THE fourth generation of the car that created the petrol-electric hybrid vehicle market 18 years ago, the Toyota Prius, has just been launched and is set to add further impetus to the appeal of the hybrid sector with much improved styling and driving dynamics writes Bryan Longworth.
It took some time for the Prius to get established but Toyota's persistence with hybrid power has led to Prius becoming the leading model in this market and now most other world motor manufacturers have some kind of hybrid in their ranges.
In fact hybrid power has attracted new conquest customers to Toyota and the company has successfully introduced other hybrid models with 63 per cent of Auris sales last year being hybrids and 41 per cent of Yaris sales having hybrid propulsion.
The previous Prius had very conservative and rather bland styling but at last Toyota has given the model a body it deserves for the sharp styling of the fourth generation car which has a completely new platform has now got bags of street appeal as was evident when admirers of my test car expressed their approval with some thinking it was a completely new Toyota model.
It was powered by a 1.8-litre petrol engine with the electric motor operating independently which allowed the car to be driven in all electric mode at times with zero fuel consumption and zero tailpipe emissions.
The CO2 emissions of 76g/km mean that there is zero road tax and a 13 per cent Benefit in Kind with a combined fuel consumption of 94.1mpg a top speed of 112mph and zero to 62mph time of 10.4 seconds.
Hybrids are more efficient on commuter routes and around town motoring and not motorway trips but the test car averaged around 70mpg on the motorway and driven carefully off the motorway it should be capable of at least 10mpg plus on this return.
My test car was the Prius Business Edition Plus costing £25,995 which is next to the top model and it was loaded with standard kit that included blind spot monitoring, all round parking sensors with rear view camera, a self parking system, sat nav and audio and head up display showing the speed in front and above the steering wheel which was a very useful feature.
It had a roomy and comfortable interior with spacious boot and driver information facility including speed, fuel consumption and hybrid system featured in a central panel at the top of the fascia with a touch screen underneath for features like the radio and satellite navigation.
On the road the new Prius provided a very quiet and smooth drive when powered by the petrol engine with the all electric system offering rather eerie silent motoring and the automatic transmission once I got used to it was easy to operate and very efffective.
Dislikes? I don't like split rear screens because they affect rear vision and I also wrongly assumed with this being such a high tech car there would be an electronic parking brake rather than a foot operated brake which are not very user friendly especially to owners with problems affecting their left leg. Otherwise the latest Prius which has impressive residual values and five year warranty is an excellent car especially with its striking styling that is a vast improvement and the new model is a much more competitive car that is most important now the hybrid market has so many more competitors.
Model: New Toyota Prius Business Edition Plus.
Power unit: 1.8-litre petrol engine and electric motor.
Output: Engine 97bhp; electric motor 71bhp.
Transmission: Electric CVT.
Top speed: 112mph. Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 10.4 seconds.
Fuel consumption: 94.1mpg combined.
CO2 emissions: 76g/km.