Pure value for money.
NOT many movie lovers will have stopped to admire Gaylord Focker’s 2003 Toyota Prius when his super-cool love rival Kevin rocks up in his electric Tesla sports car in the 2010 comedy Little Fockers.
But on a Saturday night in with very little else on TV I recently did, because I had the latest version of the Prius sat on my driveway and was alarmed to find that the car I had once considered the antithesis of cool was actually less challenging on the eye than its modern forebear.
At a time when many would expect Toyota to be doing its utmost to make its iconic ecofriendly vehicle as approachable as ever — the brand has a target of 50 per cent hybrid sales by 2020 — the Prius’s looks are even more divisive.
Those like ’em or loath ’em looks are wrapped around a compelling package, though, and certainly the most effective “pure” hybrid (ie not a plug-in) I have driven.
Plenty of interior space, a 457-litre boot, impressive technology and genuine fuel economy in the mid-70s mpg look good value at £26,310 in mid-range Business Edition 2 trim.
That some drab steel wheels, complete with old-school hub caps, do the exterior no favours should make little difference to the kind of driver that the Prius best suits: someone who is on the hunt for an efficient family vehicle.
Toyota claims 85.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 70g/km and many of those customers will reason that a continuously variable gearbox (CVT) which deters the driver from swift progress through soft responses and noisy high revs when the 1.8-litre petrol engine is at full chat is largely irrelevant.
What is, is silent, electric-propelled progress at low speeds and the knowledge that the Prius is saving emissions and fuel.
The transition from electric to petrol power is subtle and brings the possibility of a reasonable 121bhp maximum power output, allowing Toyota to claim a 10.6 second dash to 62mph and 112mph top speed are possible.
Such performance is not a particularly enjoyable affair, though, the Prius more at home at a fuel-efficient cruise.
In the corners there’s a sense of intertia.
The suspension feels well-controlled but short of movement when a rut strikes.
The interior is accommodating and wellequipped, though, and while there is an array of Bakelite-style glossy plastics which feel a little out of place in a car, build quality is sound.
A tulip-shaped gear selector takes centres stage, accompanied by a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system aligned with a pair of fourinch TFT screens above to deliver an array of trip and eco-driving data from the hybrid system.
A colour head-up display delivering speed, satnav and road sign information, is the best place to focus to avoid information overload, though.
Keyless entry and engine starting, adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking, a wireless phone charger, lane departure warning, a reversing camera and heated front seats are all among the standard kit.
For a car with such an effective hybrid drivetrain, the Prius does feel like remarkable value for money.
Get over that exterior styling — and avoid the wealthy friend in his full-EV Tesla — and there still isn’t a “pure” hybrid out there to match it.
First published 28th July 2017