MOTORS Electric dream
THINK of a hybridpowered family car and you’re probably picturing this one, Toyota’s Prius.
Launched in 2000, with New Millennium thoughts turning to increased automotive efficiency, this was the world’s largest car maker showing us exactly what was possible. The original version was immediately embraced by ecowarriors the world over, who quickly also included Hollywood celebrities and assorted greenfriendly politicians when the second generation 2003 version offered us the concept in smarter, more user-friendly fivedoor form.
But it was hardly perfect. The cabin felt smaller than the conventional Mondeosized models it was priced against and away from urban use, the feeble 1.5-litre petrol engine struggled, its fuel and CO2 figures falling behind those of a conventional diesel.
So in creating this third generation design, launched in 2009, Toyota had a re-think.
The result was a MK3 model with a pokier 1.8-litre hybrid engine, a car that Toyota hoped could finally offer viable everyday family alternative to ordinary medium range-sized models. A car folk might consider buying even if they didn’t have a Greenpeace membership card in their pocket. You’d be forgiven for mistaking this third generation Prius for its predecessor, with its trademark arching roofline, slab sides and double rear screen.
Look a little closer though and the differences become more pronounced, though this still remains one of the slipperiest cars in modern production.
Most importantly, it’s bigger than its predecessor - something which made original buyers feel a lot better about the prospect of spending around £20,000 on one.
You appreciate this most at the back where legroom really is excellent, even if you’re sitting in the middle. Thanks to the highpoint in the rear roofline having been moved back by 10cm, headroom is pretty good too. High tech models often have a tendency to produce a few glitches, but the MK3 model Prius has been remarkably trouble free, Toyota ironing out some of the quirks that afflicted earlier models.
There were a number of reports of 2010-era models using an excessive amount of engine oil, but this issue appears to have been sorted with later cars. In third generation guise, Toyota’s Prius finally made real world sense.
As a used proposition, it’s a car you can justify buying, even if you’re not trying to make some kind of environmental statement. True, it isn’t cheap but it’s decent value for what you get, especially if you compare prices to highefficiency diesel rivals with technology that by comparison, dates back to the Ark.
With reasonable driving dynamics, a roomy cabin and user-friendly design, this third generation model deals with all the drawbacks which used to be part and parcel of Prius ownership, creating a car that’s increasingly difficult to ignore in the gloomy times we live in. Toyota’s hybrid revolution continues to gather pace.