The Toyota Prius has long been thought of as the car to have if you want to be seen in the cool green environmentally-friendly light that has become the focus over the past decade. Ever increasing vehicle tax prices are crippling the everyday motorist just as much as rising petrol prices. The government is steering us stronger towards this green way of motoring every day. So, should we all buy a Prius now and be done with it, or is there an alternative? Turns out, theres more than one.
Well, its going to cost you £21,055 at base level and for that, you get a 1.8-litre petrol engine with an electric motor mated to an automatic gearbox. 98bhp powers you and up to four passengers to 62mph in 10.4seconds and on to a top speed 110mph.
The figures that really matter however are the combined figure of 72.4mpg, an extra urban figure of 76.4mpg and 89g/km CO2 qualifying for that crucial free car tax and exemption from paying congestion charge. It is the benchmark for green motoring. A benchmark that more than one manufacturer is trying (and succeeding) to raise.
The latest shape Vauxhall Astra has won praise from the motoring press for its improved driving dynamics and build quality. However, not many people seem to realise that the diesel variants in the line-up offer better economy than the Prius, for up to £3,000 less.
The 1.3 CDTiecoFlex engine can be had in the Astra 5-door with stop/start technology for 18,325, for that you get a conventional diesel engine car that can achieve 80.7mpg on the extra urban cycle with an average combined cycle of 72.4mpg the exact same figure achieved by the more expensive Prius.
Importantly, the 1.3 CDTi doesnt qualify for free car tax as it emits 104g/km which means youll pay 20 a year tax and the congestion charge, if you venture into one that is.
To avoid tax, there is a larger engine, the 1.7CDTi. Although its a bigger engine, a different gearbox with 6 speeds instead of 5 is used, which means economy is improved 76.3mpg combined and 83.1mpg on an extra urban cycle. CO2 emissions drop to 99g/km, so free road tax and no congestion charge. The downside? It costs £20,100, £1,800 more than the 1.3CDTi Astra, but still £1,000 less than the Prius which does fewer miles to the gallon, despite having additional electric power.
The Volvo V50 DRIVe estate may not scream green credentials as loudly as the Prius, but believe it or not, this bigger estate car is lighter than the Prius and, despite using a conventional 4-cylinger diesel engine, can actually achieve better mpg figures than the hybrid. CO2 emissions are higher at 99g/km, but that still qualifies you for free tax and exemption from congestion charging.
The real story comes from this cars economy. The combined figure is almost 2mpg more than the Prius at 74.3mpg, but extra urban driving will see you crack 80.7mpg. A six speed manual helps achieve this remarkable figure, along with powering the Volvo to a top speed of 121mph. 0-62mph takes a little longer, at 11.5secs, but this wont concern the average buyer who’ll love the extra load space and added cruising ability that 6th gear will give. At £22,245, its comparable on price and offers a lot more room.
The Lexus CT 200h costs slightly more than the Prius at £23,750, despite sharing the same engine and electric motor. The maximum speed is up to 113mph and 0-62mph is slightly improved to 10.3seconds, thanks to 10kg weight saving over the Prius, at 1410kg. The crucial economy figures show slight differences. The Lexus can only achieve a combined figure of 68.9mpg and a maximum extra urban figure of 70.6mpg. With 94g/km CO2 being emitted, you still get free vehicle tax.
Considering this is a premium brand car, although still a hatchback that can seat 5, thats impressive performance, and with the small premium over the Prius price wise, its well worth considering.
The Auris Hybrid, although it shares the same engine and electric motor as the Prius, emits the same CO2 at 89g/km and has a similar 74.3mpg consumption figure, but costs £1,000 less than its sister car. Youll have to have it with 15 alloys to get this same economy result, but considering this car can still seat 5 and achieve the same results for less, its well worth considering.
Unbelievably, the strongest competition for the Prius doesnt come from an all-electric solar powered magic car but in fact comes from Skoda. Owned by VW, the little Fabia can be had with the ultra-efficient 1.2 turbo Greenline diesel engine which allows this car, with its 5 seats and £13,805 price tag to achieve a massive 94.2mpg (Max figure, not combined). Thats the distance between Birmingham and Liverpool. On one gallon of diesel.
Considering the Fabia is much cheaper to buy than the Prius, at £13,805 its £7,250 cheaper than the Prius and cheaper insure thanks to a lower insurance group rating. You have to commend this cars economy statistics. Even on a combined cycle, it can achieve a claimed 83.1mpg, which is considerably more than the Prius can achieve on even an extra urban run.
The performance of the Fabia is slightly worse, with a 0-62mph time of 14.2secs (10.4 in the Prius). However it emits the same CO2 at 89g/km as the Prius so you get free car tax and avoid the congestion charge.
Arguably, this car isnt a rival to the Prius on performance, but when it comes down to green credentials, the main selling point for the Prius, you have to admit that the Fabia is a formidable opponent, especially as it doesnt have any hybrid technology just an ultra-refined and frugal diesel engine.
In theory, all you need to pay for with the Fabia is the car, insurance and fuel. On that basis, with the fuel money you save over the Prius, you could travel 93,552 miles on a combined cycle or 106,048 miles on the extra urban cycle. Thats almost half way to the moon. Or five times the circumference of the earth.
Of course there are numerous other cars out there which emit less CO2 and are more fuel efficient, but many are city cars that are considerably smaller than the Prius. Let us know in the comments what other cars you think match the Prius.