EXCLUSIVE – the first UK drive of the new Prius

Regular readers will know how, a couple of weeks back, we came to be at a private racetrack in Leicestershire, looking at the first third-generation Prius in the country.

We’d been told we might get a chance to actually drive the car, but as it was all a bit last-minute and hush-hush I probably would have been happy if we’d just got our exclusive photos. As it was, being taken for a few laps by test driver Rob gave us plenty to enjoy, as you can see in our video.

As it turned out, our chance to drive the car came there and then, when Rob pulled over and offered me a turn behind the wheel. He didn’t need to ask twice.

Starting the next Prius is much like getting the current car underway. With your foot on the brake, you pull the automatic box’s gear lever into drive and look for the ‘ready’ signal. When you’ve got it, you release the footbrake and you’re off… to eerie quiet.

When we first started driving, there wasn’t too much charge stored in the Prius’ batteries, so the car wouldn’t let us use its fully-electric EV mode. Instead we moved away in the new ECO driving mode, which subtly dampens the car’s response to the throttle, making it easier to make gentle inputs and harder to accelerate too briskly. It works, with even my ham-footed inputs making for smooth progress and, doubtless, lower fuel consumption.

As I began to learn the track and get a feel for the car, Rob switched us to Power mode, in which you can feel an added crispness to the throttle and more urgency in the response. The car’s extra power was obvious, the new engine sounding throatier as it piled on the speed through the circuit’s uphill back straight.

Although it’s not much wider than the current Prius, the next-generation car immediately feels more sporty on the road, remaining nicely planted through corners – and more resistant to body roll when I started to gain confidence and build up more speed. Despite the day’s bright sunlight, the head-up display made it easy for me to keep track of our speed without taking my eyes far off the road.

With Jo our filmmaker set up on one of the bends, we started making some slower passes for the camera, at which point I begun to realise just how seamlessly the new car’s petrol engine cuts in and out. Owners of the current Prius will know that it’s hard to spot exactly when the engine is or isn’t running – the Hybrid Synergy Drive just serving up the power you need when you ask for it. The third-generation car’s smoother powertrain makes it near-impossible to tell.

Prius side detail

With a crew of people keen to lock the cars away ready for the following day’s event, we only managed five or six laps in the car before it was time to call it a day, and drive another 200 miles home. We didn’t get a chance to test our fuel consumption, have a proper play with the Touch Tracer controls or to take any photos of the inside – alas.

As for heading out onto the roads, that was strictly out of the question. But we hope to get a more extensive test drive just as soon as the first production-spec cars arrive in the country.

You can see all of the photos from our time with the next Prius on our Flickr profile.

Comments (18)

  1. I have just (21 March 2014) bought my third Prius T Spirit and am amazed that it doesn’t have DAB radio included. I didn’t even check beforehand as I thought all decent top of the range cars had DAB these days – even my wife’s Fiesta has it.
    Anyway, I asked the dealer to add it (at extra cost to me of course) and they put in a unit which requires a remote control to be stuck to the dash. No lights on it, no stalk control. The unit doesn’t work either – the dealer has ordered another remote, hoping this is why.
    But SURELY there is a decent way to get DAB INTEGRATED into the system of a £25k+ car in 2014 – especially one that in most other ways is so technically advanced.
    I’ve been thinking – I don’t really want a remote control stuck on my dashboard!

  2. The lack of Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Assist are reason enough not to buy. When are these going to be added to the options list?

  3. It seems that everyone apart from the car manufacturers knows that the FM signal is being phased out between 2012 & 2015. Its shameful that all new cars for some time now havent been fitted with DAB. Does anyone know why the DAB/AM button is on the new dash but dealers dont know anything about it, the cost, whether its a factory or dealer fit

  4. Hi everyone, apologies for the lack of responses this week. I’m endevouring to answer your questions and will update you as and when I hear more.

  5. I’ve recently placed an order for a new 3rd generation T4, I was expecting DAB radio to be standard fit, is DAB a factory or dealer fit option and at what cost?

  6. I’m with Peter, the lack of adaptive cruise control is seriously disappointing, I was really looking forward to it for motorway driving.

    Simon: Could you perhaps tell us why it won’t be available here, especially as it and LKA are available on the new UK Avensis, as well as on the Prius in other parts of Europe?

  7. This is disappointing. The car was engineered for ACC (not the full range version…), Pre-crash and Lane-keep assist in Japan, but it seems that Toyota in the UK has decided on UK customer’s behalf that we can not have these features. Perhaps a cost saving measure to compensate for the difficult exchange rate. Also DAB as an option is concerning. I understand that a T-spirit with leather seats and the sunroof is over £24k. Will there be an options list on top like on a German car, – customers like a top-end Japanese package like T-spirit to be fully equipped. It is about time that a UK price list with the options available in the UK and their prices was released. I came close to placing a pre-order, but did not go ahead because of the uncertainty. Also still no electrically adjustable seats, not great news for long distance drivers where fine adjustment of seats can be a back-saver. Also lights don’t turn with the steering. I will give this model a miss and hope Toyota sorts all this out by the time the plug-in version is released, but competition will be tougher in the hybrid segment by then…

  8. Hi again, I’ve heard back from Toyota. The T4 and T Spirit grades both have cruise control, but this is not adaptive cruise control with radar. James is also correct that lane keep assist won’t be fitted to UK cars.
    The DAB radio will be an accessory (cost) option.
    I hope that helps!

  9. Many many thanks for sharing the exclusive VDO of Pirus driving.The car is looking attractive.Is it launched in the market?

  10. I read in one article that a DAB radio will be available.
    Can anyone confirm this and whether this will be an extra-cost option?
    Thanks

  11. Thanks for the follow up and the good news, the Jukebox is a pleasant surprise! I was looking at the Insight and the Volvo but they’re really paling in terms of bang for the buck.

    Andy: I’m quite sure we get the Adaptive CC but we don’t get Lane Keep Assist, the Toyota Europe site has the details.

  12. Simon,

    Are we getting the Adaptive (Radar) Cruise Control on the T Spirit. This is included with the Intelligent Parking Assist and other options in the U.S. Advanced Technology package.

    Thanks.

  13. Thanks both – we honestly had a great day. We drove 200 miles each way to get there, but it was worth it for the photos, video and the chance to drive the car.

    @James, we have the following answer from Mark Johnson, product manager for the Prius:

    The singular difference between the T4 and T Spirit grades is that the T Spirit has HDD Navi as standard. This includes Intelligent Parking Assist, rear camera, Navi and music “Jukebox!” (All
    come together as one item of spec.)

    I hope that helps!

  14. Cool video, watch out Top Gear!

    I had a question from your last post though. You mentioned that the T spirit had a hard drive based CD player as standard, but the toyota.co.uk website says it’ll be optional (in the Next Prius section).

    Could you please ask your sources whether the HDD CD Player is supposed to be included in the T-Spirit or if we need to pay extra? Gracias!

  15. Nice video. I think the car looks hot in pearl white. I think this is going to be a very popular colour for this car.

    Shame its still a LHD car though – though of course all the Japanese cars are RHD.

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