THE Toyota Prius arrived on the scene almost two decades ago as the motoring industry's first proper mass market response to climate change.
Toyota tapped into fears of an environmental catastrophe which if anything have intensified over time making the recently-launched fourth generation of the hybrid model even more relevant now than it was then.
The feelgood factor of driving one is obvious as outstanding fuel economy and emissions figures help the environment - and the family budget - while the remaining stresses of modern motoring are also ruthlessly dealt with.
Slip into the comfortable leather-upholstered seats and the magic of the flagship Excel model begins to work soothing the most angst-ridden driver.
Everything is taken care of so the key fob can stay in your pocket thanks to smart entry and push-button ignition which, when pressed, illuminates busy information displays as well as the seven-inch colour touchscreen accessing the hi-tech Toyota Touch 2 with Go Plus multimedia system.
This is simple to use providing a host of services such as a six-speaker audio system - featuring digital radio and CD player - as well as satellite navigation, text and email display, on-line access, advanced Bluetooth, rear-view camera, plus aux-in and USB connectivity.
So when the family clambers in and starts hassling you about using their mobiles and tablets - you can ease their furrowed brows and, more importantly, ensure silence in the back seats. What could be more relaxing?
Well, how about the improved super-low running costs for one. With 17-inch boots on, the Excel version I drove boasts average fuel consumption of 85.6mpg and tax-busting emissions of 76g/km. With 15-inch wheels fitted this improves to an astounding 94.1mpg and 70g/km.
With the colder days setting in the heated front seats are a welcome addition. They are fully adjustable as is the steering wheel - replete with controls for the car's treats - ensuring the prefect driving position can be found.
The cabin easily caters for five adults with a pleasant atmosphere ensured by the automatic climate control.
Once everyone is comfortable you can begin to drive the Prius through the simple process of popping the gear leaver down towards drive. At first there is no noise as the electric motor takes the strain before the petrol engine kicks in to add a gentle soundtrack to proceedings.
The displays tell you how environmentally friendly you are giving a warm contented glow.
That's not to say the car is simply a hot bath on wheels. If you want to get somewhere in a hurry then electric and petrol motors form a formidable partnership propelling the Prius to 62mph from a standing start in a shade over ten seconds.
It's not super quick, but it's not slow either and good mid-range acceleration means over-taking manoeuvres are accomplished without fuss. The ride is refined and the handling neat and tidy.
State-of-the-art safety systems are included, such as a pre-collision braking system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, hill-start assist, a tyre pressure warning system, stability and traction control, plus blind spot monitors, that give peace of mind - as does Toyota's five-year/100,000 mile warranty.
If there has been a criticism of past incarnations of the Prius, then it has been directed at its slightly dowdy-looking exterior.
Toyota addressed that with a new-look futuristic face backed up by a swooping roofline and sharp creases leading to a smart rear with high-opening bootlid giving good access to the ample loadspace.
The rear seats split and fold if you need more room - which is handy when it comes to fitting golf clubs and trolley into the car.
The Prius also benefits from being the first to use Toyota's New Generation Architecture platform - which in layman's terms equates to a motor that sits lower in a much more purposeful stance.
Toyota has revamped the model line up beginning with the Active trim, moving through the company car-friendly Business Edition and Business Edition Plus on to the top of the range Excel.