Prius is hot because it’s green. Miley Cirus, Jennifer Aniston, Harrison Ford and others like to drive them because as Leonardo DiCaprio says, “it’s a step in the right direction”.
It was a pioneer of environmentally friendly motoring and won a lot of fans in Los Angeles as a result. It’s now in its fourth generation.
So, what exactly is the Prius? It’s a hybrid, which for now at least is a good thing for it means you won’t suffer range anxiety if you can’t find an electric charger. You simply switch over the petrol engine, or rather the car painlessly switches for you.
If you use it correctly by keeping the car fully charged you may get extraordinary economy – 232mpg, perhaps – but even if you don’t or can’t find a charger, you will probably get 60mpg.
It is also a fine four or five-seater with comfort and swift acceleration. In fact, that’s something we will enjoy getting used to with the advent of electric vehicles. They tend to pick up speed with less fuss than a petrol or diesel car.
It is neat. The boot is shallower than you might expect to make way for the electric motor and the stylish is more global than UK in terms of taste, but it is smart enough. It is well balanced – the weight of the batteries and what is in effect a second engine – mean hybrids feel planted, which is good.
This is the Business Edition which means it is decently equipped. It has leather upholstery and dashboard which means for a hybrid it is smart. Some hybrids can be a little spartan.
It is dashingly well appointed with safety features such as lane departure warnings, traction control, anti-lock brakers and road sign assist – it can read and interpret warnings.
It also has radar-controlled cruise control and stability control, plus luxury features such as wireless phone charger, dusk-sensing headlights, six-speaker stereo and USB port and Bluetooth.
Outside, it has alloy wheels, colour-trim handles and mirrors and LED headlights. It is said to manage more than 30 miles in electric EV mode, a class-leading distance and double the driving range of its predecessor.
Performance is improved by Toyota’s first Dual Motor EV Drive system and a larger, higher capacity lithium-ion hybrid battery. And the battery charging speed takes two hours for a full charge
This is the fourth generation Prius and showcases a number of new technologies that increase efficiency, performance and practicality, enhancing the model’s all-round appeal. Toyota was first to bring the concept of the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) to the market with the original Prius Plug-in, launched in 2012.
With its latest model it has taken a further step towards its goal of reducing its whole-fleet emissions by 90 per cent by 2050 (from their 2010 level) through the use of hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, battery electric and fuel cell electric vehicle technologies.
The latest model was developed with the benefit of customer feedback on the first generation Prius Plug-in. More than simply an evolution of its hybrid sister model, it stands as a unique vehicle in its own right. Its technological breakthroughs include a world first gas-injection heat pump air conditioning and two Toyota firsts: a battery warming system and a dual motor EV drive system.
Prius Plug-in achieves a major leap forward in efficiency, driving performance, innovation and styling, while supporting Toyota’s progress towards its goal of creating the ultimate eco car.
Meanwhile, another Toyota is making an eco-friendly mark, too. The new Toyota Mirai has set an official Guinness World Records title for the longest distance covered by a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle without refuelling.
It covered an unprecedented 845 miles on a single, five-minute complete fill of hydrogen on a round trip in Southern California, establishing a new distance benchmark for zero emission vehicles.
“In 2016 the Toyota Mirai was the first production fuel cell electric vehicle available for retail sale in North America, and now the next generation Mirai is setting distance records,” said Bob Carter, executive vice president, Toyota Motor North America.
“We are proud to be leaders of this exciting technology, which is just one of a growing line-up of zero emission vehicles in our portfolio.”
Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid Business Edition
Price: £32,645. The Excel costs £34,690.
Engine: A 1,798cc four cylinder petrol engine plus electric motor
Transmission: CVT (continuously variable transmission) which is in effect one gear
Performance: Top speed 101mph, 0 to 60mph in 11.1 seconds
Economy: 188mpg to 232mpg provided you use the electric motor when possible
Warranty: Five years