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Toyota Prius T Spirit Review & Road Test (2010) Part 3

Sun, 12 Dec 2010

The Toyota Prius acquitted itself well in the snow - once we'd dug it out.

It seems to us that the Prius is a mode of transport, not a car in the sense we enjoy a car. It’s not about feeding sensations back to the driver or a beautifully balanced chassis or an interior to die for or a design that makes little butterflies flutter in the pit of your stomach. It’s a transport appliance.

It makes everything safe and economical for those who want to get from one place to the other. Those for whom the journey is a something to be endured, not a joy. Those who have no desire for speed or control but simply want to be taken from A to B. And, if you’re very gentle with the controls and seek no enjoyment, the Prius is properly brilliant as an economical mode of transport.

Which you might not have expected us to find out, because gentle is something we tend not to do much. We always seek to extract the most fun from four wheels we can and that means pushing on quite hard, especially when there’s a paucity of power to hand. But as we mentioned at the start of this review, it snowed the day after our Prius arrived. Rather heavily.

With its front wheel drive you would expect the Prius to cope with snow quite well. But the lack of control available to the driver did make us a little wary of digging the Prius out and going places. High gears and feather touches are the key to progress in snow, and the CVT ‘box with its mad revving didn’t inspire confidence and nor did the lack of feedback through the steering or chassis.

But that’s when we found that with a light touch the Prius really is very good at transporting. The CVT ‘box managed to get power to the wheels with little slipping and sliding. Not only that, but the ‘B’ function on the CVT lever worked a treat. It gave us what we hadn’t expected from the Prius – proper control in rotten road conditions with decent and well calibrated engine braking.

Which made us realise that Toyota has built a very clever car. It offers decent space and is built to make the weakest part of the driving chain – the driver – as insignificant as possible. All the Prius needs is gentle inputs to steering, throttle and brake and it will get you where you want to go very economically. And it’ll do all that whilst kicking out almost none of the nasties you get from eco-diesels. Which we are hugely in favour of.

The technology in the Prius is awe inspiring. Not only is the technology awe inspiring, so is the fact that – despite its complexity – the Prius appears to be bullet-proof. When you look at the difficulty of getting everything under the Prius to work together at all, you can forgive its rather low rent interior and wonder how they flog it for a bit over £20k without making a loss.

But we still think the Prius is a poor car – if you enjoy driving. We still think that hybrid technology is a stop-gap technology, not the future. We’d like to see Toyota more publicly pursuing alternatives such as ultra lean-burn technology, fuel cells and hydrogen enhancement, rather than just the hybrid. We believe that hybrid technology only really works when it’s used on powerful, high-end cars where the costs are not such a great part of the whole. And, despite their emissions, we do feel diesel-engined cars are a better solution at this end of the market.

But we do have to conclude that the Toyota Prius is an exceptional Transport Appliance.

Toyota Prius T Spirit full specification, data and price

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By Cars UK