Better to drive, with increased efficiency and plug-in option
- Class-leading efficiency
- Plug-in’s 30-mile EV range
- Distinctive design
- Generously equipped
- Comfortable cabin and ride
- Won’t sate keener drivers
- Pale interior colours may age quickly
- Getting expensive, especially Plug-in
- Plug-in only has four seats
There’s no escaping the striking, low-slung appearance of the fourth-generation Toyota Prius hatchback; whether as standard with low nose and vertical ribbon-shaped lights front and rear or in Plug-in form with its horizontal light design.
There remain few players in the hybrid-specific segments of the market with the Hyundai Ioniq, Kia Niro and its premium in-house rival, the Lexus CT, the new Prius’s most obvious competition. The Toyota C-HR is another in-house hybrid alternative.
Hybrid – and Plug-in – versions of otherwise conventional cars are beginning to proliferate, offering further challenges to the Prius: petrol-electric derivatives of the BMW 3 Series, Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat pose a threat to the Toyota, as does the Audi A3 e-Tron.
Plus there’s the inescapable truth that since its introduction the much cheaper Toyota Auris hybrid has eaten away at the Prius’s popularity.
Dramatically styled hybrid and Plug-in
Gone are the MPV-esque looks of the previous two models, replaced by something altogether slinkier and, if we’re honest, busier in terms of styling details. The Plug-in’s simpler design is a little less controversial, meanwhile.
Not only is the car 20mm lower than before, it’s 60mm longer lending it a sleeker form, cleaving the air with impressively little resistance – boosting economy and reducing wind noise.
The bonnet line is much lower – Toyota’s at pains to point out the nose badge sits at the same height as the GT86 coupe’s – improving forward visibility in the process. More of a talking point are the unusually shaped, oversized lights at either end, illuminated in part with LED technology.
The Plug-in version gets a slightly more conventional look at the front with its horizontal lights, while the back features swooping units that extend across the whole width of the car. The contoured ‘double bubble’ glass on the hatchback is distinctive, too.
Introduced on the 2004-09 Prius, the split rear window arrangement continues, with a more dramatic spoiler sitting atop a convex lower screen. Despite the horizontal plane in your rear-view mirror it doesn’t hamper visibility significantly.
Choice between hybrid and Plug-in versions
Whichever Toyota Prius derivative you opt for, all are powered by a 1.8-litre petrol engine working in conjunction with electric assistance. The hybrid model features one motor, which allied with the engine produces 123hp, with up to 163Nm of torque instantly available. Meanwhile the Plug-in version gains an additional motor, though it produces the same overall power.
Stick to 15-inch wheels – standard on lower trims and a reduced-cost option on higher ones and the only option for plug-in models – for the greatest efficiency. Toyota claims an impressive 94.1mpg average and emissions of just 70g/km of CO2. Keep the higher-specs’ 17-inchers on and those numbers change to 85.6mpg and 76g/km.
Despite low emissions – which drop to 22g/km for the Prius Plug-in Hybrid – both cars will attract the standard VED car tax rate.
Toyota’s worked to improve the hybrid system’s effectiveness, notably with the battery pack, located under the rear seat to liberate more boot space and recharging 28 percent more quickly.
More electric power’s used to propel the Prius too, allowing it to get up to urban speeds quicker; accelerate hard when joining motorway traffic and you still get the characteristic Prius engine noise – due to the CVT automatic gearbox holding the petrol engine at high speeds – although admittedly it’s less intrusive than before.
The Plug-in hybrid, on the other hand, has been optimised for electric running, with boosted electric range – with an official figure of 39 miles – encouraging drivers to charge up more often.
Generously equipped trim levels
From launch, the latest Toyota Prius is available in four specification grades, of which the top two can be selected on the Plug-in model – Business Edition Plus and Excel.
Even entry-level Active trim features dual-zone climate control, LED headlights, DAB radio and adaptive cruise control. Additionally there’s a raft of active safety technology to help minimise the risk of an accident occurring as well as useful features such as self-parking and a clear head-up display system projecting your speed and a display showing how economically you’re driving onto the windscreen.
Toyota Prius hatchback model history
- November 2015 – Fourth-generation Prius hybrid available to order for March 2016 delivery, with very distinctive styling. All models are powered by a 1.8-litre petrol engine working in conjunction with an electric motor sending power to the front wheels via a CVT automatic transmission. The trim structure follows contemporary Toyota conventions of Active, Business Edition, Business Edition Plus and Excel.
- March 2017 – Prius Plug-in hybrid launched with a claimed electric-only range of up to 30 miles. Front- and rear-end styling is dramatically different from regular Priuses, and it’s only available in the more expensive Business Edition Plus and Excel specifications.