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Week at the Wheel: Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.

Week at the Wheel: Toyota Prius
Toyota's green-leaning Prius might make the numbers, but it does little to really pull the heartstrings.

   



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| Week at the Wheel | Toyota Prius |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

Forget green credentials for a moment; the Prius is simply a good-looking car. The front is pleasingly sporty, making the Prius one of the most aggressively styled cars in Toyota's range. The lozenge-like shape in profile is smart and the contoured roof is an aero aid that allows Toyota's wheeled environmental conscience to roll with style. After the pleasing exterior the cabin is a bit disappointing. It's bland, Toyota trying to lift it with some technical details - like the weird gearlever and preposterous oval steering wheel. Decent build quality aside it's a bit forgettable.

This car's head-up display is cool though; your speed and satnav functions are projected up on the screen in front of you. That's handy, as otherwise the instruments are mostly over to the middle of the dashboard rather than directly in front of you. Space is decent though and the boot is usefully sized too, while standard kit is pretty extensive. But then it should be, as this T-Spirit model weighs in at a hefty 22,000. That's 4,000 more than a VW Golf BlueMotion, which is within a whisker of the Prius's official 70.6mpg combined consumption figure - and is the better car to drive.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

It's impossible not to admire Toyota's hybrid system - now in its third incarnation. The Japanese firm has honed the petrol-electric powertrain to the point where it's difficult to feel when the units are working together or independently. Using a 1.8-litre petrol engine, along with a battery-powered electric motor, the Prius goes very well. It's possible to drive it on electric power alone for a short distance, but you have to be very dedicated to tiny throttle inputs to do so.

The automatic gearbox is simple, though the lever could do with feeling like it's got some mechanical link rather than having the lifeless movement of an old school arcade game.

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

Nobody - and we mean nobody - is going to buy a Prius with any expectation of driver pleasure, except perhaps the inherent smugness that comes as standard. That Toyota has bothered to make a car that drives nicely is something of a surprise - especially given the lacklustre dynamic ability of this third generation Prius's predecessors. The ride is composed, the body control decent and the handling tidy. It's unlikely you'll ever drive it quickly for fun, but at least it now feels like it'll cope with a tightening corner should you forget your green driving discipline and arrive at the bend a bit too briskly.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

What, no fifth star in the economy section? It should have given the quoted official combined consumption figure of 70.6mpg and 92g/km of CO2, but the Prius isn't cheap and value for money is in the headline above too. Even given its decent equipment levels more than 22,000 for a five-door family hatchback is expensive. Sure, you're paying for some innovative technology, but it's difficult to ignore the fact that similarly economical diesel rivals weigh in at a significantly lower price point. That 70.6mpg will take some achieving too, as we got nowhere near it - even driving with economy in mind.

Overall: star star star star star

The Prius is a fantastic technical achievement from Toyota. That it's become the poster-boy for the uninformed is regrettable, as clever as it is it's not the overall solution. We'd love to see Toyota combine the technology with a diesel engine to really see what can be done. It's a great choice around town where its short battery-only range limits emissions to zero, but it doesn't better a good turbodiesel should you be doing big motorway miles. Certainly the Prius demonstrates that green needn't necessarily mean boring - a little quirky perhaps, but no longer dull.

Kyle Fortune - 23 Dec 2009



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2009 Toyota Prius specifications: (T Spirit)
Price: 22,130 on-the-road
0-62mph: 10.4 seconds
Top speed: 110mph
Combined economy: 70.6mpg
Emissions: 92g/km
Kerb weight: 1420kg

2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.

2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.



2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.
 

2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.
 

2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.
 

2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.
 

2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.
 

2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.
 

2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.
 

2009 Toyota Prius. Image by Toyota.
 






 

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