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Our Toyota Prius hybrid long-termer is a people pleaser

Published: 10 October 2017

► A whole year with the new Toyota Prius
► We're testing the regular non-plug-in car 
► CAR's long-term test review diary

Month 9 living with a Toyota Prius hybrid: a surprising favourite of the fleet

The Prius is finding favour with other members of the CAR team. It's a bit like the first time someone tells you about The Shawshank Redemption: you make some assumptions about what it might be but come away marvelling and wonder how you hadn't seen it before.

One of our number frequently picks the Red Marvel over other CAR fleet treasures, while another senior individual with lead feet and a chequered-flag duvet cover returned my keys raving about the balance, feel and fun factor.

By Matt Joy

Logbook: Toyota Prius Excel

Engine 1798cc 16v 4-cyl, 97bhp @ 5200rpm, 105lb ft @ 3600rpm, e-motor 71bhp, 120lb ft 
Gearbox Electric CVT, fwd 
Stats 10.6sec 0-62mph, 112mph, 94.2mpg, 76g/km CO2
Price £27,755 
As tested £28,300
Miles this month 1739
Total 14902
Our mpg 61.01
Official mpg 94.2
Fuel £182.45
Extra costs £0


Month 8 of our Toyota Prius hybrid long-term test review: we average 94mpg!

I’ve been putting off a hardcore eco run for months on account of generally being in a hurry, but this week brought together the perfect storm of school holiday traffic absence, sympathetic early summer temperatures and an appreciable lack of cash.

For 126.8 miles I never exceed 65mph or half throttle and duked it out in lane one, frequently the filling in an 88-tonne sandwich, and kept the air-con off.

The result? An indicated 93.9mpg.

Theoretically that gives the Prius a range of 888.3 miles, but only if you never stop.

By Matt Joy


Month 7 living with a Toyota Prius: electronic nannying

An irritation with the Prius has finally reared its head. How close do you stop to the car in front in traffic?

A driving instructor will say you should leave enough space that you can still see their rear wheels. But in most urban shimmying that will invite someone to plug the gap, so you nudge up close.

Toyota Prius: the CAR magazine long-term test review 2017

The Prius doesn’t approve. Do so and the front proximity sensor goes off, bleeping away to warn of non-impending calamity. The easiest way of silencing it is to shift into Park, so you can take your foot off the brake and eliminate that greatest scourge of the jam: sitting there with your brake lights on, giving drivers behind permanent retinal burn.

The Prius always has your best interests at heart.

By Matt Joy

Logbook: Toyota Prius Excel

Engine 1798cc 16v 4-cyl, 97bhp @ 5200rpm, 105lb ft @ 3600rpm, e-motor 71bhp, 120lb ft 
Gearbox Electric CVT, fwd 
Stats 10.6sec 0-62mph, 112mph, 94.2mpg, 76g/km CO2
Price £27,755 
As tested £28,300
Miles this month 1650
Total 10908
Our mpg 63.6
Official mpg 94.2
Fuel £190.77
Extra costs £0


Month 6

Even the most pianissimo of electronic alarm sounds can’t take the sting out of 5.20am on a Monday. I’d go as far as to classify myself as a morning person, yet the first fully formed word that comes out of my mouth those days is usually rude. Technically dressed, I’m in the car and on the road by 5.40 which means the Prius regularly has to deal with me at my worst. Yet it gives back nothing but love.

Most weeks I’ll be at the CAR mothership at least twice, which means a 240-mile round trip on each occasion. A thousand miles in a week isn’t that remarkable but you probably wouldn’t choose to squeeze it into two days. And let’s be honest, you probably wouldn’t choose to do it in an economy-focused hybrid vehicle either, right?

Sometimes there will be something else in the car park that seduces with the promise of increased comfort or performance, or even both. But frequently, what can often appear to be a better tool for the job falls foul of two obvious issues. Namely the fallacy that a faster car will get you home quicker, and secondly that a bigger, comfier car usually needs fuel more often.

Toyota Prius hybrid long-term test review: not a fan of petrol stations

It’s an extreme example of course, but the other week I took home the latest Bentley Mulsanne, which shares the four doors and four wheels template of the Prius but just about nothing else. On the drive home, its 6.75-litre V8 dispatched all kinds of riff-raff with ease, my buttocks were both warmed and massaged (you’re welcome) by the finest leather seat and my ears assaulted by incredible Naim audio. Yet I spent most of the journey watching in terror as it drank fuel – the Mulsanne swallowed over £60 for a return journey. Even if you drain the Prius’s tank until it’s running on nothing but optimism you won’t squeeze more than £44 of unleaded into it, and that’ll take you over 500 miles. 

