★★★ | Toyota Prius Business Edition Plus

Manufacturers since the 1980s have teased us with electric and hybrid technology. No one though had the balls to actually do it. Toyota was the first to give us a hybrid car as a stand alone product called the Prius. It looked like nothing else in the Toyota showroom. In fact, it looked like nothing else anywhere.

This next statement makes me feel so old. The Prius is now 19 years old. Toyota should be celebrated for this motoring milestone. It was a gamble. It ended up being a game changer. Now the Prius is not the only hybrid out there.

The few hybrids l have driven have only taken me very short distances so when the opportunity came for me to test one l wasn’t sure what to expect. Toyota gave THEGAYUK two to test. The Lexus RX450h and the Prius. Both new models.

The Prius was a disappointment. My ears are quite literally screaming from driving it. l had high hopes for the car that brought hybrid technology to the masses but in this latest incarnation, it has left me a little cold. For a car costing less than half of what the Lexus RX450h cost you could say l am being picky. I wish I was. It’s not that the Prius is a bad car. It really isn’t. Huge advances have been made in the 4 generations of Prius since 1997. The Prius has one major flaw.

The Prius is whisper quiet. On start up, there is no engine noise. The dashboard comes alive with animation and illumination. You select drive via a crystal blue knob where the gear stick would be and you surge forward under electric motion. And here is lays the problem. It’s so noisy! Even at low speeds, noise from the tyres and differing road surfaces barge into the cabin. I’ve not known anything like it. To those outside, all they hear are their thoughts and screams when they shout out because they didn’t hear the Prius creep up on them. It isn’t even as if the 215/45 17 Bridgestone Turanza tyres are highly rated in noise. Fuel economy rated at C with road noise of 69 decibels. All pretty standard stuff for a branded tyre.

Noise aside it is an amazing car. At speed on the motorway, it does settle down into a world of its own. There is no wind noise. The Continuously Variable Transmission gearbox settles down into a long-legged stride. It is here that the Prius makes sense. CVT gearboxes are not known for being quiet and when pushed the 1800cc engine will emit audible noise as it spins up to its peak 97bhp at 5200rpm. Then with the powers of hybrid, it settles down to a wafting machine.

Because the main fascia of the dashboard sits in the middle of the car it is almost too easy to ignore it. It tries to give you all the information you need in a slimline display. It does work well. Thankfully there is a heads-up display that isn’t affected by sunlight coming in through the windscreen. What didn’t work for me was the hybrid display that kept clashing with the speed limit display. I wanted to know when I was in EV mode (electric vehicle) or not. The speed limit display was annoying. It wasn’t as if it hadn’t also appeared on the facia screen. It could thankfully be turned off.

The 4th generation Prius makes no apologies for its looks. It’s bold and striking. I like it. Actually, I like it a lot. So many cars at the moment are starting to look the same again. Toyota appears to be designing a car, screwing up the paper, unfolding it and making the result. A good job is done too. After 19 years on the forecourt, the Prius can now wear its “in your face” looks with pride. The second and third gen Prius’s were awkward yet safe. They never made the grade. This one, however, looks like a spaceship. The problem it will have is within its extremities of the corners. Lights mounted into the bumpers are very vulnerable. Thanks to the auto brake and sensors, you won’t break them, but others misjudging their parking will. What doesn’t work in design is the rear wiper. There is a large unswept area. Probably not such a problem in a left-hand drive model.

The Prius as a driver’s car was also something I didn’t quite expect. This is, after all, an uber economy car. There is a gauge on the dashboard that scores you out of 100. At best I managed 89. With some serious gun-ho motoring you can get that down to 8! For that, you have to drive like the wind. I have been witness to this. It was during this spirited ride as a passenger that first made me appreciate the Prius before I even had one. It does not pretend to be a sports car but the weight bias of the engine in the front and batteries in the rear must play a part in the making of a finely balanced chassis. Never underestimate a Prius driver as a slow doodler when you see one in motion. Chances are the owner doesn’t actually know just how good it is.

The Prius is a good car. With the economy that is achievable, it is a clear winner in almost every respect. It’ll seat 5 and carry you all relatively cheaply wherever you want to go. It’s just that the inside needs to reflect the quietness of the outside. Toyota is capable of achieving this. I just wish they had with this Prius.

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Likes
Economy
Looks
Dashboard

Loathes
Cabin noise
Vulnerable extremities of the lights
Rear visibility

The Lowdown
Car – Toyota Prius Business Edition Plus
Price – £25,995 (as tested)
MPG – 94.1mpg(combined)
Power – 97bhp @ 5,200 petrol (142bhp @ 3600rpm electric)
0-62mph – 10.4seconds
Top Speed – 114 mph
Co2 – 76 (g/km)