Automatics have always left me a bit cold when it comes to driving experience. An odd thing to say, sounds like marketing talk, but it is true.
Being involved with the car or rather being in control of the car is very important from a number of perspectives. We don’t want to crash or fall asleep (or both). When it comes to the new Toyota Prius, I feel I would probably fall asleep. Not because it is really quiet or has gentle acceleration but that even as the driver you feel like a passenger, just there to push a pedal.
You could busy yourself with the vast array of buttons or see exactly how much fuel you are not using – how eco can you go – but then you are likely to forget you are actually supposed to be looking where you are going. Of course the heads up display (HUD) will take care of some of that meaning you don’t have to try and find the speedo in the dash, which has the feel that it has come from some futuristic power station that men in white coats should be checking from time to time.
On the drive we played around with the three drive settings, EV (Electric only) Eco (default – limits the amount of power you can put through the wheels) or Power (guess what that does). To keep it in EV which will run for 1.2 miles on a full charge is incredibly difficult. I tried to pull away at some lights and it disengaged EV and went back into Eco. The Power setting was only slightly less underwhelming. I’m certainly not the sort of person that goes screaming round corners, not since we had the kids, but you feel detached.
Space is good inside, but for the size of the vehicle it has the opposite feeling to a tardis. Those batteries have to go somewhere and so the boot level is very high making it quite shallow. You can remove to boot floor which has more space underneath and it also carries a (baby) spare wheel, not just a puncture repair kit. But it still seems unsatisfactory for a car of this size.
The standard seat upholstery is seems incredibly flimsy and probably not up to the task of two kids, ice creams and orange juice. You would need to go for the leather upgrade, it’s only another £1800 or so. (gulp)
The rest of the kit is good though, great big hard drive for saving music on, a huge sat nav screen, (which btw won’t let you input post codes for your destination) and the usual electric windows and gubbins, but then at over £22,000 you would expect some of that.
I hope I haven’t slagged it off too much, it is a nice car, but perhaps not for me. When other cars without a hybrid system are now getting very close to the same sort of economy and emission output I’d expect a bit more for the price.