Toyota Prius Review
Look past the Prius’ alien styling and it’s a reasonably roomy family car that’ll cost pennies to run. Unfortunately, some desirable options aren’t standard
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The Toyota Prius’ odd styling might make it look like some kind of futuristic spaceship but its tried-and-tested hybrid system makes it incredibly cheap to run. You can also get it as an even more economical plug-in hybrid car but it’s much more expensive to buy and you’ll need somewhere to charge it regularly.
The standard car’s interior might not look quite as quirky as its exterior but it’s still a far cry from the relatively mundane cabins you’ll find in a Hyundai Ioniq or Kia Niro. Thankfully, it’s all pretty easy to use and besides a few cheap-feeling plastics on entry-level models everything feels fairly solid.
Less praiseworthy is the Prius’ infotainment system. Its dated graphics and slightly sluggish menus feel at odds with its futuristic interior and you can’t get it with any smartphone mirroring features. At least mid-range cars get a colourful head-up display – just like a fighter jet.
Thankfully, passenger space is a bit more business-class flight than military-issue cockpit. You’ll have no trouble getting comfy in the front if you’re very tall and there’s space for most adults to stretch out in the back. Sure, the taller Kia Niro has a little more headroom but there’s still enough room in the back of the Prius for three adults to sit side-by-side or to fit some bulky child seats.
The Toyota edges ahead of the Kia and Hyundai in terms of boot space, too. There’s enough room for a large baby buggy and some big soft bags and even plenty of space under the floor to tuck the load cover if you need to carry some tall suitcases. Flip the back seats down and there’s enough room for a bike.
There’s a reason most Uber drivers have a Toyota Prius – it’s very economical, pretty comfortable and you can even get them with wipe-clean back seats
You can only get one engine in the Prius – a 1.8-litre petrol paired with a compact electric motor. This hybrid combination lets you cruise along at slow speeds in electric-only EV mode or use both the motor and engine together for brisker bursts of acceleration. The standard-fit automatic gearbox helps seamlessly blend these two units together and makes the Prius very easy to drive around town.
It’s impressively comfortable for a hybrid too, and wind noise is mostly muted – even at speed. You’ll hear quite a lot of tyre noise on the motorway but it’s still quieter than either the Hyundai or Kia. The Prius leans a little more than the Hyundai on tight twisty roads but it comes with an identical five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. This makes it a very safe family car that’s well worth considering if you want an economical hybrid that’s also practical.
The Prius offers enough space to comfortably fit three adults, or two can really stretch out. Headroom is decent, and the boot is large enough for a child’s buggy and large suitcases
Weird styling aside, the Prius’ practicality is one of the reasons it’s loved by app-controlled taxi drivers
The Prius’ front seats are soft and supportive and there’s just enough adjustment to help you get comfortable. Unfortunately, the steering wheel doesn’t slide out very far so you might struggle to find your ideal seating position if you’re very tall.
Thankfully, even entry-level Active models come with electrically adjustable lumbar support to help reduce back ache on long journeys and all models in Business Edition trim and above get heated front seats. Unfortunately, the buttons for these are tucked almost completely out of sight under the dashboard.
Space in the back seats is reasonably generous. There’s plenty of knee room and enough space in the footwells for a six-foot-tall passenger to sit behind an equally tall driver. There isn’t quite as much headroom as you get in the taller Kia Niro, however.
Fortunately, there’s enough shoulder room for three adults to sit side-by-side in the Toyota and the slight lump in the rear floor isn’t big enough to get in the way of your middle passenger’s feet. Annoyingly, the central seat is raised above the outer two and it isn’t particularly soft so it’s best left for kids or small adults.
The Prius’ rear doors open very wide which helps make it easy to lift in a bulky rear-facing child seat. Its sloping roof means you still need to stoop down to strap in a child and you’ll have to be careful not to lose the removable Isofix covers when fitting the seat base.
The Prius’ front door bins are big enough to hold a one-litre bottle each and there’s enough space in the glovebox for another equally large bottle. You’ll find another handy cubby hole under the central armrest that’s ideal for hiding some valuables safely out of sight and Business Edition cars and above come with a wireless phone charger tucked under the dashboard.
All models get two adjustable cupholders in the centre console and a folding rear armrest with another pair of cupholders. You also get a handy 12V socket between the front seats as standard but there’s no extra USB port so your back-seat passengers can only charge one gizmo at a time.
