Drives the latest incarnation of the Toyota Prius
The fourth-generation Prius will look familiar but the styling has been sharpened up considerably. The front end creates a focal point of the Toyota badge which, not by accident, is at the same height above the road as on the GT86. Details, details.
The rear, despite the tall, angular, tail light assemblies, is a much simpler affair and all the better for it.
The overall height has been reduced by 20mm while the belt line has been lowered and angled forward to give the design more dynamism. The wheelbase remains the same (2,70mm) as the previous model but there’s an increase of 60mm in overall length (4,540mm) and an additional 15mm in width (1,760mm).
Those changes have helped lower the Toyota’s centre of gravity and should, combined with the 60% increase in torsional rigidity – thanks to greater use of high-strength steel and additional body reinforcement – and revised Macpherson struts at the front and new double wishbone rear suspension, tighten up the handling.
The steering is surprisingly communicative and the weight builds consistently as the front wheels load up. It will turn in precisely and predictably and will hold its line well through a corner.
The suspension settings have been edged marginally closer to firm and, as a result, the Prius corners reasonably flat with good body control.
The hybrid powertrain offers excellent flexibility.
Even the slightest additional pressure on the accelerator is rewarded with increased forward momentum.
Adaptive cruise control – included as standard – takes the stress out of negotiating heavy traffic, adjusting your speed to match that of the vehicle ahead while efficiently recuperating energy that would otherwise be lost.
Ahead of the driver is nothing but a small head-up display. The instrument binnacle spans the centre of the dashboard housing a digital speedometer and multi-function trip computer.
Below that, and standard across the range, is the seveninch colour touchscreen multimedia system with DAB tuner, Bluetooth audio streaming and handsfree calling and reversing camera, plus an aux in and USB port.
You can add sat nav and some online features or, if you can go the whole hog and upgrade to Toyota’s ‘Touch 2 with Go Plus’ system, which reads out text messages and includes a wireless hotspot.
All models, except entry-level cars, are fitted with a wireless phone charger.
The cabin is comfortable and classy. The fit and finish is first class.
Taller passengers in the rear might notice the lack of
headroom but they’ll have no such issues with their legs. The boot is a useful 343 litres. The Toyota Prius is real-world efficient, laden with equipment, solidly built, spacious and performs as well as any regular hatchback. The styling might prove divisive and it isn’t a cheap car but if you’re looking for transport that can make the daily slog through our clogged up towns and cities more bearable, financially as well as emotionally, and still put a smile on your face when you hit the open road, it’s worth a look.