The Toyota Prius is a hybrid car. This means it has a petrol engine that’s assisted by an electric motor in order to cut down on exhaust gasses. When its electric motor’s battery is sufficiently charged, the Prius can drive at up to 36mph on electric power alone. Do this and there's no noise or vibration from the dormant petrol engine, making for relaxed urban driving.
You need to drive ever so gently to prevent the petrol engine from kicking in, but it’s far from obtrusive when it does. It’s quiet at steady motorway speeds, and emits nothing more than a faint drone when you ask for a little more speed. Floor the accelerator, however, and the Prius’s CVT automatic gearbox sends the engine revs shooting up, with considerable engine boom as a result. If you find this annoying then try a Hyundai Ioniq, which has a more conventional automatic gearbox.
As for blasting down your favourite back road: yes, the Prius is short on pace, and there's quite a lot of body lean when cornering, but the steering is accurate and responsive, even if it doesn’t give you much feedback. The actual grip levels are pretty high, though. The optional four-wheel drive system makes no discernible difference to performance; it only cuts in when the Prius suffers a prolonged loss of grip. The system likely to be of most benefit for those who live down a particularly slippery drive or in an area that gets frequent snowfall.
Ride comfort is good in town – 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 shuffle about a bit across small surface imperfections, and road noise on coarse roads is often difficult to overpower with the stereo. Meanwhile, the brakes are suitably powerful but have a grabby action so you can end up decelerating much more sharply than you intended. Other hybrids such as the Ioniq are easier to drive smoothly.