The Prius’ 502-litre boot beats both the Hyundai and Kia by more than 50 litres with all five seats in place. It might not be particularly deep, but its wide, square shape makes it easy to pack full of bulky luggage.
There isn’t a particularly large boot lip to lift heavy items over and there’s just enough room inside for a baby buggy, a set of golf clubs and some soft bags all at once. Unfortunately, tall suitcases might not fit under the load cover but you can always remove it and store it in a handy recess under the boot floor.
Need to carry even more luggage? The back seats flip down in a two-way (60:40) split so you can carry up to two passengers and some very long items at once. The boot grows to 1,633 litres with the back seats folded away – that’s significantly more space than you get in either the 1,505-litre Hyundai or 1,425-litre Kia.
Unfortunately, there’s a tall step in the floor behind the back seats so it’s a bit tricky to slide heavy boxes right up behind the front seats. There’s still just enough space to carry a bike with both its wheels attached and you get a few tether points and some handy shopping hooks to stop smaller items rolling around.
The Prius is easy to drive and impressively comfortable for a hybrid family car, but it can get a little bit noisy when you accelerate thanks to its CVT automatic gearbox
Few cars are as frugal as the fuel-sipping Prius – go easy on the accelerator and it’ll crack 80mpg without breaking a sweat
You can only get the Prius with one engine – a 1.8-litre petrol that drives the front wheels with the help of a small electric motor. Together they produce 122hp and, Toyota claims, help the hybrid Prius return 94mpg. In normal driving conditions, however, you’ll probably see around 80mpg – still a very impressive figure.
Its combination of petrol engine and electric motor makes the Prius ideal for pottering around town. At speeds up to 37mph it’ll trundle along happily in almost complete silence using just the electric motor. Accelerate a little harder or head out onto a faster country road and the petrol engine fires up to lend a hand. With both the engine and motor working together it’s a touch faster than the Kia Niro – the Prius accelerate from 0-62mph in a fair, but hardly fast, 10.6 seconds.
It’s reasonably quiet on the move too, the only complaint being that the standard-fit CVT automatic gearbox causes the engine to drone rather loudly when you accelerate hard. It does give your left leg a rest on long journeys and helps blend the petrol engine and electric motor together pretty much seamlessly.
If you regularly drive into London you’ll want to avoid the optional 17-inch alloy wheels. Cars fitted with the smaller 15-inch wheels are slightly more efficient and emit so little CO2 per kilometre that they’re exempt from the Capital’s Congestion Charge.
The Prius is a doddle to drive, especially around town. Its large windscreen and tall windows give you a good view out and its light controls and tight turning circle mean you’ll have no trouble doing a quick U-turn or manoeuvring through tight city streets.
The split rear windscreen does obstruct your view backwards slightly but even entry-level Active models come with a reversing camera as standard so they’re relatively easy to park. For even greater peace of mind, mid-range Business Edition Plus and Excel models come with front and rear parking sensors and a system that’ll steer you into parallel and bay parking spaces automatically.
The Prius glides along in almost complete silence at slow speeds using just the electric motor and its suspension does a good job ironing out bumps and potholes around town. Head out onto a country road and it doesn’t lean too much in tight corners so your passengers shouldn’t feel car sick on long journeys.
Few hybrids feel particularly sporty to drive but the Prius does come with a Power driving mode that makes the engine respond more quickly to the accelerator pedal. It’s still not quite as nippy on tight twisty roads as the Hyundai Ioniq, however.
You’ll hear quite a lot of noise from the Toyota’s tyres at motorway speeds but there’s less wind noise than in either the Ioniq or Niro. You also get adaptive cruise control to help make it as relaxing as possible to drive. This’ll keep you a safe distance from cars in front and return to a preset speed when the road’s clear.
Also standard are lane-keeping assistance and a system that’ll detect vehicles and pedestrians in the road ahead and automatically apply the brakes to help prevent a collision. These features helped the Prius earn an impressive five-star-safety rating from Euro NCAP in 2016 making it one of the safest hybrids on sale.
If safety is your number one priority, you’ll want to consider a Business Edition model or above. They come with blind-spot monitoring and a system that’ll warn you not to pull out of a parking space if it senses a car approaching behind you.
The Prius’ interior doesn’t just look modern, it’s reasonably practical and comes with a spacious boot. Sadly, hard plastics and a low-res infotainment system let the side down