It is so noiseless, and I am so conditioned to associate cars moving with engines revving, that even while my foot was on the accelerator, I was still astonished to find myself hurtling towards a tree. And that was nothing on the poke it has as you pootle around town. I expect to find myself overstepping the 30mph mark in a cheeky Mazda, but to catch myself hurtling like a country driver in a car whose raison d’etre is to be the goody-two-shoes of the road was… well, it was like the arrival of some horrific and unwanted self-awareness. Maybe it’s not the car and has never been the car. Maybe I just have a heavy right foot.
Anyway, there was nothing horrific about this car. The cabin was spick and intuitive, everything where it should be, nothing to confuse or annoy. Indeed, the controls and displays were so well designed, it was like having a robot car assistant directing your hand to whatever it was you wanted.
The button ignition was one of the best I’ve encountered (often they don’t respond quickly enough, and you end up pressing five times before you enter the state of stoppedness or startness you desired). The park-assist alarm is understated and demure. It’s packed with safety features, as Toyotas are wont to be (they were among the first to bring in vehicle stability control, are big on airbags, and are not embarrassed to monitor things – blindspots, rear cross traffic – that the proud-hearted driver might say she could take care of herself).
On the motorway, again, the acceleration was feisty, and the gear changing and steering both more alert than you’d expect. I was amazed that its 0-62mph speed was more than 10 seconds (though only just). It felt much faster.
I liked it. It’s not really designed for the person who drives for fun, but rather for the person who unavoidably drives a hell of a lot, and wants to do so as cheaply and greenly and comfortably as they can. And the fact is, even though it was overwhelming leader for that already (as anyone with an Uber account can confirm), it keeps on improving just because it can.
Toyota Prius: in numbers
Top speed 112mph
Acceleration 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds
Combined fuel consumption 94mpg
CO2 emissions 70g/km
Eco rating 9/10
Cool rating 6/10