What is it?
The Prius may save you a few bob at the pumps, but we’d rather have a VW Golf. Everyone knows what a Prius is. In years to come, the brand name will become a word in the dictionary. And for those who have questioned the hype and wondered why the Prius doesn’t go further on electric power alone before the engine kicks in, we now have the Prius Plug-in: a regular Prius with bigger batteries that you charge at home to extend their range to around 15 miles.
There’s yet another variant now, too: for those who need more seats, Toyota has launched the Prius+, the first seven-seat hybrid MPV to hit the UK market. A higher roofline and smaller lithium ion batteries have cleared space for the third row.
All variants of Prius drive in a similar way: the mechanicals are pretty much identical, and all three are generally fine: Toyota has done a good job on the car’s dynamics. Saying that, you’ll not go for a drive down a twisty road for the fun of it in any of them. Instead, the Prius remains composed, stable and generally unflustered.
Body control is respectable, and it absorbs bumps and road imperfections well. This latest model is quieter than before too, so thankfully you don’t hear the whine of the engine too often. The din it makes when you’re accelerating hard should be enough to convince you not to bother, or may even encourage you to opt for the Plug-in where you’ll hear it less often (note, in a fully-laden Prius+, you’ll hear much more of it…). That’s not what the Prius is about, though. Its natural habitat is in town, and again, the Plug-in model is best here. It lets the car sail along under electric power alone without the engine kicking in at all if the batteries are still charged, finally realising the ‘electric-drive’ Prius ideal many expect.
On the inside
Regular Prius have two major plus points inside: the space on offer and the perception that they’ll last forever. The former is enhanced in the Prius+, although third-row seats are strictly for kids. All spec levels are relatively well equipped, as you’d hope given the purchase price, though it’s worth going for the mid-range T4 model at least, as that includes extras such as cruise control and Bluetooth.
The regular Prius is economical (up to 72.4mpg) but a bit pricey. The Prius Plug-in, thanks to its lithium ion batteries, is even more economical (134.5mpg) but even more expensive. However, because it’s a plug-in hybrid, it’s eligible for the £5k Government grant, taking the price back down to just over £28k. Meanwhile, the base Prius+ is the UK’s only sub-100g/km seven-seat MPV. All are generally well equipped too, particularly the Plug-in, and the VED band A rating means free road tax and other benefits.