Toyota Prius +

3 Jun, 2011 7:00pm Peter Lyon

New seven-seat hybrid promises to build on the success of big-selling hatch.

Verdict

4
A SEVEN-seat Prius boasting super-low running costs sounds like a winning formula on paper – and the newest addition to Toyota’s hybrid range stacks up equally well on the road. The extra seating, space and comfort will appeal to families looking for an alternative to a regular MPV. Although the price appears high, it’s in the same bracket as a Ford S-MAX, which doesn’t benefit from road tax-free motoring.

IT would be an understatement 
to say that hybrid cars are serious business at Toyota. Amazingly, 14 years have passed since the first Prius arrived on the market, and Japan’s leading manufacturer is so happy with the two million 
global sales of its petrol-electric hatchback that it now plans to expand the Prius line-up. And rumour has it, create its own Prius brand in the process.

At the base of Mount Fuji, Japan, Auto Express had the chance to try the first new 
addition to the Prius range. And this new, bigger Prius+ might 
just be the car Toyota should have launched all those years ago. Why? Simply put, the new seven-seater MPV answers all 
of the criticisms that have been aimed at the standard version over the past decade.

It’s bigger, has more head 
and legroom, boasts improved luggage space and is better to drive. We think it’s more pleasing on the eye, too, with the higher roofline and MPV-style tailgate providing the appearance of a modern-day people carrier.

Those extra dimensions 
make all the difference inside. The Prius+ is 155mm longer, 30mm wider and 110mm taller than the standard model, while the wheelbase stretches by 80mm. Obviously, you can’t enlarge a car and make it lighter and more fuel efficient at the same time. Those revisions, including the newly 
fitted lithium-ion battery pack, result in the Prius+ being 110kg heavier than the hatchback.

As result, fuel economy falls from 50mpg to around 42mpg, according to Toyota’s claims. However, emissions are likely 
to be less than 100g/km, so as with the standard car, the Prius+ will be exempt from road tax.
This, combined with the extra space on offer, will be enough for many buyers to accept the slight drop in fuel economy over the regular version.

There’s certainly 
no lack of punch, either. Power comes from the same 98bhp 
1.8-litre petrol engine/battery-electric set-up as in the hatch. And due to revisions to the final drive ratio, this combination means the seven-seater can sprint from 0-60mph in the 
same time of 10.4 seconds.

The longer wheelbase has helped the Prius+ make some significant leaps forward in terms of driver appeal. For a start, the steering is more precise. Chief engineer Hiroshi Kayukawa told us: “By giving the front springs and dampers their own bushings and replacing the front aluminium knuckles with rigid steel items, we’ve improved the handling.”

But his secret weapon is a new gadget called Pitch and Bounce Control. This allows the electric motor to increase or reduce torque output to cleverly counterbalance imperfections in the road. As a result, the Prius+ remains flat and more stable in corners. It’s no Ford S-MAX, so keen 
drivers should look elsewhere, but the set-up makes it a very comfortable car to drive, and 
be driven in. Bigger brakes help to inspire confidence, too.

The extra room makes the Prius+ more comfortable over longer family trips, while the 
luggage area provides a similar amount of space to the Ford: 
971 litres with the seats in place, or 1,897 litres with them folded.
In fact, the only issue we see with the car could be its price. Customers will be expected to pay a £3,000 premium over the hatch, taking it to nearly £24,000.

Disqus - noscript

Should this not be called the 'Prius Verso'?

Personally I like it but I cannot see why I would buy one if it only does 42mpg. Yes the tax may be free but there are diesel seven seaters from VW and Ford that more MPG and are cheaper.

I like the normal Prius but this has a more contemporary look to it and with the extra practicality I can see this selling well.

My new Grand Ford C Max will do 48 mpg over all road types and 52 if I take it easy, the road tax is only 90 pounds so not sure that this is a great improvement. Also you cannot tow anything with a Prius.

Yet again, another car that looks as if the whole design budget was blown on the front half.

Why does modern car design lavish such attention on the front, then run out of ideas for the rear quarters and bung a hastily conceived hatch on the rear?

Having recently bought a Prius hatch (and, a few niggles aside, am VERY happy with it) I think this will sell well.

No disrespect to IronChicken and gregtheegg1 above, but it's around town where the Prius excels. I'd be very surprised if there are any comparably sized vehicles that can beat the Prius AROUND TOWN. I've retired so almost all of driving is now city and suburbia. And I estimate that my Prius has cut my fuel bill by a good 40% compared to my previous BMW 120 diesel. Out on the open road, give me my old BMW, but not in town, thank you!

The Prius+ will be ideal for those who spend most of their time in town and want a spacious car.

And yet again, these blogs wouldn't be complete without some girly comment of "it's not very pretty, is it?"

Quintilian started out by providing an informative opinion then sadly betrayed no capacity for personal integrity and credibility whatsoever by resorting to a childish dismissal of a fellow blogger who clearly he doesn't agree with.

What a shame...

FloatingVoter,

I apologise if I have caused offence. But would you be kind enough to explain why "it is clear that I don't agree with you"? Since I have made NO comments whatsoever about the prettiness of the back of the car, I'm curious how you come to that conclusion.

I often read these blogs and there's usually some good, sound, thoughtful comments on them. The first three here are good examples; I don't know whether gregtheegg1 is correct when he says ' you cannot tow anything with a Prius' (I suspect he isn't) but it certainly adds something to the discussion.

But what ruins so many threads are the inevitable comments that "it doesn't look very nice". These are not constructive comments. They have no real meaning. They do not add to the debate. They are shallow beyond belief. I doubt if even one person in a million cares if a total stranger thinks the rear of a particular car looks nice or not.

I gave it a childish dismissal because, let's be honest, it is a childish comment.

And what makes it worse in your specific case is that in your latest comment you come across as an intelligent, thoughtful person who is perfectly capable of making comments of substantially greater depth. Don't waste your talent, my friend!

I provided the only personal aesthetic assessment on the car thus far.

You then said 'these blogs wouldn't be complete without some girly comment of "it's not very pretty, is it?"

Then you follow up with "Since I have made NO comments whatsoever about the prettiness of the back of the car..."

That's you exonerated, then - puh-lease.

Don't insult anyone's intelligence here. If opinions about a car's looks were disregarded by any manfacturer, they would go out of business within a few years.

Bait someone else, not me, I just call it as it is. You may disagree with me, all I ask is that you afford me the courtesy of respecting my opinion, rather than not just dismissing me but going onto record to describe me as "girly".

How silly is that?.

Not sure where this 50 figure comes from. Actual average is 64.2 mpg. The normal Prius is 70-72mpg (depending on which wheel size it has).

To those that said a Grand C-Max would do better - this isn't correct.

Key specs

* Price: £23,850 (est)
* Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl petrol-electric hybrid, 98bhp
* Transmission: CVT automatic, front-wheel drive
* 0-60mph: 10.4 seconds
* Top speed: 110mph (est)
* Combined economy: 42.8mpg
* CO2: Sub-100g/km
* Equipment: Bluetooth connectivity, climate control, cruise control, rear parking sensors, alloy wheels
* On sale: 2012

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