CAR is in Sweden to drive the new Toyota Prius – the new for 2009 petrol-electric hybrid car. Amazingly, Toyota is on its third-generation Prius while the rest of the world plays catch-up. But has it cracked the hybrid car question? Read Ben Barry's live blog as we report live from the launch this afternoon. NB start at the bottom and work your way up!
Wednesday 10 June 2009: Toyota Prius launch (all times local UK BST)
5.51pm: It's a wrap
That's our live blog over for today. Come back to CAR Online in a few days for our full web review – and we'll have an in-depth feature in a future copy of CAR Magazine too.
5.47pm: More photos before dinner
We're about to embark on more panning shots for the magazine piece we're shooting. I could be some time. My thoughts so far? The new, third-generation Prius is really, really good. Much better than the previous two models – and probably the most convincing hybrid I've tested yet in the real world. Of course, we haven't yet tested the economy which remains the acid (battery) test. But in terms of driveability, comfort and ease of use, the new Prius hits the mark. No wonder rivals are struggling to keep up with Toyota's lead.
5.40pm: We're off again
That's better. I can confirm that Swedish police are as polite as you'd imagine them to be. He's interested in our hybrid, too.
5.32pm: A run-in with the Swedish police
Ah, Plod. Yes, I'm not quite sure why we were going the wrong way down a one-way street either. I'm English, see? Yes, I'm awfully sorry. Sir. I won't do it again. No. And it's not my car. Err. [Cue frantic licence waving and a much-loved, dog-eared copy of CAR Magazine. It does the trick]
5.23pm: Stockholm in the rush hour
A good test for the Prius: we're crawling around the city, testing the limits of the EV mode. And we're impressed. It drives in electric mode much more frequently than any other hybrid I've driven, and we've seen up to 42kph on the speedo in eery, zero-emissions mode. You get slushy, gloopy throttle response, though – which can make for interesting roundabout action.
5.03pm: Prius taxis galore
You see that bright yellow Prius in the photo gallery? There are plenty of Mk2s around Stockholm. They love a good eco car round these parts, you see.
4.52pm: Twitter ahoy!
This being the digital age and every car manufacturer wanting to out-gizmo each other, Toyota are asking us to Tweet as we go. We're supposed to be telling the engineers what we think as we drive. Sounds dangerous to me!
4.47pm: Digital overload
I haven't been too bamboozled by science in the Prius. And that's a good thing. It might be fiendishly complex under the skin, but I don't want to be faced by anything more offputting than a PRND stick and an EV button. So far so good. Mind you, I've been ignoring the centre display – or the Piety Panel, as we've dubbed it. When we next stop, I'm going to study the graphics more closely to understand how they relay the battery charge info. This is crucial info for the enviro-warriors who drive these things, surely?
4.33pm: The sensible stuff
Super Stu's camera gear has totally filled the boot – my overnight bag has been relegated to the rear seat. But I can sit behind myself (I'm 6ft 2in) and the front seatbacks are sculpted out for legroom. It's pretty acceptable in the rear, positively gargantuan in the front.
4.21pm: CVT is OTT
As ever, the new Prius's CVT auto box is pretty thrashy when you nail it. But with the jump up from 1.5 to 1.8 litres, the new Prius engine is pretty relaxed. You don't have to rev it too hard for decent progress.
4.11pm: En route to Riala
We're out of town and finally encounter some corners. Not that the Prius is a B-road blaster, you understand. But we just have to chuck it into a corner to see what happens. Cue body lurch, scrubbing understeer – but no embarrassment. The Prius is by far the most 'car-like' of any hybrid I've yet driven. It's also very difficult to tell when it flicks between electric and petrol mode. It's bloody quiet and sound insulation is brilliant.
3.52pm: Give way shenanigans
Woops! Snapper Stu just had a near miss at a give way sign. Swedish road markings appear to be, ahem, a little different to ours!
3.47pm: Surprise no.1 – the Prius rides really well
We're in a top-spec car with leather and 17in wheels, but have been promised a go in a more lowly model sporting 15s later. It rides really well, even on the bigger rims. Might not set any records, but it's better than the Honda (again. I sense a theme developing). It's no mean feat with all that weight and batteries and gubbins upsetting the balance.
3.30pm: First driving impressions
Done our first few kilometres in the new Prius and I'm impressed. It feels way better than the Insight I drove down to Heathrow this morning. Where the Insight rarely drives in electric EV mode, the Prius barely started its engine in the first few miles. Eventually the battery gave up and flashed up a message we were going too fast and had a choice of Eco or Power modes. We chose the former. So far our route has been in 50 and 70kph zones and we're regularly running in EV mode. Very saintly.
2.56pm: A line of very white Prii awaits
No, I still don't know the collective noun for a group of Prius hybrids (a halo? A battery?). Whatever, there's a row of virgin white cars waiting at the front of the airport. No need for the customary fight between magazines to get the most photogenic colours, then. We'll take a white one, thanks.
2.30pm: We've landed in Stockholm
CAR has landed safely in Sweden and snapper Stuart Collins' photographic gear appears to be in one piece. Time to schmooze our way through customs and get in the car.
11.30am: En route to Heathrow
Have driven down to London's busiest airport – the roads seem to be no worse than usual despite the capital's Tube strikes today. I've come down in CAR's long-term Honda Insight, to tee me up into hybrid frame of mind. And I don't rate the Insight much: it rides badly, steers with the precision of an MP's expenses claim and – worst of all – fails to perform in the fuel economy department, averaging thirty-something mpg.
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