As expected from the definitive mass-market hybrid, the Toyota Prius is a very well-rounded family car.
As expected from the definitive mass-market hybrid, the Toyota Prius is a very well-rounded family car.
Considering Toyota’s been selling various Prius models for roughly two decades now, it would be a travesty if the new Prius ended up being a disastrous mess of a vehicle. Especially at a time when the hybrid family car market is burgeoning in size, with the likes of the Kia Niro and the Chevrolet Volt posing a considerable threat to the Prius. That experience with making hybrids that we mentioned earlier, though, does mean the Toyota Prius works really well as a family car. For sure, there are some issues (including one or two that appear to be Prius legacy traits), but a good chunk of them can be overlooked when you factor in the strengths of the car’s core package.
Thanks to being a bit longer and wider than the model it replaces, the Toyota Prius is noticeably bigger this time around.
Families and taxi companies appear to be the biggest proponents (at least, outside of the image-conscious celebrity circles) of the Toyota Prius, so we’re sure a vast majority of the vehicle’s eventual operators who sit in either of those camps will be pleased to know the car is quite the commodious machine. Thanks to being a bit longer and wider than the model it replaces, the Toyota Prius is noticeably bigger this time around – so those of you who had criticisms with the prior Prius’ space offerings will find much more to like here. Being that bit longer means the already pretty good amount of leg room on the previous Prius is now much better this time around, with all but the lankiest of individuals being accommodated in the back seats. Plus, the extra width means three adults should (in conjunction with the extra leg room) be able to sit in the back comfortably, and – as always, with a Prius – there are plenty of sizeable storage cubbies dotted about the interior. The improvement in overall build quality over the old Prius is also very much appreciated, with the contrast black-and-white trim on the center console (topped off by the blue finish on the gear lever) being perhaps the big aesthetic highlight of an otherwise very classy cabin. Better still, buyers who opt for the higher-spec models will have even more soft touch plastics to enjoy over the base versions.
A result of Toyota deciding to position the battery backs underneath the rear seats instead of in the trunk.
Despite this improvement in quality, though, there are some scratchier plastics as you progress further down the cabin, with the lower door card sections being perhaps the most obvious examples of this. Furthermore, we’re not too impressed with all the control layout choices: though most the main inputs are made through a slick (if perhaps a little bit sluggish) touchscreen system, other buttons are curiously placed, and we’d love to have been a fly on the wall during the meeting where the decision to place the seat heater controls right underneath the aforementioned center console arrangement. Perhaps our biggest bugbear of them all, though, is the rear headroom. Thanks to a combination of a sloping roofline and a higher rear bench (a result of Toyota deciding to position the battery backs underneath the rear seats instead of in the trunk), there isn’t a huge amount of room on offer for taller passengers – though, if you’ll only be shepherding children about, this will undoubtedly be a minor issue, and parents will also be fans of how the wide-opening doors. We’re also rather satisfied with the overall trunk capacity. The 34 cubic feet capacity puts it on par with most other vehicles of this size, the broad opening aids access and the boxy dimensions means it’s a pleasantly usable space. We would, though, have preferred the trunk lip to have been a little bit lower, and for the rear seats to fold down completely flat instead of leaving a lip where the seat backs hinge from.
In spite of these new improvements, we’d hesitate on calling the Prius “fun” in the way a similarly-sized hatchback is.
The Toyota Prius has never been associated with being fun to drive. From the supple suspension to the fitment of low-resistance tires, the hybrid was designed around the premise of being as efficient as possible, regardless of what it did to behind-the-wheel entertainment. At least, that’s what used to be the case, as Toyota’s surprisingly made the Prius a rather enjoyable car to drive. Don’t see this as us saying the car’s sporty, though. In spite of these new improvements, we’d hesitate on calling the Prius “fun” in the way a similarly-sized hatchback is. What we’re specifically referring to is that it’s no longer distant and dull: a surprising amount of feedback gets transmitted through the steering wheel (meaning it’s a bit easier to place the car where you want it on the road, since you have a clearer idea of what the front wheels are doing), and body roll is contained to a far more agreeable manner here than on the previous Toyota Prius. For sure, it’s no Ford Focus, but it’s far closer than we’d initially expected.
The suspension setup in particular is especially well judged, and means the Toyota Prius is a supremely comfortable and cossetting car.
