Motorhub went to Hamburg to test drive the new Toyota Prius PHEV. With sales of over five million since its launch in late 1997 the petrol hybrid Prius has become the iconic ‘hybrid’. In subsequent years Toyota has pioneered and mastered the hybrid powertrain – using it in many of its cars (76% of Toyota’s sales in Europe are electrified). The latest Prius finds itself carving out a niche in the Toyota range as a highly efficient best of both worlds plug in hybrid or PHEV. The new, fifth generation Prius PHEV sits on the latest GA-C platform and represents a big leap forward for the hybrid icon in numerous areas. New Prius has much more power with its 2 litre four cylinder engine and hybrid motor producing a combined 223hp. There is improved suspension, impressive styling and slippery aerodynamics on the outside too. Inside there is a host of new tech, driving aids, plus increased comfort levels in the cabin. That’s a lot of good news for customers but there is bad news too, in Ireland, the single grade car costs €45,900 – that’s is a serious amount of money for any car – let alone a Prius. We put the car through its paces to see if all the improvements can justify the asking price.
The front wheel drive Prius has a beautiful body – now there’s a phrase I never thought I’d say about a Prius! The curvy car is clearly aerodynamic with a lower stance and a longer wheelbase. Prius features just the right amount of sci-fi space age styling to make it look like it was design for the movies, as a writer’s vision for transport for the masses. The new sleeker Prius shape helps it cut through the air and on the open road this helps deliver a very quiet cabin. Toyoyta quotes an emissions figure of 16g/km CO2 for 2-litre Prius PHEV and the petrol savings and excellent fuel economy are a given. The new car gets a 13.6kWh rechargeable battery that allows the five-seater cover up to 86km on electric power alone at speeds up to 130km/h. The battery has been moved to under the rear seat from under the boot to free up more cargo space and allow the fuel tank to be repositioned also.
On the road Prius PHEV is brisk thanks to the jump in power output. 0-100km/h takes just 6.8 seconds… 6.8 seconds – in a Prius!!! With every generation of new Toyota hybrid criticism of its whiny automatic e-CVT gearbox lessens. In the new Prius when you put your foot to the floor for some hard acceleration there is nearly no “is the clutch slipping?” joke to be made. The car moves virtually at the same pace as the engine note suggests – bringing the horizon closer at a new rapid rate. New Prius is dynamically a superior driving machine to the outgoing model – buy some distance. Early on in testing I found myself slowing down too much for bends as I anticipated more traditional Prius ‘average’ road holding and ride quality, but the new car has an increased confidence and will tackle corners with gusto. The car has four button selectable driving modes that include forced battery charging (for when you’re heading towards a zero emissions zone and need to be able to run in EV mode).
Standard equipment on the Prius is impressive with some highlights being: a digital rear view mirror, ventilated front seats, safety ambient lighting – that alerts those exiting to cyclists or pedestrians close by. Prius also features an updated Road Sign Assist System that will become mandatory in all new cars in the EU from July 2024. One feature Ireland won’t be taking that is available on Prius in some markets, is the solar power roof. This vinyl roof-like feature can generate as much as 8.7km worth of EV range in a single day in sunny climes.
The new Prius PHEV makes a lot of sense. It is really well styled and the first truly desirable Prius there has been. I remember driving the original mark 1 Prius when it arrived in the late 90s for TV show in Ireland, and while I was impressed by what Toyota was trying to do with its innovative hybrid system there was no escaping – the car was as ugly as sin. The new Toyota Prius is a very good looking car with a lot going for it. The burning question is will buyers be prepared to spend 46 grand on a Prius? We say they should, the new Toyota Prius PHEV impressed us – a lot.