Thursday 8 December 2016

Pretty Prius is a joy to behold and drive

And its bum no longer looks big after Toyota remodelled the groundbreaking 1.8-litre hybrid

Published 13/03/2016 | 02:30

Not perfect but very attractive: The new Toyota Prius shows that hybrid is the way to go
Not perfect but very attractive: The new Toyota Prius shows that hybrid is the way to go

While my colleagues were salivating -or, in some cases, slobbering - over the premiere of super cars like the Bugatti Chiron at the Geneva Motor Show, I was at home being far more responsible and driving the latest version of the groundbreaking Toyota Prius.

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The Prius, the first hybrid - battery/petrol - car to really take off, has been a long-term favourite of the green armies across the world.

And a bit like the electric car sales today, Prius started small, selling in only four Japanese outlets in 1997 before going worldwide three years later. By now, nearly six million units of the four generations of the Prius varieties have been sold.

The latest version - still with the 1.8 petrol engine - which only arrived in showrooms here last month, is incredibly stylish and a long way from the rather boxy previous models, which, because of the need for large battery space, had ugly behinds.

It is very sharp and contoured, with a much lower centre of gravity, but the emphasis on aerodynamics gives it very low - almost too low - skirts, which would make you fear pavements and ramps.

However, it has also meant that economy has improved again - emissions and fuel use down by about 20pc - to put some much-needed clear blue-water between it and a number of diesels.

The company likes to claim that you can get 93mpg, but this would be in the most optimal conditions, driving gently in town and using the battery as much as possible.

More normal driving would probably give 60-70mpg, while motorway use wouldn't be the Prius's strong point and it would be probably be outclassed by cars like the VW Golf diesels.

Yet apparently, the 2016 model now ranks as the all-time most fuel-efficient petrol-powered car in the US, without plug-in capacities. However, the Prius shows that hybrid is the way to go.

It has developed into a car which has all the roominess of a family hatchback, while being a total delight to drive. In fact, with its simple forward/back and park control, the Prius is perhaps the easiest car on the roads to get to grips with. The 0-100kmh is a smoothly delivered 10.6 seconds

It isn't perfect. The rear spoiler makes a mighty mess of the rear view, there is a bit of a drone at higher speeds, the rear seats are a bit hard and once again height has been sacrificed for looks.

Now that the batteries have shrunk, they can be stored completely under the rear seats, which at last have given a really decent-sized load area.

The lighter, stiffer body does make handling better and the whole car is a less of a compromise than before, especially the top-of-the-range models.

Some of the styling comes from the company's hydrogen-powered Mirai, which I saw last year in Hamburg, but generally Toyota is producing some very attractive cars, which are on the point again of turning heads. Its position at the top of the sales chart here alongside Hyundai would seem to indicate that they are making an impact.

However after all the heavy lifting that Toyota has done with hybrids, it could be the Korean firm that eats a lot of its lunch with the Ioniq, a car aimed directly at the Prius but which will be offered as a full electric vehicle, hybrid or PHEV - all on the same purpose-designed platform.

I was very impressed with the Prius; it is not perfect but is very attractive.

Prices start at €31,450 but you will probably end up paying about €3,500 more for upgrades and smart paint.

Sunday Independent

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