Lead the

Drives the lat­est in­car­na­tion of the Toy­ota Prius

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Kentmotors -

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.

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