Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Toyota Prius’s 1.8-litre petrol engine does without a turbocharger and produces a fairly modest 120bhp. Although the electric motor’s assistance does provide a performance boost, all versions of the Prius take around 11sec to get from 0-62mph. In other words, it’s punchy enough to maintain motorway speeds with ease, but needs to be worked hard to accelerate to 70mph in short order.
The Prius has never been about high-performance, though; its focus is on low emissions and impressive fuel economy. To deliver on these aims, when the hybrid battery is sufficiently charged, the Prius can drive at up to 36mph on electric power alone. Doing this is as quiet and smooth as you’d imagine, although performance is pedestrian, even around town.
There’s no way you’d call the Prius fun on a twisting stretch of country road, but its steering is accurate and responsive, even if it doesn’t give you much feedback. The actual grip levels are pretty high, but there’s a fair bit of body lean to put you off hustling it along. A four-wheel drive AWD-i version is also available, but, with just a 7bhp electric motor powering the rear wheels, it doesn’t really affect the handling. Instead, the motor is only there to help the car pull away from a standstill and maintain traction, assisting to around 43mph.
Ride comfort is reasonably good in town, at least on the 15in wheels that are standard on most models – although the suspension can get a little noisy over lumps and bumps. The ride is relaxed at motorway speeds, but, while the Prius takes bumps in its stride, it does fidget over surface imperfections.
Things are noticeably lumpier on Excel models, due to their larger 17in wheels, so we’d recommend avoiding this trim level. Meanwhile, the brakes are suitably powerful, but its regenerative braking system gives them a grabby action and you can end up decelerating much more sharply than you intended. Other hybrids, such as the Ioniq, have less obtrusive systems and are easier to drive smoothly.