Jan 16 2010 Jonathan Smith
Toyota Prius T-Spirit
IT'S confession time. I readily admit to enjoying meat - the redder the better; I love competitive sport; think pubs and beer are the stuff of dreams and still take a car for a spin for the sheer pleasure of it.
I seem to meet quite a few people with similar attitudesalthough it has to be said most are blokes. And we are gradually feeling a little isolated. Maybe a bit like the members of the Flat Earth Society were a few hundred years ago.
Anyway, we have to move with the times, bite the bullet and embrace the future. Which is exactly what I've been doing recently. I put away the keys of my gas-guzzling Honda S2000 and got behind the more delicate wheel of the latest Toyota Prius.
Now, I've driven hybrids before and while fully understanding the godliness of saving the planet and cleaning up the atmosphere, I have to admit than none were as nice to drive or offered the feel-good factor of a full-on petrol model or even a diesel at around the same price. So would the Toyota win me over?
Well, the spec looks promising. For a start power from the part-electric part petrol motors has been boosted 24per cent to a reasonable 134bhp. And despite having a slippery shape with a cd factor of just 0.25, it doesn't look anywhere near as wacky as the previous model. So you have more oomph which allows a 10.9 second sprint to 62mph in a useful 10.4 seconds alongside a top speed of 112mph which means the Prius is plenty fast enough to mop up long journeys quickly and efficiently.
And efficiency is what the hybrid is all about. With an emissions figure of a mere 92g/km, the official fuel average is 72.4mpg. But, try as I might, I could not approach such a meagre thirst. Over normal running I was getting around 55mpg and when I flogged it hard this sank to the mid 40s. Of course, if you're London-bound it's worth remembering the Prius is congestion charge-exempt.
Despite the unconventional power source and futuristic styling which extends to the cabin, the Toyota is remarkably easy to drive with its standard automatic gearbox controlled by a tiny, blue, stubby lever. The ride is supple and very well suited to Britain's pock-marked roads although the steering is a shade too light for my liking.
Rear visibility isn't great but a glass panel below the tailgate helps and the T-Spirit version I drove - price £21,230 - includes a reversing camera. There's also a head-up speed display on the windscreen which means you can keep your eyes on the road.
Living with the Prius is easygoing. There are acres of cabin space and the boot can swallow more than 600 litres of luggage. Another plus is the strong resale value. With around 55 per cent retained value over three years, it represents one of the best buys available.
The Prius manages to be green and mean without being an irritation to those who are still in the process of being won over to the cause. And it gets a definite thumbs-up from me (but I still like my red meat).
Toyota Prius T-Spirit
Mechanical: 134bhp, 1,799cc, 4cyl hybrid engine driving front wheels via automatic gearbox
Max speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 10.9 seconds
Combined mpg: 72.4
Insurance group: 7
CO2 emissions: 92g/km
BiK rating: 10%
Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles