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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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