By Patrick James on 2017-03-17 - The author has been a motoring writer for more than 16 years. Formerly motoring editor at the Coventry Telegraph, he now produces motoring copy, on new car launches and road tests on a freelance basis.
THE Toyota Prius was a revolutionary car when it first hit the streets, a hybrid petrol/electric motor/battery driven car which soon became a favourite with the environmentally friendly luvvies of Hollywood and elsewhere.
Since that time, technology has moved on, we now have all electric cars, diesel hyrbrids, fuel cell motors and of course the latest version of the Prius, with all its high tech bells, whistles and gizmos - which even deliver a driving economy report at the end of each journey.
This fourth generation model is virtually unrecognisable from the first version, the rounded look being replaced by the more angular profile much evident on Toyota's sister brand the Lexus.
More importantly, with its high levels of standard equipment, the higher price is no more than an equivalent exec saloon and now more than matches diesels for economy.
The car looks sleeker and this must be in part due to the fact that less space is needed for the high-voltage battery, which is smaller, but still kicks out more power, is more durable and has better range.
It can hit 35mph on electric power alone, providing acceleration is smooth, before the 1.8-litre smooth revving engine kicks in and then under normal driving the battery, electric motor and engine work in tandem.
This means low emissions of 76g/km and a claimed fuel economy of 84.6mpg, making it hugely attractive as a company car, with 11 per cent business in kind taxation.
Also once the initial outlay is paid, it is cheap to run for private users.
In the real driving world, economy was showing up at around 63mpg. The power set up is mated to a CVT transmision, which under heavy acceleration is simply raucous. But it has improved over the years, so under normal driving it is barely noticeable.
Having said that, flooring the accelerator does deliver decent performance with the car hitting 60mph in 10.7 seconds.
Torque is good and the car performs admirably on the motorways as well as around town where it is quiet and refined.
It is designed as a comfortable saloon car, so don't expect sports car ride and handling.
The ride is comfortable and handling decent, if still a little wallowy at times on corners, despite the car now sitting lower to the ground to improve stability and body control.
This is achieved with the firm's new Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA). Known as the GA-C platform, this will also underpin other future models.
The slick exterior styling features slimmer headlamp units, distinctive fog lights and air intakes. The lower part of the front bumper and the shape of the lower grille and wheel arches have been designed to direct airflow around and under the vehicle.
The cabin too has come in leaps and bounds, with a futuristic layout and neatly laid out controls and display zones. Dominant is the seven inch touchscreen panel, like many these days designed to look like a tablet to allow users to flick and scroll through displays.
The instrument cluster features dual 4.2-inch full colour LCD screens. The screen nearest the driver presents vehicle speed and ancillary information such as fuel level, odometer, trip meter, driving range, average fuel consumption, outside temperature and drive mode. In other words its keeping an eye on how you are driving.
Seats are comfortable despite some difficulty adjusting the front seat, and all round vision is good although rear view is compromised through the split screen.
Equipment levels are excellent, offsetting the higher hybrid price, with the test model here offering heads up display, navigation, uprated sound system, 17 inch alloys and heated rear seats on top of entry level model spec of electric windows and mirrors, DAB radio and Bluetooth, climate control and parking radar and reversing camera.
In addition standard are safety features like lane all round airbags, stability control, adaptive cruise control, lane departure and collision warning, auto beams and braking assistance measures. lane departure alert and auto high-beam headlights.
Colours are striking with mostly black surfaces vividly contrasting with large areas of white plastic. Four adults are seated in comfort with good head and legroom, with the fifth a little more snug. Boot depth is compromised slightly to accommodate the battery, but for extra space, like all hatchbacks, drop the rear split seats.
Toyota Prius Business Edition Plus Navi
Mechanical: 122bhp, 1,798cc, 4cyl petrol engine and 71bhp electric motor driving front wheels via automatic gearbox
Max Speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 10.6 seconds
Combined MPG: 85.6
Insurance Group: 33
C02 emissions: 76g/km
Bik rating: 11%
Warranty: 5yrs/100,000 miles
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