What's the used Toyota Prius hatchback like?
By the time the third generation of Toyota Prius emerged in 2009, the Japanese brand was firmly established as the leader in hybrid vehicles, with more than a million examples already sold.
For this third-generation Prius, Toyota sought to improve driveability as well as economy, which resulted in the petrol engine growing from 1.5 to 1.8 litres so that it didn’t need to work as hard. Additionally, around 90% of the hybrid system was also new. Total power increased more than 20% to 134bhp, fuel economy on the EU Combined cycle rose to a maximum 72.4mpg and CO2 emissions fell to 89g/km.
As a first for a Prius, the driver can also choose between one of three driving modes, with Eco softening the response of the accelerator to help eke out every possible mile per gallon, while Power provides maximum performance and EV forces the car to run in its electric setting where possible. This remains only for short distances (the official claim is 1.2 miles) and at speeds up to 31mph.
One of the unexpected pleasures of the Prius remains how spacious it feels inside, particularly considering the amount of technology within. A flat floor in the rear helps three adults to fit reasonably comfortably and, although it has a high floor, the boot is still larger than you’ll find in a Volkswagen Golf.
Whether or not you enjoy driving a Prius depends very much on how fast you want to go. Those happy with gentle acceleration and who spend most of their time in a town or city centre should find it an agreeable if slightly firm riding companion.
However, venture on to faster roads or accelerate to join a motorway and the way the CVT gearbox causes the engine revs to soar is not terribly pleasant, while the vague steering and seats that lack side support ensure it’s about as much fun on your favourite B-road as being stuck behind a tractor.
The third-generation Prius was also noteworthy for introducing Toyota’s first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) in 2012, along with a mild facelift of the standard car. With a pure electric range of up to 14 miles when fully charged, the Prius PHEV is a useful – if expensive – addition to the range. Additionally, a seven-seat Prius+ was also launched, no doubt much to the delight of the many private-hire taxi drivers who had already been enjoying the tiny running costs that come with Toyota’s hybrid.
What used Toyota Prius hatchback will I get for my budget?
The Toyota Prius holds onto its value brilliantly, and that should only improve now there are signs that buyers are starting to shy away from diesel-powered cars in the wake of the emissions scandal. As such, even early examples of the third-generation Prius that have more than 130,000 miles on the clock and been recorded as a Category C or D write-off will cost you £4000.
The Prius is, though, renowned for racking up huge mileages without a problem, so you might not necessarily need to avoid something with a six-figure mileage at £5000, provided it’s got a detailed service history and has obviously been looked after.
If you’d prefer something that has covered closer to 10,000 miles per year, expect to pay at least £6500 for a 2010 car, while later models can be as much as £15,000.
A plug-in Prius PHEV from 2012 onwards will cost from £8000.
How much does it cost to run a Toyota Prius hatchback?
There’s a good reason you see so many Uber and private-hire drivers using a Prius: they are incredibly cheap to run. For that you can thank a combination of excellent fuel economy in urban driving, where you can expect to see 60mpg or more, and low CO2 emissions that made the third-generation Prius exempt from road tax.
The Prius is less efficient when driven on the motorway, but even then you should see average economy close to 50mpg. Economy for the plug-in Prius depends entirely on how often you charge it; used in short bursts and charged every 15-30 miles, you hardly ever need visit a petrol station.
A basic service costs £185 at a Toyota dealership, and a full service is £335. As part of both, Toyota will carry out a free annual ‘Hybrid Health Check’ to ensure the battery and electric motors are working as intended. This is well worth doing because as part of it Toyota will give you an extra year of warranty on the battery right up until the car is 11 years old, regardless of mileage. If you have your car serviced elsewhere, you can still purchase this hybrid health check and the accompanying extended battery warranty for £39.
Which used Toyota Prius hatchback should I buy?
The Toyota Prius range is divided into T3, T4 and top-of-the-range T Spirit versions. Even the T3 comes with a head-up display that projects your speed onto the windscreen, keyless entry on the driver’s door, plus 15in alloy wheels, seven airbags and climate control.
T4 adds 17in alloys (marginally reducing fuel consumption), Bluetooth phone connectivity as part of an improved stereo, keyless entry on all doors and cruise control, while top-spec T Spirit cars include sat-nav, a rear-view camera and remote parking functionality.
Post-2012 facelift cars came with an improved touchscreen system and wider front seats on all models, while T Spirit versions also get LED headlights as standard.
As the flagship Prius, the Plug-in is packed with equipment such as heated seats and DAB radio, but still runs on 15in alloys to maximise fuel economy.
Our favourite Toyota Prius: 2012-on T3
What alternatives should I consider to a used Toyota Prius hatchback?
The Lexus CT200h should be another Prius contender, not least because it uses the same hybrid system, but the overly harsh ride makes it fairly unpleasant to drive and it’s also smaller inside than the Toyota equivalent.
It’s also worth noting that if you’re not fussed about having a hybrid, or you do a lot of motorway miles, a conventional petrol or diesel family hatchback such as a Volkswagen Golf or Toyota’s own Auris will be significantly cheaper to buy than a Prius.