Switches smoothly between battery and petrol power and is comfortable but could do with more feel in the steering
Plenty of seat adjustment and informative dials; only the obstructive rear spoiler and awkward footbrake spoil the fun
Stability control, seven airbags and anti-whiplash head restraints, with security kit to match
Toyota is a star performer in reliability surveys
Bags of room for five and their bags
Basic models are well equipped but upgrade for the full set of goodies
The Toyota Prius has become a byword for eco-friendly cars. The regular version can run on just battery power at low speeds while the Plug-in model can cover up to 15.5 miles at speeds of up to 51mph. When you need more oomph, or range, the 1.8-litre engine joins the party almost seamlessly, although it can become noisy if you need a sudden burst of acceleration. The Prius can feel crashy and unsettled on bumpy surfaces, particularly if you opt for larger wheels. What's more, the steering offers little feedback and the handling is safe but uninspiring. At least the light steering makes the Toyota easy to drive around town.
For this price you'd expect better quality interior plastics, but at least there's plenty of room for five, and a decent boot with extra storage beneath the floor. A middle seat passenger even has room for their feet thanks to the flat floor. The digital information display on the dash lets you know what's going on under the bonnet, however the foot-operated parking brake is awkward to use and the big spoiler block rear visibility. Entry-level T3 cars give you most of what you need, including air-conditioning, front and rear electric windows and a head-up display. T4 trim brings keyless entry, cruise control and a Bluetooth handsfree system, while the T Spirit and Plug-in models add satellite-navigation and a reversing camera.
The Prius was top of its class in the most recent JD Power ownership satisfaction survey, with owners rating its mechanical reliability as 'excellent'. If that's not enough to put you at ease, there's a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty. Safety equipment is comprehensive, with stability control, seven airbags and anti-whiplash head restraints on all versions. A score of 88% for adult protection and 82% for child protection in the Euro NCAP crash tests was enough for a five-star rating overall, but not as impressive as a Ford Focus, which was awarded 92% and 82% respectively.
The Toyota Prius makes a good family car as well as a good green car, thanks to its spacious cabin and big boot. However, it's disappointing to drive and makes more sense as a company car than a private buy. Real-world fuel economy is also disappointing.