Electric cars and plug-in hybrids are all the rage at the moment, but the Toyota Prius, the grandfather of them all, has been out on the roads for around 20 years now.
The Japanese car maker has regularly updated the technology over the years, with the current model being the vehicle’s fourth generation.
The latest Prius comes in a full hybrid or plug-in version.
The latter is more suited for people who can run a cable to the car at home. In the full hybrid, on the other hand, batteries are charged by the gasoline engine out on the road, or by recovering energy during braking.
The test drive model is the full hybrid, self-charging variant of the Prius. It is powered by a 1.8L gasoline engine, and an electric motor that can also work independently of its internal combustion counterpart.
A secondary electric motor converts power from the gas engine into electrical energy stored in the batteries. Altogether, the system puts out 90kW of power.
The Prius can hit 100 kilometres from a standstill in 10.6 seconds, and has a top speed of 180km/h. According to Toyota, it burns just 3.3 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres.
Over the years Toyota has worked hard to make the Hybrid feel more like a standard internal combustion engine car. Drivers can choose different driving modes, among them environmentally friendly Eco mode, a normal mode, and a power mode for when you want a little more juice.
There’s also a purely electric mode for when the car is travelling at low speeds. However, the full hybrid manages that trick for only around 2 km, and that’s the decisive difference between it and the plug-in version.
The plug-in version has larger batteries that give it a range in electric mode of about 50km. This variant is also 11cm longer but because the technology takes up more space, it has 140 litres less volume in the trunk.
The interior is a steadying contrast and anything but boring. The dashboard display is narrow and sleek, displaying a lot of the important data on a hi-tech central console. The shifter also has a futuristic look and feel.
The display panels also make a very modern impression. The interior also features an induction plate for charging your smartphone without having to plug it in.
The most antiquated feature is the parking brake in the foot well.
Even though electric and plug-in hybrid cars are really taking off, a full hybrid vehicle like this one still has a place, even with its limited range, due to the fact that not everyone has access to charging cables at home.
Looking ahead, a key moment for the sector will come when the batteries can be charged through induction – and you can dispense with cables altogether.
This content has been published in partnership with Deutsche Welle (DW).