This is a review of the third generation Toyota Prius that entered UK production in 2009.
To read the Prius 2 review click the link opposite.
A first glimpse of the new car reveals a design that is not overly radical and it is still instantly recognisable as a Toyota Prius.
The Prius 3 however, is considerably more stylish than its predecessor with looks that don't necessarily mark it out as a green car.
Given that eco-friendly cars are usually fairly quirky beasts this is a clear attempt to move the Prius into the mainstream.
Build quality is of a high standard although any unnecessary weight has been shed to boost fuel
economy. This is most noticeable when shutting the doors. Gone are the "perceived build quality" enhancing weights
that produce the deep clunk found on most modern cars.
Back is the tinny clunk more reminiscent of cars from yesteryear.
The interior of the Prius is also much improved with a more prominent, angled centre console and well laid out controls.
Cabin space is generous for a car in the medium family class and the driving position is "airy" with good forward
distance to the windscreen.
In the rear, passengers are well catered for with plenty of leg room for those long motorway journeys.
With a smaller and efficient battery, boot space is also impressive even if the area itself is somewhat shallow.
Toyota have decided to drop the large multi function display of the Prius 2 and have integrated this function
into the slim green digital instrument display tucked into the top of the dash.
Information includes a 6 bar chart showing fuel consumption over the last 30 minutes, drive mode, speed, real-time mpg,
fuel gauge and engine status.
The T3 version on test was not equipped with sat nav so below the instrument display is the CD player and the aircon controls
(including automatic option).
Below these, a very short and stubby drive-by-wire gear stick is set low on the console
which extends out into the cabin. This is nicely in reach and allows the driver to easily select drive, reverse or brake modes.
The latter is rarely used in normal driving and is designed for use on long descents to mimic the selection of a low-gear in
a manual car.
Immediately above the gear stick are the 3 driving mode buttons (EV, ECO and Power) and the park lock.
See the next section for more on driving modes.
The foot well is essentially unchanged with the quirky and intuitive foot-brake in the clutch position
freeing up space between the front seats.
The adjustable HUD or "Head Up Display" is one of several useful driver aids in the new Prius.
This projects key data such as speed, eco drive display and (where fitted) sat nav instructions
as an image that appears to float in line of sight about half way down the bonnet.
This really helps keep vision where it's most needed even if the main display speed indicator is just a short eye swivel to the left.
Another practical feature is the use of dial like touch tracer controls mounted on the steering wheel. These are also
designed to help keep driver concentration on the road when performing functions such as tuning the radio or increasing the cabin temperature.
A quick touch on one of these brings up an icon of the control near the digital speed display with an amber indicator
on the particular function selected e.g. decrease temperature.
Click the link for part 2 of this Toyota Prius review.
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