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Cleaner, meaner Toyota Prius huge leap for efficiency and driving appeal

07:47 20 February 2016

All-new fourth Toyota Prius sees the biggest inter-generational jump in efficiency with up to 94mpg.

All-new fourth Toyota Prius sees the biggest inter-generational jump in efficiency with up to 94mpg.

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The all-new Toyota Prius has made bigger leaps than any of its predecessors, writes Matt Kimberley, and not all of them are confined to efficiency.

What’s new?

You name it, it’s new. Every part is either lighter, smaller, both or just better, with an all-new chassis allowing more interior space but a lower roof height and better aerodynamics. The overall result is the biggest inter-generational jump in efficiency for any new Prius to date. How does 94mpg grab you?

The fourth Prius has been five years in the designing and engineering – longer than it would normally take because of how much work needed to be done. Even the 17in wheel option is 700g lighter per wheel than before. And the battery is more energy-dense and now recharges 28% faster.

Toyota Prius

Price: Toyota Prius, £23,295 to £27,450

Engine: 1.8-litre, 97bhp petrol and 71bhp electric motor

Transmission: Continuously variable transmission driving front wheels

Performance: 0-62mph 10.6 seconds; top speed 112mph

MPG: 94.1 combined (15in wheels); 85.6 (17in wheels)

CO2 emissions: 70g/km (15in wheels); 76g/km (17in wheels)

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 9% (15in wheels); 13% (17in wheels)

Will it fit the garage? L 4,540mm; W (excluding door mirrors) 1,760mm, H 1,470mm

Looks and image

Praise be! It actually looks pretty good. There’s a lot about the basic shape that’s shared with the Mirai hydrogen car, because it’s a similar size and optimum aerodynamics are the same for both.

In particular you’ll notice the lower bonnet and windscreen, which improve your view of the road. It still looks a bit silly on the smaller wheel option, at 15 inches, but your trade-off is emissions so low they comfortably undercut the threshold for free entry into the London Congestion Charging Zone. Prius on 17in wheels just misses out.

Sales of this car have suffered since the introduction of the cheaper and more practical Auris Hybrid, but it still serves as a figurehead and technological leader for Toyota.

Space and practicality

Shrinking the battery and relocating it beneath the rear seats allows for a 502-litre boot on cars with a tyre repair kit. Those with a space-saver spare wheel get 457 litres which is still pretty handy. A new automatic parking function can parallel-park the Prius with just half a metre spare in front and behind.

A neat air-conditioning function detects how many people are in the car and where they’re sitting, closing off those vents that aren’t needed and reducing the load on the compressor. For a solo driver it could save 2.4% on fuel bills, Toyota says.

Behind the wheel

Two words – massive improvement. Faster steering, a stiffer body, suppler suspension and a more motor-focused hybrid drivetrain make the new Prius a butter-smooth drive. The electric motor takes over as often as possible and can carry you for longer distances than before. With care, infeasibly big numbers are possible. I ended up on 72.4mpg even after a net climb of 1,300 feet – just 13mpg down on the official average for 17in wheels.

This is a lovely everyday car, warming up quickly and cleverly making your life easier in lots of little ways that would be easy to take for granted. The driving position is ideal, the Qi wireless mobile phone charger is a bonus and cruise control helps take the strain. It’s all deeply admirable.

Value for money

Toyota says that aerodynamic wins and improvements to the petrol engine, which now has an astonishingly good thermal efficiency of 40%, make the Prius about 14% more economical than before on the motorway. The engine will also now cut out at up to 68mph, helping save fuel on gentle downhills where the motor can fully take over.

It’s not especially cheap to buy but looks tempting against diesels. It now qualifies for 100% capital gains tax write-down in the first year, and overall cost savings against the likes of the Ford Mondeo could be more than £5,000 over three years. Nice.

Anyone who wants to downgrade their high trim grade car to 15in wheels, to get lower emissions, can do so for a £400 rebate. The promise of 94mpg and 70g/km is hard to ignore.

Who would buy one?

Tax-focused buyers will love it, especially with such low emissions and the freedom of London. But retail buyers might view it with fresh eyes now that such bonkers fuel economy is available without the need for plug-in charging. Drivers with patience will love the results.

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Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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