Word has it that, in a bid to establish their green credentials, Hollywood stars have been cruising round Tinsel Town in their expensive sports cars bearing “My Other Car is a Toyota Prius” bumper stickers.
Other manufacturers have been following suit with economic dual fuel models but it is the Japanese company that has been doing the ground-breaking and with the new £29,495 1.8-litre Prius T Spirit CVT TG+ they have introduced the world’s first seven-seat full hybrid vehicle.
There are other innovations on display too, with this latest Prius being the first non plug-in hybrid to use a lithium-ion battery, assuring improved reliability and performance,
Low running costs, low-band insurance and freedom from congestion charges are welcome benefits but you get decent performance as well, with in-line, four-cylinder, 16-vallve engine able to reach 62 mph in a reasonable 11.3-seconds before powering smoothly on to a 10’3-mph top speed yet with a 68.9-mpg combined cycle fuel consumption figure easy to achieve, along with low emissions.
Of course, the need for bigger batteries means there’s a price to pay in terms of luggage space and the load bed is rather high but driver and passengers get ample leg, shoulder and head room and the standard panoramic roof lets plenty of light into the comfortable cabin.
There’s a wealth of standard kit, including smart entry and start; climate control; cruise control; leather upholstery; rain sensing wipers; rear-view camera; head-up holographic speed display and touch screen controls.
The Prius comes with a five-year or 100,000-mile pan-European mechanical warranty; five-year paintwork warranty;12-year anti-corrosion and perforation warranty and a year’s full AA membership cover.
On a holiday trip to the USA, I got to drive a Prius rental car – arranged through the excellent Holiday Autos (www.holidayautos.co.uk) – for 1,200 miles in a diversity of conditions, from busy freeway and bustling city centre roads to quiet back roads winding into the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. It proved thoroughly competent though in US spec its ride is soft and there’s a bit of wallowing.
Re-tuned to European driving conditions, the Prius is better handling and can be hassled along without any nagging doubts about its competence to handle high speeds.
The looks, resembling a latter-day Batmobile, might not be to everyone’s taste but I defy you to say it doesn’t provides a satisfying driving experience – and it’s kind on the wallet too.