What makes this change of tone even more interesting is that, for the most part, Toyota’s nailed the rest of the driving dynamics of the car. The suspension setup in particular is especially well judged, and means the Toyota Prius is a supremely comfortable and cossetting car in spite of being less prone to leaning a fair bit in the bends when cornering. Forward visibility is especially good, too, and the wind noise suppression is also at an exceptional level (no doubt aided by the aerodynamically efficient bodywork). It's a shame, then, that tire roar is still quite prominent, and undoes a good chunk of the work that Toyota’s done to make the rest of the car more refined. Still, the tire roar itself isn’t too abrasive and is acceptable enough at higher speeds, but we would have liked the Toyota Prius even more if so much noise didn’t permeate its way into the cabin.
Granted, the gas-electric hybrid system doesn’t endow the Toyota Prius with a huge amount of speed.
Given the whole controversy over diesel engines, Toyota’s probably rather pleased with the fact it’s put so much money on the gasoline-electric hybrid horse. But it’s not just fortunate recent circumstances that make the Toyota Prius’ powertrain an interesting choice: it’s also, by most objective metrics, a pretty good setup. Granted, the gas-electric hybrid system doesn’t endow the Toyota Prius with a huge amount of speed. In spite of the aerodynamically-efficient bodywork and having a decent amount of low-down torque from the electric motor, the combined output of 121-hp is only enough to hustle the Prius along at a sub-brisk pace. If you need to make any overtaking moves on the highway, you’ll probably need to make a decent run-up first. Still, though outright grunt may be lacking, there’s still enough oomph on tap to get the Toyota Prius up to a decent turn of speed in an appropriate amount of time, and the continuously variable transmission (CVT) that was a bit too noisy and unrefined for our liking in the previous Prius is now a much more seamless and unobtrusive transmission.
At least the fuel economy’s pretty good.
A similar story can be said for the gasoline-electric-motor setup in general, which propels the car along at a hushed state unless you’re really pushing the Prius hard (which kinda goes against the whole principle of owning a fuel-efficient hybrid…). We would also be big fans of how seamless the system is when it’s transitioning from all-electric to gas-electric hybrid mode, but the fact you can only travel on electric mode alone for a couple of miles at the most puts a dampener on the whole seamless transition aspects. At least the fuel economy’s pretty good. Though official figures of course shouldn’t be taken purely at face value, the claims of 50mpg and 54mpg for the city and the highway respectively are good for any car irrespective of what kind of powertrain they’ve got hiding under the bonnet. Better still, those figures improve to 53mpg for the city and 58mpg for the highway with the lighter Eco model – though, as we’ll discuss in a short moment, that doesn’t automatically make it the best Toyota Prius you can buy.
The Toyota Prius is quite affordable when compared with its chief competitors.
Despite all the fancy technology underpinning the car, the Toyota Prius is quite affordable when compared with its chief competitors. With a starting price of $24,685, the Toyota Prius is a couple of grand cheaper than the Chevrolet Volt when you factor in the federal tax credits the latter is eligible for, and comparable hybrid cars follow a similar trend here. It also helps that the Toyota Prius is fairly well equipped by the standards of the class. Eight air bags, traction control, stability control, a reversing camera and cruise control are bolted onto every Toyota Prius model, with the ‘Prius Three’ trim (an upgrade from the Prius Two and the Prius Two Eco options) adding features like built-in navigation and wireless charging to the mix. If you want wheels larger than 15 inches, though, you only have access to the 17inch alloys available with the Prius Three Touring and Prius Four Touring trims.
The standard three-years/36,000-miles warranty is a bit on the stingy side.
As optional extras are refreshingly sparse on the Toyota Prius (on top of the fact hybrid cars generally don’t have amazing residual values), we’re more inclined to recommend nothing much higher than Prius Three, as everything else above this price point erodes the Prius’ value advantage on top of adding goodies you might not necessarily need unless you’re far more obsessed with in-car convenience technology than we are. If efficiency is also your bag, then the Prius Two Eco clearly makes a case for itself – though it’s worth pointing out that the Eco has a tire inflation kit in place of a spare tire. If there’s anything to be miffed about with regards to the Toyota Prius, it’s that the standard three-years/36,000-miles warranty is a bit on the stingy side. Thankfully, the hybrid powertrain is covered by a five-year/60,000-miles warranty, with parts relating to the hybrid systems being covered by a an eight-year/100,000-miles warranty.