Toyota Prius: Is this hybrid really the 'go-to' green machine?
The world's best-selling Hybrid car has just entered its fourth generation in the shape of the striking new 2016 Toyota Prius. The bold new design is sure to turn heads and marks quite a departure for Toyota with its daring angles.
As the rest of the market catches up with the semi-electric movement though, have they done enough to ensure it remains the 'go-to' green machine?
Performance & Running Costs
The fundamentals of the Prius remain the same – it's still powered by a 1.8l petrol engine that works in conjunction with a pair of electric motors to keep CO2 emissions to a minimum, and achieve the impressively low running costs the car is famous for. However, just about every component has been tweaked and improved to reduce those costs even further, and Toyota claim the new Prius can now reach the dizzying heights of 94MPG. Carbon emissions of 70g/km give it an annual motortax bill of €170.
It's also based on a whole new platform, and a lower centre of gravity makes it feel sportier to drive than before. The automatic CVT gearbox and quiet Hybrid start-up and take-off make for an effortless, relaxing drive, that tends to come as a pleasant surprise to those who haven't driven a semi-electric car before. The engine and motors combined produce about 120 HP so it does feel reasonably powerful too.
What’s in the cabin
The interior is just as eye-catching as the exterior, with a futuristic look and feel that suits the Prius brand down to a tee. The digital instrument cluster stretches right across the dash displaying impressive graphics of the how the semi-electric power train works, and which mode of power you're using as you drive. The shiny white trim along the centre may divide opinion somewhat but overall the layout are design are modern but still easy to negotiate.
Sizewise, it sits between the Corolla and the Avensis and certainly feels very roomy in the cabin. One minor chink in the previous model's armour was a relatively small boot capacity of 445 litres. That has been addressed and it has now grown by more than 50 litres which should increase its appeal as both a taxi, and indeed a family car. This was achieved by shifting the battery pack to under the back seats which does impact on rear headroom, but only slightly.
Value for money
There are two trim levels available in Ireland – the base model or the Luxury spec, although the standard Prius comes exceptionally well equipped. Alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control and the Toyota Touch2 Multimedia system are all included in the fairly reasonable starting price of around €31,500.
In fact it hardly seems necessary to pay the €2,000 to go Luxury, although it does add some nice features for gadget fans like heated seats, a head up display on the windscreen, blind spot monitoring and a wireless phone charger.
Standard safety features include all the latest in driver-assisting technology like lane departure warning, road sign recognition and adaptive cruise control. It also scored the full five star rating on the NCAP safety test.
Studies have shown that there is still a little confusion out there about what exactly owning a Hybrid car entails, and one of the myths that seem to prevail is that maintenance is somehow more complicated. This is false and the Prius doesn't need to be serviced any more often than a normal car (every 15,000km or a year, whichever comes around first). It's not any more expensive either.
Despite the Hybrid technology being relatively new, there have been few reports of any major issues so far and the battery lifespan of the older models seems to be withstanding the test of time surprisingly well. Toyota are backing that up with a five year/100,000km warranty on all Hybrid components.
It's by no means the only green choice on the market at the moment with more Hybrids and fully electric options out there than ever before but there's a lot to be said for being the original and the Prius has become a brand in its own right at this stage. The twenty odd years Toyota have spent perfecting it are evident in just about every area of this new model, which has been improved enough again to keep it one green footstep ahead of the crowd.