Top Gear has chosen Toyota hybrid star Prius as its City Car of the Year.
The award is seen as another sign of the broadening appeal of the latest generation of Toyota’s world-conquering hybrid.
Announced in the special awards issue magazine on now sale, Top Gear praised the technology of the new Prius and the “awesome numbers” of 72.4mpg and 89g/km for “a proper family five-door hatch”.
“You have to admire the Prius. It’s a testament to Toyota that it has refined this car over three generations to arrive at something quite ground-breaking,” said Conor McNicholas, BBC Top Gear editor.
The Top Gear awards are selected by the TV, magazine and online teams, reflecting the most exciting and innovative cars to be launched in the last year.
Toyota hybrids have already topped two million sales, including European sales of more than 200,000 and Irish sales of more than 3,500 vehicles.
The new Prius is a five-seat, five-door hatchback in the D segment class, with a longer wheelbase (2,700mm vs 2,625mm ) that is similar to the Avensis. This also means good leg- room for those on board. There is more room in the boot too, with 408 litres in the Prius with the rear seats in place.
Power in the new Prius has been increased by 24 per cent and this really is noticeable. It goes from zero to 100 km/h in a respectable 10.4 seconds. And at the same time, fuel economy has been improved by 10 per cent to 72.4mpg. The new model offers a choice of electric only, eco and power on-demand drive modes.
The Prius really comes into its own in urban driving where pollution and fuel economy are a bigger issue. Around town official consumption for the Prius is 56.5mpg, but the Toyota is the master of slow-moving traffic, being able to run on electric motor power alone, with zero emissions and maximum fuel efficiency.
The Prius emits 89g/km of carbon dioxide. This is an improvement of about 14 per cent, and qualifies it for Band A road tax of €104 pa.
The new Prius 1.8 hybrid base or entry level model retails for €28,400 but qualifies for a €2,500 VRT rebate, which comes to a net price of €25,900. The Prius luxury model carries a price-tag of €29,660 and with a similar VRT rebate, that comes to a net price of €27,160. Band A road tax also remains similar for the luxury model despite emitting 3g/km CO2 more than the base version.
The new entry-level Prius is fitted as standard with automatic transmission. You also get automatic air conditioning, clean air filter, 15" alloy wheels with aerodynamic wheel cap, alarm, automatic door locking function, six-speaker radio, CD, MP3, WMA audio system, and electric door mirrors.
Safety features include dual-stage front airbags and side airbags for driver and passenger plus curtain shield airbags front and rear and a knee airbag for drivers. In addition safety technology includes vehicle stability control, electronic brake distribution, and electronic traction control. It also has active front headrests and important for many - two rear ISOFIX anchor brackets.
Servicing costs are lower too. The Prius' 15,000km service interval maximises component lifetime efficiency, while the next generation hybrid synergy drive system has been specifically designed for low maintenance and outstanding durability.
The full hybrid powertrain has no need of a conventional starter motor or alternator. The engine is equipped with a maintenance-free timing chain - an element oil filter and miniaturised spark plugs - and, a world first, has no drive belts whatsoever, delivering excellent reliability and cost savings to the customer.
Due to the efficiency of the Prius’ electronically controlled braking system, the brake pads have a life expectancy of more than 100,000km. Of 130,000 first and second generation Prius models sold in Europe, only 8.7 oer cent have required new brake pads.
With a proven reliability record garnered over some 60 billion kilometres of driving worldwide, the high quality Prius battery is designed to last the entire life of the car. It is covered by a five year, 100,000km warranty.
The third generation Toyota Prius has achieved the maximum five-star vehicle safety rating in the latest 2009 Euro NCAP test results. Achieving an overall score of 83 per cent, Prius is the third Toyota model to be granted a five-star rating in the past year after the new Toyota Avensis and iQ. As part of advanced safety features, seven airbags are standard in the Prius.
The Prius is roomier, quicker, more fuel efficient, cleaner, costs less to service than comparably sized cars. And it will probably work out cheaper to own over a three-year period when all the savings and residual values are taken into account.
But Toyota is not saying hybrid is better than diesel, it is just another option. With more and more hybrid power vehicles being sold worldwide and more new models in the pipeline, it’s a choice more and more motorists are making. Meanwhile, the new Toyota Prius is a real car delivering real value.