Toyota Prius T Spirit

World’s best-selling hybrid continues to impress

No other maker has put more effort or expense into developing hybrid technology than Toyota. In fact, thanks to its luxury arm, Lexus, the Japanese giant is represented twice in our eco test.

But perhaps more importantly, the popularity of the Prius – the most successful production hybrid vehicle in the world, with more than 750,000 sold globally – has helped to raise the profile of environmentally friendly vehicles.

It’s better looking than its Honda Civic IMA rival. With the launch of superminis such as the Polo Bluemotion, though, it can no longer claim to be the world’s cleanest passenger car.

Still, it is one of the cleverest. The technology is complex, but the theory is simple. Power comes from two sources: a 1.5-litre petrol engine and an electric motor. The battery for the latter is topped up by the engine or by harnessing the energy released from braking, so it never needs to be recharged externally. A dashboard display shows you what’s doing the work.

Driving on battery power alone takes some getting used to, yet makes perfect sense in town. Up the pace, and economy suffers on A-roads – not helped by the CVT gearbox, which keeps revs high. The Toyota managed 41.5mpg with us, which lags behind most of the class’s oil-burners.

But the Prius is comfortable and composed on the move, and is a better choice than the Civic. Unlike the Lexus GS450h, the family hatchback’s luggage space isn’t hampered by large batteries, and rear passenger room is impressive. The stumbling block is the cost – even the entry model is £17,782. While it’s undoubtedly clever, buyers are paying a high price for green motoring.

Details

Price: £20,682Model tested: Prius T Spirit

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