Toyota’s Prius is loathed by petrol heads across the globe. Blamed for being an appliance, and single handily killing any enjoyment driving brings, it’s had a rough start in life.
And yet the Prius is loved by minicab drivers the world over, with fleets of Prii’ (Prius plural) battering the streets of my hometown daily.
In its fourth iteration Toyota are hoping to shake some of that stigma with a radical redesign, but is it any good? And what’s that efficiency actually like in the real world?
Our Prius was in range topping Excel trim, and cost a hefty £28,750 with the Hypersonic (retirement) Red paint at £495.
For that price, you get a JBL sound system, leather throughout, auto wipers, 17” alloys, park assist with sensors all round, keyless start, head-up display and auto lights. It’s fully loaded.
You can opt for a basic spec Active model from £24,100, and the price increases are about £1,000 for each trim level across the range.
Naturally you can only get a 1.8 litre Petrol Hybrid that makes a total of 120 BHP and 163 Nm of torque, giving a 0-60 time of 10.3 seconds…so it’s sedate.
Looks have always been evolutionary rather than revolutionary with the Prius. But this one breaks the mould in quite a big way. Toyota are going for edgy, angular designs these days.
This new language started with the Mirai which has clearly rubbed off on this latest Prius.
Sharp lines divide opinion, and the once cutesy economy wagon now looks rather aggressive instead of sporty.
Those iconic Prius shapes are still retained though, the low front, high back, swooping nature is still there. It’s just undergone some heavy surgery front and back.
The inset rear lower window is a nice design point, so is the built-in spoiler above, and the way the end of the car stops so abruptly.
It’s a good looker, and the Prius is now up to date.
With a claimed Urban MPG of 67, how would driving only around town stack up over 7 days?
Well, we achieved 50.3 over 306 miles, there was still about 1/8th of a tank left so we could’ve maybe squeezed out another 50 or so miles. A tank should see you around the 400 mark around town though.
That’s good going, but a fair way short of the claimed 67 MPG. The hybrid side of the Prius cuts in now and then.
If you’re setting off from a junction or lights and want to do so on hybrid power alone, you need a man in front holding a red flag…it’s really that slow.
Use a little more power and the engine cuts in, so it will move you the first 10cm on electric power alone, after that it’s up to the engine.
Electric power can be used exclusively at certain times, but only up to speeds of about 25/30 mph…and with a very light right foot to keep you in the ‘safe’ electric zone.
Hybridisation must help though, as 50.3 MPG would be hard to squeeze out of a 1.8 litre no matter how detuned it was. But it’s impossible to measure what effect the hybrid has overall.
There are three different drive modes to the Prius – Eco, Normal and PWR. Power will give you an electric boost under acceleration, making the throttle feel quite lively and instant.
Normal and Eco are harder to tell apart. We mostly left the Prius in Eco.
Everyone bashes CVT gearboxes, but I can’t think of a better, easier way to meld these two powertrains together. The Prius is simply effortless to drive, and over mundane driving conditions that CVT stays as quiet as a mouse.
Ride wise, the Prius is comfy with some decent handling when you push it more than any eco conscious owner would dare to drive. It holds on in the corners nicely, with predictable body roll.
Once inside you find the Prius is just as modern as it is futuristic on the outside.
All the switchgear is a vast improvement on even the current generation Yaris. There are some rather old fashioned heated seat switches, but they’re hidden away beneath the centre console.
You change gear with what I can only describe as a flower head mounted on the dash, it’s very dainty and keeps the centre of the car free for a Qi wireless charging pad.
Our range topping model featured the JBL stereo which was pretty amazing to listen to, and certainly something we didn’t think a Prius would come with.
People moan about the split rear window in Honda’s Civic, well the Prius has one too. Thankfully it’s a rather thin, narrow affair so doesn’t block your view too much.
Rear seat legroom is very generous, but you may be a bit cramped due to that raked roofline if you’re a taller human.
In the rear, boot space is a decent 363 litres, but there is quite a lip on the boot to get over first.
Well, minicabs are safe for the foreseeable future.
All joking aside, the latest generation Prius is mighty impressive. With an easy to drive demeanour, decent MPG and a modern interior it’s worth a second look at for a family car…or maybe a taxi.
Owner / Editor of Carwitter – French car fiend, hot hatch lover. Follow @car_witter