2017 review of the 4th generation Toyota Prius, in Excel trim with Touch and Go Plus. Is the new Prius strong enough to fight off the competition?
Believe it or not, it’s twenty years since the Toyota Prius first arrived as a green zealot, daring owners to buy in to its green and proud ethos and save the planet.
Since then, Toyota has flogged an astonishing 3.5 million Prius, so assuming there aren’t that many ‘Celebs’ with a halo to polish, there must be a lot of people out there who want to eulogise their green credentials, rather than quietly leading a ‘green’ life.
That goes some way to explaining why Toyota persists with the Prius, because otherwise it’s a bit of a lost soul.
Those wanting a hybrid are now widely catered for by Toyota, with models across the Toyota range (and Lexus too) still eschewing diesel options in favour of hybrids. But the Prius is more than that.
The Prius is a statement of our times, and its standout (some would say barking mad) styling decrees the owner is green and proud.
So although there are now many hybrid powertrains in ‘regular’ cars, Toyota is selling to the converted with the new Prius, not seeking new followers.
That said, has Toyota moved the Prius on far enough with this 4th generation to appeal to the green dissenters? We’ll find out.
Toyota Prius Excel Inside and Out
The Toyota Prius has always had ‘statement’ design, choosing to present a challenging face in an effort to stand out in a world of homogeneous car design. And this 4th generation Prius is no different.
From the really rather strange rear lights to the mish-mash of lines which abound and the pointy front which looks a bit squashed, the Prius is, without question, a standout design.
But that’s the point; to create a car which stands out and shouts its green credentials from the roof tops, declaring the owner a green evangelist and a lover of the planet.
For the Prius isn’t about encouraging owners to go green any more, it’s about buying in to what the Prius represents. And on that basis it works.
The interior of the new Prius is also different, but not quite as bonkers different as the exterior.
What dominates your vision is the white centre console, a gear knob sticking out of the front of it horizontally, a central digital instrument binnacle and, below it, a decent size infotainment screen but with graphics which are a bit less cutting edge than the design of the car.
Everything feels well built and well bolted together, the (leather) seats are supportive and it’s easy to get comfortable, in the front or in the back – good for ‘green’ cabbing – and with a decent sized boot.
There are some scratchy plastics, but you probably wouldn’t need to encounter them were it not for the fact that the heated seat buttons in this Excel Prius are, for some unfathomable reason, lurking behind the front end of the centre console. Just plain odd.
But there’s no real argument with the level of equipment on this £28k Prius Excel, with properly good toys like those heated front seats, a good JBL sound system, Park Assist and heads-up on the standard spec list, along with more expected stuff like Climate, Auto Lights and Wipers and Sat Nav.
No one could accuse the Prius of being a beautiful car with a stunning interior. But it is all very Prius, and therefore perfectly judged by Toyota.
2017 Toyota Prius Performance on the Road
Toyota now has a substantial amount of hybrid powertrain experience under its belt, and it shows in this new Prius.
Despite a powertrain which is a tweaked version of the last Prius, complete with 1.8 litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine aided by an electric motor, the two work together far better than ever before.
In fact, they work so well together now that you could even call the Prius lively around town and even on back roads and motorways, and the CVT ‘box now no longer wails to maximum revs when you try and make progress.
In fact, it all feels very responsive, with the car responding to even small prods on the throttle with more speed rather than more noise, and the electric motor clearly filling in the gaps left by the petrol engine.
But it’s not just the powertrain that’s come of age in the Prius, it’s the handling and dynamics too.
The Prius has always been a bit soft and squidgy rather than harsh and dynamic, and the basic character hasn’t changed. But it too has come of age.
Don’t for a minute think the Prius is now a Nurburgring-honed hatch, because it’s not. But it is now much more wieldy and much more firmly composed over pitted surfaces than ever before.
The steering is also a bit of a revelation, and although devoid of much real feedback it is cleverly weighted and direct and pilots the Prius far more accurately than a Prius has been piloted before.
That combination of more responsive power, firmer composure and effective steering do lull you in to thinking the Prius is almost a mainstream family hatch with lots of chuckability. Which of course it isn’t.
But if you throw green caution to the wind you do find a car which demonstrates decent grip and body control, even when you play with bends in a way a green evangelist never would, and ends up putting the beginnings of a smile on your face.
Just don’t tell the green police.
Toyota Prius Excel (2017) Verdict
If you’re already a Prius lover, there’s a lot more to love about this 4th generation Prius.
It’s much nicer to drive, much more responsive, has terrific headline economy (and very decent real world economy too), more room and is more comfortable too.
If you love Prius you’ll also love the statement styling, the jarring lines, the quirkiness that still pervades every part of the original green evangelist.
But if you’re not already a Prius lover, will you be switched on to the Prius now it’s actually a much better car? No, probably not.
Probably not because this isn’t a car made for you; you will choose an Auris Hybrid if a hybrid is what you want, as shouting that you don’t want to spew NOx in to the air with a diesel is something you tell yourself, not the watching world.
We’d expected Prius to become a Toyota Brand which boasted the very latest powertrain innovations as hybrids became more widespread and accepted, perhaps with a hydrogen Prius leading the vanguard for hydrogen as the original did for hybrid power.
But it seems Toyota has too big a devoted following for the Prius to let it become what it perhaps should be, so instead it’s a hybrid car for shouty green people.
Despite which, it’s actually a very good car indeed.
2017 Toyota Prius Excel Review Photos
Toyota Prius Excel Review Tech Specs (2017)
- Engine: 1798cc, 97bhp – Electric Motor: 71bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 10.4 seconds / Top Speed 112mph
- Economy: 85.6mpg – Official / 58.6mpg – Test
- Emissions: 76g/km
- Price: £28,225 / Price as tested £28,770
- Test car supplied by Toyota UK