The car that put hybrids on the map. Running costs should be excellent but the Prius is actually a strong car in its own right.
A 1.5-litre petrol engine is bolstered by an electric motor to produce 141bhp. The electric motor boosts torque below 22mph but above that the Prius lacks the pull of a turbodiesel. Still holds its own, though, through the autobox, sprinting to 60mph in a decent 10.6 seconds.
The first generation Prius returns 65mpg and emits 104g/km in CO2 emissions in the process. That’s admirable but more recent hybrids, including the latest Prius, return much better figures, as do some petrol and diesel models without the trade off in performance.
The Prius is ok on the road but everything feels a bit imprecise and vague. The steering is light which leaves you guessing about lock at times but there’s not a lot of bodyroll and it remains fairly composed around corners.
The Prius strikes a decent balance between a firm suspension that jolts over every bump and blemish in the road and a car that’s too soft and takes forever to settle down. It’s not sporty but not overly comfortable and washy.
There’s plenty of room for four passengers in the Prius and space only becomes an issue when you try to squeeze five inside. The boot benefits from the elongated-tail design and there’s a massive 408-litres worth of load space at the rear, despite the battery pack encroaching slightly.
Climate control, electric windows, CD player and alloys are standard.
Expensive to buy but cheap running costs will claw lots of cash back. Generous hybrid warranty is also attractive, once you get past the list price which starts from a touch more than £18,000 and rises to £21,000.
The interior of the Prius is solid and reliable without being particularly exciting. That’s disappointing bearing in mind the sophisticated technology found under the bonnet. It won’t let you down and will be incredibly reliable, though.
ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution is standard, as are eight airbags and the Prius scored 5 stars in NCAP testing.
The biggest string to the Prius bow is its fuel economy figures, CO2 emissions and the smug feeling it affords its drivers. Generally it’s a decent car all round as well with plenty of space and decent levels of drive and handling.
The hybrid drivetrain feels a little underpowered which means you have to work it hard. It’s also quite expensive and outdated with standard combustion models rivalling its emissions figures and running costs.
Honda Civic Hybrid