At town speeds, the standard Prius can run on electric power for short periods, while the Plug-in version has an electric-only range of 15.5 miles at speeds of up to 51mph. Both cars feel reasonably perky on faster roads and switch smoothly between petrol and electric power.
The Prius can feel crashy and unsettled on bumpy surfaces, particularly if you opt for larger wheels. What’s more, the steering offers little feedback and the handling is safe but uninspiring. At least the light steering makes the Prius easy to drive around town.
All you hear from the electric motor is a gentle whirr, so the Prius is eerily quiet when it’s running on battery power alone. However, while the engine is quiet when you’re cruising, it drones away noisily whenever you accelerate. Wind and road noise penetrate the cabin as you go faster, too.
The Prius makes little sense as a private buy, because there are plenty of cheaper hybrids, and you’ll struggle to get near the official fuel economy figures. However, the low CO2 emissions mean company car drivers pay tiny amounts of tax; the Plug-in sits in the lowest band for vehicles with a combustion engine, and the standard Prius isn’t far behind. Plug-in owners who do lots of short journeys will also save a fortune at the pumps.
The interior feels very solidly built, but the velour seats and dull, grey dash plastics make the Prius's cabin feel disappointingly drab. Still, you'll have no worries about reliability. In both our annual Reliability Survey and the JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey, Toyota and the Prius are always among the front-runners. Plus, the car is backed up by a fine five-year/100,000-mile warranty.
Toyota has most of the bases covered here. All models have stability control to help you avoid an accident, and if you can't, there are front, side and curtain airbags to minimise injuries. There's even a driver's knee 'bag, with anti-whiplash headrests to complete the impressive safety package. Security measures include an alarm, immobiliser and deadlocks.
The huge digital display on top of the dash gives you masses of information, from how much fuel you’ve got, to how the drivetrain is working. For something so complex, it’s impressively clear. There’s lots of adjustment for your seat, too, but the foot-operated parking brake is irritating and rear visibility is rubbish due to the spoiler across the back window.
The Prius copes well with carrying five people. There’s impressive head- and legroom all round, and because there's a flat floor in the back, middle-seat passengers even have somewhere to put their feet. The boot is a good size, too, despite the high floor.
Entry-level T3 cars give you most of what you need, including air-conditioning, front and rear electric windows and a head-up display. T4 trim brings keyless entry, cruise control and a Bluetooth handsfree system, while the T Spirit and Plug-in models add satellite-navigation and a reversing camera.
Order a brochure, find your nearest dealer or book a test drive
The cheapest Prius is also the greenest Prius, and surely that's the point, isn't it? It still comes with all the kit you really need, so this is our favourite version of the car.