Not needing to stop is sometimes as good as going faster in the first place, as Aesop will attest. And a billion horsepower is a complete waste of time when the outside lane of the entire motorway is filled with people who will stay in lane three until they drive into the sea.

The Prius also sits in something of a sweet spot on the performance spectrum. We’ll not do it the disservice of pretending it’s fast but, if you really want to, you can let the 1.8-litre motor roar along at peak revs and keep up with the faster motorway madness. But it gently discourages you from doing so, and without realising it makes you wonder what the point of rushing is. Engage the radar-guided cruise control, shuffle down into the comfortable seat and relax a little. The JBL stereo costs a fraction of the Bentley’s Naim system but will thump your skull or serenade you with equal enthusiasm.

There’s fun to be had in the preservation of momentum too. Electric power steering means there isn’t a huge amount of feel, but the skinny eco tyres mean it steers sweetly, and you can pretend it’s all in the name of economy as you kiss the apex on three wheels. 

Don’t let anyone tell you driving a Prius can’t be a laugh.

By Matt Joy

Toyota Prius: long-term test review

Logbook: Toyota Prius Excel

Engine 1798cc 16v 4-cyl, 97bhp @ 5200rpm, 105lb ft @ 3600rpm, e-motor 71bhp, 120lb ft
Gearbox Electric CVT, fwd
Stats 10.6sec 0-62mph, 112mph, 94.2mpg, 76g/km CO2
Price £27,755
As tested £28,300
Miles this month 2539
Total 9258
Our mpg 55.17
Official mpg 94.2
Fuel £291.44
Extra costs £0


Month 5 living with a Toyota Prius: an in-depth look at our hybrid hero's green credentials

Lightning

I'm the worst person here for accusing the Prius of being a style-free zone, but then I approach it from the rear and catch sight of the tail lights. Mimicking a bolt of lightning striking the ground, they're a smart piece of design and wouldn't look out of place on Toyota's wacky new C-HR.

Economising

Toyota Prius long-term test wheels

These wheels are a no-cost option on the Excel spec car. At 15 inches (rather than the standard 17) they cut fuel consumption thanks to less rolling resistance and better aero. But they look a little pedestrian, and I wonder whether the bigger wheels would help the looks without much mpg pain.

Regenerating

Toyota Prius long-term test lever

Frequent use of the gearlever is required if you want to get the best out of the Prius. Flicking into B mode sounds like a racer type thing to do but it actually just winds up the engine braking, crucial for feeding energy back into the cells. I just wish it, or my left arm, was a couple of inches longer.

Prodding

Toyota Prius long-term test energy monitor

The info-heavy screen generally operates well, save for the fact that it can be fussy about your digital accuracy. Swish though the black bezel is, you can end up pressing the screen when you're just trying to lean some fingers on it. Dainty pinkies would help.

By Matt Joy

Logbook: Toyota Prius Excel

Engine 1798cc 16v 4-cyl, 97bhp @ 5200rpm, 105lb ft @ 3600rpm, e-motor 71bhp, 120lb ft
Gearbox Electric CVT, fwd
Stats 10.6sec 0-62mph, 112mph, 94.2mpg, 70g/km CO2
Price £27,755
As tested £28,300
Miles this month 1548
Total 6719
Our mpg 56.6
Official mpg 94.2 
Fuel £192.43
Extra costs None


Month 4 living with a Toyota Prius: who’s dragged fuel economy down to 41mpg?

Like a robotised left-shoulder angel the Prius is always gently encouraging you to do the right thing. Especially in the shared household that is the CAR office, it’s handy to know what fuel consumption people are hitting.

Flip through the multiple menus and you can access the Eco Diary, which can tell you the consumption achieved every day for last two months.

When I’ve cross-referenced this with the office diary, whoever achieved an embarrassing 41.4mpg on the 9th is going to get a stiff letter from HR.

That must have been quite a speedy thrash. Happily, our overall Toyota Prius economy is averaging a much more saintly 66.8mpg. 

