Uber-Wheels Oh, how I laughed. ‘Taxi’. ‘Who called an Uber?’ Chortle, guff aw etc. Once I had pulled myself up off the floor and re-inserted my insides, I gave the children one last chance to get in the Prius for the school run.

White is probably not the best colour for what is a very impressive car from Toyota. They are easy to see why they are the taxi-driver’s choice of city wheels – spacious, comfortable, and supremely capable in town driving.

Brief too far I am not so sure about the kerbside appeal. I think the stylists took the ‘futuristic’ brief too far. Although I did like the way the rear looked, somehow reminiscent of a 1950s Cadillac or Plymouth with the stacked lights looking like fins. No? Oh, just me then… Toyota led the way by launching the first mass-produced hybrid in 1997 and with more than three million sales worldwide it is safe to say it has been a success.

Now in its fourth generation, it has ironed out a few of the previous niggles. The engine is still a 1.8 litre but now linked to a larger capacity Synergy Drive Electric Lithium-Ion battery which means it can run for longer on electric only. The power switch when on the road is nigh on impossible to detect and I found I was frequently checking the 1980’s style dashboard digital read outs to confirm whether it was the engine or the battery.

The dash has been improved but still uses cheap-feeling flimsy switchgear. Toyota will no doubt say this is to save weight. The brakes can feel a bit sharp at low speeds, especially when manoeuvring, probably due to the energy recovery braking system. Drive down a steep hill and the free-wheeling motion engages a system to top up the battery. Fuel consumption It works well, and without wishing to waffle on about thermal efficiency of the engine, it should achieve a real world fuel consumption figure of 75mpg.

It also produces just 70g/km CO2 which allows you to celebrate your new found eco credentials by having a steak dinner and not feel guilty. The Prius handled very well on open road and country lane alike, but really comes into its own in town. I cannot think of another car that was so efficient at dealing with town driving; it was nearly always on electric – so silent and stress-free.

The steering and, ride are superb and as long as you are not in a rush, the parking assist, to enable a handsfree parallel park, works a treat. The three driving modes of Eco, Normal, and Power deliver enough acceleration in any gear through the CVT auto gearbox. The stumpy gearstick adds to the feeling that you are driving something different too. The seats are comfortable but hatchback-car ordinary in their shape – again reminding you that this is a sensible five-seat car with zero sporting pretensions.

An A4 sized sheet of safety equipment and a five-year warranty is reassuring too. The Prius comes in three equipment levels, none with a hair shirt option, or cardboard cup holders either. Toyota have always been good at producing an excellent new model from scratch and as the Prius is now 20 years old, and four generations in, it is a very polished performer.

Car Tested: Toyota Prius Hybrid Excel
Prices from: £23,295 – £31,100
Emissions: 70 g/km)
With Thanks to Westover Toyota.
Salisbury 01722 430666

By Dominic Parkes

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