White is the New Silver: Toyota Prius Review
by Sue Baker
We car buying Brits are a monochrome lot when it comes to choosing the colour, it seems. Although silver used to be the default choice for a new motor’s paintwork, the popularity list is now dominated by white, black and grey.
A list of the top car colours in 2015 has white in first place with a 21 per cent share, black second with 19 per cent and grey third with nearly 16 per cent. Next came blue and red, before silver, that was once dominant but has now slipped down in sixth place on 11 per cent.
No surprise, then, that trendy Toyota has just launched its new Prius with white cars prominent in the mix of colours. So to be topical, we grabbed a white one for our test drive of this fourth generation hybrid from the world’s biggest car manufacturer.
The first thing you notice about the new Prius is how much better looking it is than the previous generation cars. Those had rather staid styling for such a ground-breaking model, but this new one is sleeker with a more flowing design. It’s still not pretty, but to our eyes, it’s a big improvement.
The Prius has a new chassis and re-designed hybrid set-up, with a smaller and more efficient battery pack that has been relocated from its old position under the boot floor, to a new home under the rear seats. This has freed up space in the boot, increasing its size by up to 56 litres, depending on whether you opt for a tyre repair kit or an emergency spare. At maximum, it has a 502 litres capacity.
The 1.8 litre petrol engine has been revised for better efficiency, pushing the combined average fuel economy up to 94 mpg, and dropping the CO2 output to 70 g/km – significantly down by 19 g/km from the previous Prius. For company car drivers, it means a lowly benefit-in-kind tax rate of 11 per cent.
Sweeter to drive
The cabin has been spruced up with a new dashboard featuring a central satnav display. It’s not ideally positioned, under the central air vents and a bit lower in the fascia than we’d like, where it grabs your eyes downward away from the road. It’s a small glitch in an otherwise crisp modern front cabin design. You sit slightly lower in the driving seat than before, which feels like an improvement.
The driving experience has been enhanced by performance that feels a little brisker, handling that feels a bit more agile, a ride quality that is a bit more cushioned, and better suppressed engine noise that makes this Prius more refined that the old model.
There are a couple of annoyances. The ‘handbrake’ is foot-operated, via a pedal that is quite awkwardly placed in the driver’s footwell. It is also a bit irksome that the large rear spoiler cuts horizontally right across the rear screen, where it intrudes on your outlook via the rear view mirror.
Pricing for the new Prius starts from £23,295 and tops out at £27,250. The warranty is five years or 100,000 miles. The first of the new generation cars will start appearing on UK roads next month.
The Prius was the first hybrid car, but it’s now just one of many. Hybrids are proliferating across the motor industry, as a viable midway house between conventionally fossil fuelled cars and ultra low polluting but range-angst electric cars.
Over the years the Prius has done very well for Toyota. Since the first one appeared in 1997, some 3.6 million of them have been sold around the world. If you haven’t driven one, you may well have ridden in one. They’re popular as private hire taxis, and as Uber cars. Especially in white.
UK Top ten car colours 2015
All images: Sue Baker
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