Prius in perspective
Because Toyota is working on two lines of models: a range of all-electric cars and models with more conventional propulsion. This Prius belongs to the latter. Because the Prius is no longer Toyota's most innovative model, the model is given a different role: that of a figurehead for the brand.
And that is why more work has been done on the exterior than ever before. Previous versions were mainly designed in the wind tunnel. The new Prius was then also drawn by designers. Moreover, this time the batteries are not located under the cargo floor, but under the rear seat. This allows the car to be a lot lower and thus even more streamlined. The highest point of the roof has been moved slightly backwards, making the proportions between them more harmonious. Especially in yellow, the Prius is now a downright beautiful and desirable car.
The interior, on the other hand, is more retained. Previous generations of the Prius looked more like a UFO than a car inside, but that is certainly not the case with this fifth generation. The layout of the dashboard is minimalist, but with the use of different materials, textures, patterns and colours, it is still verging on cluttered. Thanks to the small steering wheel, the clocks can be placed on top of the steering column, they fall better into the driver's field of vision and are therefore easier to read.
Front-seat space is average for a car of this size. Legroom in the rear is just adequate and, because of the sloping roofline, tall adults skim the roof. The boot is low, but very deep. The electrically operated tailgate provides extra comfort.
Since the Prius is Toyota's latest model, the car is equipped with state-of-the-art technology according to Toyota. However, there is nothing revolutionary about the car. During the test, a few things did stand out. The unbranded audio system has a bombastic and tiresome sound. The driver-assist system is capable of fully autonomous congestion driving and does an excellent job in real life.
As usual with a Toyota, handling is not very pronounced. The Prius is simply good at everything and has a linear character. That is, regardless of conditions and speed, the car responds pretty much the same to driver commands. Because the driver barely notices how capable the car is, the handling seems dull but is in fact very good.
According to Toyota, the biggest advantage of hybrid drive is that it requires no effort or adjustment from the driver. A very different angle: with limited resources, hybrid technology makes a car much more fuel-efficient. This while a fully electric car requires much more scarce resources and the full battery capacity is rarely used. So there are still certainly things to be said for a hybrid.
However, many brands offer their models with petrol, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric motors. Toyota does not offer that choice and supplies the Prius only with a plug-in hybrid (also known as "PHEV" for "plug-in hybrid electric vehicle). By default, every hybrid recovers energy during braking and coasting. A plug-in hybrid can also be charged at a plug. Therefore, a PHEV has a battery with a larger capacity, which in turn means longer and more frequent all-electric driving. One disadvantage of the plug-in: a PHEV only makes sense when every opportunity to charge is taken. When charging is not consistent, the large battery is just dead weight.
In practice, it is quite noticeable that the Prius is much more than a standard hybrid. The performance is excellent and delivered with ease. Even from high speeds, the Prius manages to accelerate effortlessly. Noise levels are very low. At low speeds, only a slight "base noise" is audible and only from 120 km/h onwards are driving noises of significance.
The Prius cannot automatically distribute the available energy along the route according to the destination in the navigation system. The drive always starts electrically. When the battery runs low, the petrol engine engages and the electric motor merely assists for more smoothness and better performance. During the test, 86 km could be covered entirely electrically (consumption: 14.5 kWh / 100 km). A drive with empty battery through cities and outlying areas (no motorways) took 4.1 litres per 100 km. This makes consumption almost the same as the previous Prius, while performance has been significantly improved.
Why is the new Toyota Prius yet another hybrid, when this "forerunner" (literal translation) is known for its innovative technology? By now, almost all other brands offer hybrids, so this is nothing special anymore. Besides, almost every Toyota is now a hybrid and many of those models are better suited to their task (estate car, SUV, etc.). Besides: comparable electric cars are now cheaper than this Prius. This is why the new Prius does not come to the UK.
The new Toyota Prius should however be viewed from a different perspective. The Prius is made for the global market and only Western Europe is really ready for electric driving. Beyond that, a hybrid still offers the best possible combination of comfort, performance and fuel consumption. To still offer added value over the previous generation, the new Prius is a plug-in hybrid. The Prius' ease of performance, very low fuel consumption and quietness do make it the ultimate hybrid. Maybe the Prius is no longer revolutionary, this fifth generation is the finest Prius yet.
- Successful design
- Strong, quiet and economical
- Moderate space in the rear
- More expensive than an electric car
- Cannot automatically distribute available energy over route