By Matt Joy

Logbook: Toyota Prius Excel

Engine 1798cc 16v 4-cyl, 97bhp @ 5200rpm, 105lb ft @ 3600rpm, e-motor 71bhp, 120lb ft
Gearbox Electric CVT, fwd
Stats 10.6sec 0-62mph, 112mph, 94.2mpg, 70g/km CO2
Price £27,755
As tested £28,300
Miles this month 1230
Total 5468
Our mpg 66.8 
Official mpg 94.2 
Fuel £104.65
Extra costs None


Month 3 running a Toyota Prius: the wife's verdict

Marital harmony isn’t a job, it’s a lifetime’s vocation, and one that should be entered into reverently, soberly and in the fear of God. I would stay a long way away from saying that my better half is difficult to please; more that she has exacting tastes and is forthright in her opinions. Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to cars, where old is gold, eight cylinders is a minimum and sub-400bhp equals irrelevance. A keeper, then. 

Selling her the idea of the Prius as the main mode of transport for a whole year was something of a stealth mission, as the frequent reappearance of a non-Lamborghini red wedge on the driveway was arousing suspicion.

The CAR magazine Toyota Prius long-term test review

But I need not have worried. A busy couple of weeks spent scurrying around the country was the perfect window for the Prius to sell its mood-enhancing qualities. A long motorway journey is the time to shine; dial in a sensible and relatively hushed 70mph on the radar cruise control, flick the heated seats on and select a suitable DAB station so that the JBL system’s inherent quality comes through. It’s like a zen garden rendered in bio-degradable plastics.

‘I’m not disliking this’ was high praise indeed. The Prius might seem undesirable because it’s offering something different; if sex sells then selling the idea of chastity is always going to be… er, hard. You don’t need to be a 100% dyed-in-the-hessian greenie to want a relaxing holiday, so what’s wrong with owning a relaxing car?

I also have to thank reader George Mitchell, who quite rightly pointed out that our Prius, despite being an Excel spec has actually had the standard 17-inch alloy wheels junked for the boggo 15-inch steels. It might not seem like much but it cuts the official CO2 figure to 70g/km.

By Matt Joy

Logbook: Toyota Prius Excel

Engine 1798cc 16v 4-cyl, 97bhp @ 5200rpm, 105lb ft @ 3600rpm, e-motor 71bhp, 120lb ft 
Gearbox Electric CVT, fwd 
Stats 10.6sec 0-62mph, 112mph, 85.6mpg, 76g/km CO2
Price £27,755  As tested £28,300
Miles this month 1699 
Total 4238
Our mpg 62.7 
Official mpg 85.6
Fuel £61.29 
Extra costs None


Month 2 running a Toyota Prius hybrid: competitive eco driving

It must be something I said. Since last month I’ve barely set foot in the Prius on account of having to drive a multitude of other bits and bobs, but in truth there’s been plenty of times when I’ve missed its relaxed demeanour. Lewis Kingston has spent much of the intervening  period driving it instead, and he’s clearly been missing his own hybrid – a BMW i8 – because the Prius’s economy has plummeted under his leaden right foot. 56mpg? You’d get more than that on a fast lap of Silverstone.

The CAR magazine Toyota Prius

Brief dalliances with other cars have also shone a bright light on the Prius’ abilities, but it comes away from such examinations well. The notion of a car being deliberately unsporty seems like anathema to both marketeers and us punters, but it doesn’t take long for the hybrid’s charms to get to work on you. In fact I can recommend it as an antidote to the stresses of modern life. Getting into a 2.2-tonne SUV at the end of a hard day driving a desk can’t be good for anyone, but the Prius’ unhurried approach encourages you to do the same.

Niggles are present but hardly soul-destroying. The looks haven’t improved with time or familiarity, an attempt to disguise them with a thick layer of winter grime hasn’t helped either. Unfortunately for my sponge it’s definitely one of those cars that needs to stay clean. It’s as solidly built as you’d expect from Toyota but the doors still shut with a faint clang, although this is more likely on account of a frugal weight policy than any corner cutting in Tsutsumi.

By Matt Joy


Month 1 running a Toyota Prius: an introduction

‘Welcome to CAR!’ said Phil the Editor. ‘And here’s your long-term Toyota Prius.’ Some paraphrasing may have taken place here, and although it might seem otherwise my installation as the official CAR newbie and the custody of this Prius long-termer are entirely coincidental. There were more seductive options potentially on the table, but for a variety of reasons I was happy to stick my hand up and volunteer to command green ship Toyota for the next 12 months.

Firstly, a hefty dose of realism was required. I may hold the keys to the long-term fleet cupboard but I’m certainly not the one signing off on fuel bills. My commute is a lengthy stumble compared to Chris Chilton’s six-county odyssey but the grim truth was that I needed a car averse to collecting Tiger Tokens, putting the Prius right in the frame. I also have to accommodate children, and until a carmaker realises that Homer Simpson was on to something with ‘The Homer’ and its separate bubble domes for you and your kids, a three-seat rear was the minimum requirement.

