3.7.2012 Toyota Prius+ T4 review
For our road conditions the Prius+ is an acquired taste and effort is needed to obtain good fuel figures. With a huge share of the Japanese market, where Toyota sells 25,000 Priuses a month (about 10,000 are the Prius+), and worldwide Prius sales of 2.6 million since 1997, it's rather a surprise it has taken so long for an MPV version.
However, because it's only slightly bigger than the normal car it's best thought of as a more spacious five-seater with a larger boot that has occasional rear kiddy seats when the boot space isn't required. Interior ambience is disappointing considering the car's price. The Prius remains a car that is a 'white goods' item for transport, rather than an enjoyable drive.
Review by Russell Bray for nextgreencar.com
Despite the extra size and weight of this longer MPV version of the Prius, Toyota uses the same 98 bhp 1.8 litre petrol engine and 81 bhp electric motor as in other models. Helping to compensate is a higher energy density lithium-ion battery pack that is 50% smaller and 8 kg lighter than the nickel-metal-hydride batteries powering the electric motor in other Priuses. A shorter final drive gear ratio has also been employed to improve acceleration but you would never call it a sporty car. Acceleration to 62 mph takes 11.3 seconds and top speed is 103 mph. With a continuously variable automatic transmission keeping the engine in its most efficient rev range the impression is of driving a hyper active Dyson vacuum cleaner powered car.
That the Prius+ is happiest travelling in straight lines in town or on motorways tells you all you need to know about the car's cornering abilities. You always feel you are sitting on it, rather than in it, and that the steering wheel isn't connected to anything important. Add the lower cornering grip of the low rolling resistance tyres and through a downhill bend you find yourself glad there are electronics waiting in the wings to maintain your chosen trajectory. Body lean through bends is pretty well controlled. A new "pitch and bounce control" system attempts to cope with the instant torque, or push, of the electric motor, easing the power if the nose of car rises over a bump and increasing if it dips. It didn't feel that convincing.
By MPV standards the Toyota Prius+ is low and sleek and instantly recognizable as a member of the Prius family. It's only 135 mm longer, 80 mm behind the rear wheels, than the standard car and that's both its strength and weakness because it is easy to park (great colour review camera) but there isn't as much interior space as you might expect in an MPV. Space for a third row of child suitable foldaway seats has been made possible by shifting the new, smaller battery pack to a console between the front seats. With all seats in use there's only room for a couple of overnight bags in the boot area. Cabins tend to be a sea of different grey colour brightened only by a black and silver centre console and steering wheel. The Prius+ sits 4615 mm in length and 1775 mm wide.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Those in the front seats get the best deal; space in the middle row and third row is cramped even though there's more room in the middle section than in a standard Prius. The front seats would also benefit from more adjustment.
The centrally mounted digital instrumentation is easy enough to see but you would think a company as conservative and logical as Toyota would put it directly in front of the driver. Ride comfort feels better than a standard Prius but is still firm and jars over poor surfaces. Simple things like adjusting the trip mileage are fiddly to find.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The official figures say a Prius+ achieves 74.3 mpg round town (handy in horrific Japanese traffic) and 68.9 mpg overall. Sharing on a test drive in Austria and Slovakia with a colleague and with very few inclines our car returned 45.5 mpg. Toyota claimed other drivers had managed 50 to 55 mpg. CO2 emissions for the T4 are 96 g/km which frees owners from road fund licence charges and the London congestion charge, but T Spirit models record 101 g/km and so incur £20 a year road tax after a free first year. The daily congestion charge is also payable. The Prius+ comes with a five year, 100,000 mile warranty.
During braking or deceleration the electric motor works as a high-output generator to recover kinetic energy normally lost as heat and stores it in the electric battery. Low rolling resistance tyres, automatic engine start-stop, a wind cheating shape, relatively light weight, electrically assisted power steering and minimal use of air conditioning in eco mode also help reduce fuel consumption. A Toyota executive told me you are not supposed to tow with a Prius which indicates a real world weakness of some hybrid cars. Peugeot's 508 RXH diesel hybrid has a maxed brake trailer weight of 1,100 kg so is only suitable to tow a small trailer or possibly a trailer tent. The Prius+ is given a slightly higher Next Green Car rating of 36, compared to the original Prius model.
Toyota expects 70% of sales to be T4 models, like the test car. There is lots of standard equipment as you would expect at this price including16-inch alloy wheels, windscreen head-up display, Bluetooth connectivity, rear-view camera, climate control, automatic headlights and wipers, anti-lock brakes, a plethora of air bags, cruise control, keyless entry and start, six-speaker sound system with single CD player. T-Spirit (£29,495) adds bigger wheels, leather upholstery, eight speaker stereo and voice recognition and text-to-speech function.
Model tested: Toyota Prius+ T4
Body-style: Seven-seat, Five door MPV
Engine/CO2: 98bhp 1798cc Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder petrol, plus 81bhp electric motor / 96 gCO2/km
Trim grades: T4 and T Spirit
On-road price: Range from £26,195. Test car £26,195
Warranty: Five years/ 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Available now
Review rating: 3.0 STARS
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