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
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.
Few cars are as frugal as the fuel-sipping Prius – go easy on the accelerator and it’ll crack 80mpg without breaking a sweat
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.