But more than anything the Prius appealed simply because I was fascinated to see if it was still relevant in the here and now of 2017. It’s exactly 20 years since the first generation Prius went on sale in Japan and brought the radical idea of hybrid power to the masses, but in those two decades the powertrain landscape has changed dramatically. Diesel hybrid, PHEVs, BEVs, HFCVs, WTFs; you can almost imagine the incredulity of a young person buying one as their first car in a decade’s time: ‘What? You mean you can’t plug it in?’ A Betamax moment isn’t out of the question.

If the Prius is trying to win my affections I’d have to say its face isn’t showing it. Depending where you stand on the politeness/honesty scale its visage could be described as anything from ‘interesting’ to ‘victim of failed experiment’, the theme continuing along the sharply-defined flanks and the Kammiest of tails. All this in the pursuit of aerodynamics of course, rewarded with a highly impressive Cd of 0.24. Looking at its more-glamorous Mirai sister however, you have to assume the Prius is the one with the nice personality.

Toyota Prius 2017 interior

Maybe in part because of the looks, climbing inside the Prius is a welcoming experience. For whatever reason truly modern design seems to work better for interiors, because it feels fresh and separate in here. A pod sprouts from the centre of the dash and houses the infotainment and climate controls as well as the stubby gearlever and drive mode settings. It might sound ungainly but with the comprehensive instrument display sitting beneath the windscreen you have a great view out and an uncluttered expanse of dashboard behind the wheel. It’s the antithesis of the sporty driver-focused cockpit and has a calming effect, which is just as well.

This Prius came in top-spec Excel guise which automatically bucked the trend of Our Cars being loaded with extras; the sole add-on was the inappropriately-named Hypersonic Red paint at £545. The specification is beyond comprehensive, taking in things you’d expect such as auto lights and wipers and 17-inch alloy wheels, but adding in some pleasant surprises. The wireless charging pad has already been well used, the JBL sound system is pleasingly at odds with the Prius’s environmental concerns and safety kit like the rear cross traffic alert and parking assist are rarely standard fit on cars at this price. Leather is standard although our car’s is finished in black rather than the grey, which would have brought a lighter feel to the coal face.

In some ways the driving experience is of secondary importance. This is, after all, a car you buy because of its fuel efficiency or to make some kind of statement (something else open to interpretation) but having already covered over a thousand miles it has proved to be a pleasant surprise. There’s still an Atkinson-cycle 1.8-litre four-cylinder motor attached to a CVT gearbox but it’s clearly more refined than in the old car. Demands for acceleration are best kept reasonable, but should you ask for the moon it will punt itself forward, albeit accompanied by the expected high-rev drone. This will not be happening often.

Best of all, the Prius is already doing what it was designed to do. There are simply billions of displays telling you what the drivetrain is up to, what your current consumption is and even a rating out of 100 for your economy skills. Despite the occasional meeting of throttle and carpet it has effectively refused to indicate less than 60mpg on any given day; old-fashioned calculations show an average of 57.4mpg across the month. Some way short of the official 85.6mpg figure of course, but this mid-sized five-seater petrol car is barely run in.

At some point I will unleash the ultra-competitive idiot that lurks barely beneath the surface in my quest for exceptional fuel consumption figures, but until then the Prius will go on resisting my disrespect for its reason to be and probably continue to deliver 60mpg in the process. It’s already won a good deal of respect as a result.

How we specced our Prius:

  • Standard equipment: Excel spec means Toyota Touch 2 with Go navigation, JBL sound system, Wi-Fi and voice recognition. It’s not for the technophobe.
  • Options: There aren’t any, other than rear-seat entertainment and Black or Chrome packs which won’t turn it into a beauty queen. Best skip ’em.
  • Wheels: 17-inch wheels standard on Business Plus and Excel versions. A phonecall to TRD may be required.

Logbook: Toyota Prius Excel

Engine 1798cc 16v 4-cyl, 97bhp @ 5200rpm, 105lb ft @ 3600rpm, e-motor 71bhp, 120lb ft
Gearbox Electric CVT, fwd
Stats 10.6sec 0-62mph, 112mph, 85.6mpg, 76g/km CO2
Price £27,755  As tested £28,300 
Miles this month 1259  Total 1401 
Our mpg 57.4  Official mpg 85.6 
Fuel £125.48 
Extra costs £0

By Matt Joy

Matt Joy and Toyota Prius

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