Toyota Prius fourth-generation e-car
Still king of the hybrid hill?
Out on the open road, the Prius driving experience is not far removed from that of the Insight being typical for a mid-sized front-wheel drive hatchback running on low rolling resistance tyres optimised for economy rather than grip. This is not a car you stuff into a corner in pursuit of thrills, spills and grins.
The Prius we really want to see
We found the brakes to be both fierce and rather lifeless. While driving on badly potholed roads, the Prius was less inclined to crash about than the Honda, but the cabin was prone to more rattles and squeaks. In fact, taken as a whole, the Prius' cabin felt just a little low-rent in places with much of the plastic cladding feeling cheaper and more brittle than that used by Honda.
Toyota has resisted the temptation to plaster the LED multi-function display with patronising eco flim-flammery, but we think the fly-by-wire joystick gear selector and key-less ignition are both answers to questions nobody really needed answering.
You might expect the extra money a Prius will cost you over an Insight should to bring you more in the way of toys but all you get is a head-up display that projects the speed onto the windscreen - a distracting toy best left switched off. And while you do get a 3.5mm audio connector and the option of an iPod dock you can't specify the equivalent of Honda's USB audio connector.
The EV button makes all the difference and allows the Prius to operate as a genuine battery powered vehicle. Despite the extra on-paper power and performance, the Prius doesn't beat Honda's Insight on the road as thoroughly as we expected, while the cabin is also a rather less refined place to sit. Features like the key-less ignition and HUD speed display are gadgets for gadgets sake. It's in the economy stakes that the Prius really wins the fight and for that reason we reckon its worth the extra money over an Insight. ®
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