We all know the Toyota Prius. It’s a familiar, family-size, hybrid-powered five-door hatchback. But you may not be aware of the Prius+, which is a Prius, only in larger, seven-seat MPV format. In this guise, the Prius+ delivers proper people-carrying practicality, while still leaving a very low carbon footprint behind it.
Toyota produced the Prius+ between 2012 and 2020. If you fancy a game of ‘spot the difference’ between the Prius+ and the ‘normal’ Prius, you certainly won’t score any points when looking at the cars from the dead front on, mainly because from there, they look identical.
You’ll have to move around to the side to see the difference. While the roofline on a Prius hatchback sweeps downwards, almost like the car has been shaped by the wind, the roofline on the Prius+ runs back at a much more level angle and gives the car an almost estate-like look.
You’ll have to move around to the side to see the difference.
What’s it like to drive?
You’ll find the Prius+ a breeze to drive, thanks in part to its automatic gearbox, which is controlled via a selector lever mounted high up on the dashboard. There’s plenty of performance on offer from the combination of the smooth-running petrol engine and the electric motor.
And while there is some quite sophisticated technology at work under the skin, you don’t have to do anything special to control it. All you have to do is drive and everything else takes care of itself, including the recharging of the battery. The Prius may not be the most agile car on the market, but it’s easy to position and manoeuvre, and will keep you, and 6 occupants, comfortable over bumpy roads.
You’ll find the Prius+ a breeze to drive.
If you happen to find yourself the designated rearmost seat passenger for the day, don’t worry. It’s quite easy to climb into the second, third-row seats of the Prius+. Once you’re in there, the seats are comfortable enough for adults, at least for short journeys.
If you’re off from Land’s End to John O’Groats though, make sure you secure a middle row or front seat. Three adults can fit reasonably comfortably into the middle seats, and the outer two slide back and recline – as long as there’s no one sitting in the back that is. Child seats can be fitted to the two middle outer seats, but the seats need to be pushed fully back, which then means there’s no legroom for third row passengers.
Up front, in the command centre, the driving seat and steering wheel offer a good range of positions. Front and side visibility are fine, and there is a standard-fit reversing camera to help you see your way in and out of tight parking spots safely. The dashboard features a cool little digital energy monitor display that lets you see how much battery charge you have. You can get quite addicted to seeing how gently you can accelerate and how far you can glide without touching the throttle, which helps top up the battery and save fuel.
No matter where they’re seated, everyone can enjoy the panoramic sunroof, which comes as standard on early generations of the entry-model Prius+, although is only available as an option on later models. The T Spirit trim features sat-nav, a touchscreen infotainment system and leather upholstery.
Toyota’s designers haven’t created the last word in cabin stowage with the Prius, so don’t expect to find a neat little place to store every single item in your life. There are some neat touches though, with a double glove box, reasonable-sized door bins, a central cubby area and two cupholders up front for your road trip beverages or morning-commute coffee. All the back seats fold down, but not flat on the early generation cars, although this is rectified on later models, even if the wheel arches still eat into the amount of space available.
With all seats in the raised position, the boot still offers enough space to accommodate a folded buggy and a couple of small soft sports bags.
Running costs and reliability
As we’ve already mentioned, there’s some seriously sophisticated technology at work on the Prius+. But that shouldn’t give you cause for concern when it comes to reliability. Toyota has been perfecting its hybrid technology for decades and the Prius+ enjoys a good reputation for reliability.
Lots of mini-cab drivers buy used Toyota Prius models and it’s unlikely that many of them do so out of concern for the environment. Low running costs are the big attraction, and with careful driving, the Prius+ has the potential to deliver around 55mpg.
What we love
We’re big fans of the way the Toyota Prius+ drives. There is something immensely pleasing about seeing how much energy you can preserve as you drive, plus the sense of the car gliding silently along makes you feel like you are doing your bit for the environment.
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The Toyota Prius comes close to a 5-star verdict. The dated infotainment and drab finish lose it a mark. In other respects, though, the Prius is an easy car to recommend. The combination of petrol and electric power delivers solid performance and fuel economy. It's also reassuring to remember that Toyota has been making hybrids longer than just about anyone else.
This review was