be), so I'm surprised that wind noise from the top of the windscreen is a problem.

11 June 2009

Will it get 70mpg? Not even close; they said that the last generation could get 65mpg combined, but in fact it has been proved over and over that no one could get close to it.

Even if people say they do get close to 60mpg, they must be reading the car's computer, which is over optimistic: a magazine had tested it against a Jeep Cherokee diesel and the discrepancies between the real-world mileage and what the car's computer was saying was quite big; also, the Prius was only around 2mpg better than the four-wheel drive, large, heavy and boxy Jeep...


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