Top five things we learnt driving a hybrid every day

Hybrids have truly taken off in popularity recently thanks to their eco credentials and low running costs. What’s more, with stricter salary sacrifice and company car tax tariffs for more polluting cars coming into play next year, it looks like they’ll be more a common sight on the roads than ever.

This slightly weather-worn Toyota Prius proved to us hybrids can be used for long commutes, but is it worth opting for one over a diesel?

Toyota Prius

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So, with more and more manufacturers eyeing up hybrid tech for future models, we thought we’d see how running one compares to a diesel, which is still the fuel of choice for the vast majority of company car drivers.

We elected to drive the latest Toyota Prius which, having had a major overhaul last year, claims to be capable of 94MPG and produces less than 75g/km of CO2. That means it qualifies as an tax free Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle – worth a thought if you’re considering a salary sacrifice scheme soon.

Here’s five things we learnt from our time with Toyota’s latest hybrid…

5. They are super-efficient in traffic

The commute we used the Prius on involves around 20 miles of motorway driving and 10 miles of in-town traffic and, I’m sure we don’t need to say much more: commuting at peak times can be a living hell, particularly if it involves the clogged artery that is the A6.

There's a myriad of screens that let you know what the powertrain is doing.

Sitting in traffic jams is really where the Prius comes into its own. Instead of sat idly burning fuel, if anything MPG increases. Thanks to an electric motor doing the work at low speeds, it’s a joy to see average fuel consumption go up instead of down as you crawl along.

4. They are easy to drive long distances

If you do long motorway miles, you’ll be glad to hear the a hybrid is just as capable and comfortable as it is sat in traffic. In the Prius’ case, its 10.6 second 0-60mph time doesn’t sound much, especially next to some German diesels, but the 1.8-litre petrol engine and 77bhp electric motor makes acceleration feel quicker than figures suggest.

The new Prius' interior is spades ahead of its predecessor thanks to top quality materials and even wireless charging tech.

The Prius gets three driving modes; Eco, Normal and Power. Select the latter and there’s a noticeable boost in power which is handy for the occasional traffic light grand prix, as well as making overtaking a doddle. As for fuel consumption, the Toyota will happily cruise at 70mph and return over 60mpg, but then again so will many diesels…

3. They are full of tech

Clamber aboard a hybrid and you may find the controls are a little different than the norm. The Prius has a fully automatic CVT gearbox which is operated via a tiny dash-mounted shifter. It may be a little confusing if you’ve never driven one before, but it feels second nature after just a few minutes.

Like most hybrids, it's fully automatic, although the shifter can take getting used to.

One thing the Prius likes to do is remind you how economical it is, and this is evident from the infotainment system. Tap the ‘car’ button and the satnav/radio display makes way for an animated diagram of the car which lets you know what the hybrid system is doing at all times.

Another feature we liked was the central wireless phone charger, although we’re not too taken with the white centre console. That just makes it look like a washing-up bowl. The Prius’ trip also offers eco-driving tips when you shut off the engine. Whether that’s a useful tool or an annoying novelty that will soon wear off depends on your prerogative really.

 We liked the wireless charger, we didn't like the white centre console!

2. Their MPG is reduced in the real world

The Prius claims to be capable of a mightily impressive 94 MPG, but in our week with the car we couldn’t get anywhere near that figure. In Eco mode pootling around town, 70 MPG is possible – and still impressive – but still a far cry from official stats.

It isn’t just Toyota, or in fact hybrids that this applies to. We read all too often about how official MPG figures simply can’t be matched in the real world. Just as emission testing has seen changes since Dieselgate, maybe it’s time to rethink fuel consumption tests too?

There's no reason a Prius shouldn't be on the shortlist for your next company car.

That’s not to take anything away from it though, and this fact is not hybrid-specific. We read all too often about how official MPG figures do not reflect what’s attained by drivers in the real world. Hence why a new MPG test is set to be introduced from September 2017,

1. They are the future

Mercedes, BMW, Kia, Porsche, Citroen, Volkswagen, and Volvo. If you need proof that hybrids are no longer a bit of a novelty, these are just some of the manufacturers that have joined Toyota in adopting hybrid technology. With emission regulations becoming more stringent year-on-year, we’ll be seeing a lot more hybrids hitting the roads over the next decade or so.

Toyota Prius rear n/s

We enjoyed our time with the latest Prius and, despite the love-or-hate looks, it’s as good as any diesel car to use everyday, and it can still hold its own in the class it created over 20 years ago. If you’re in an ecologically minded mood, check out these lease deals for less than £250.

The Big Question: Would we use one everyday?

Ok, its MPG figures aren’t dissimilar to those you would get from some of the most efficient diesel engines but, post-Dieselgate, it’s hybrid and electric tech where manufacturers are putting their money. As for the Prius itself, aside from the rather love-or-loathe styling, it’s capable and comfortable and shouldn’t be dismissed if you’re considering it as a company car.

Hybrid tech is likely to be a staple for many manufacturers in the coming years.

It’s amazingly economical around town, it feels at home on the motorway and it gets the latest tech gadgets that everyone wants too. If you’re thinking about leasing a hybrid, don’t forget to check out these personal lease deals.

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