Driven: Toyota Prius T-Spirit
But there are problems with being there first. As a fore-runner of a new generation of cars, it’s found stigma and scorn as strong as the affection of its biggest fans, with even some of the motoring press labelling Prius owners as smug environmentalists. But, in its third generation at least, it’s wholly undeserving of this negativity.
Even at skin-deep level, the new one is a vast improvement. Still futuristic, it’s become a sharply-creased and almost coupe-like shape, perfectly proportioned on the T-Spirit’s 18-inch wheels. A miniscule thirst for fuel will sell cars, but looks still count for a lot.
The interior, typically Toyota in its hard textured plastics, is comfortable and offers space for five, with a generous boot. But it’s pure Japanese minimalism and won’t appeal to those who like pretty chrome trimmings and twinkling LEDs.
An upgrade to the latest Touch and Go satellite navigation unit would be welcome, but the centrally mounted information display is well laid out, with menus giving stacks of data about fuel consumption, energy recuperation and efficiency to help wring extra miles out of every drop of fuel.
The driving experience has improved too – the new Prius is beautifully quiet and refined for long trips and feels willing enough to keep pace with mid-range engine options on conventional cars. It takes a few miles to get used to the way it drives, particularly the way the CVT gearbox varies the engine revs on load rather than speed, but it’s not worlds away from a regular automatic hatch.
Add in fuel consumption well into the 50s, without the guilt of toxic diesel fumes, and you realise that the modern Prius owner actually has a lot to feel smug about. Comfortable, good looking, solid and frugal, this latest model is no longer a technological showcase desired only by the greenest of motorists.
Toyota broke new ground with the first Prius, and as a result it’s a thoroughly mature car now it’s reached its third generation. Refined and frugal, it’s plush and good looking enough that drivers won’t feel short-changed on style and driving experience if they opt for a hybrid.
Sector: Lower Medium
Type: Petrol-Electric Hybrid Vehicle
Electric range: Up to two miles
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 92g/km
Charging port: N/A