Fleet News

Toyota Prius - 770 miles

Toyota

Review

IF ever there was a sure-fire tax winner, then the green-minded Toyota Prius - a new addition to our long term road test fleet - must be it.

This environmentally- friendly car should surely be on every fleet list, giving drivers who have to travel for their job the chance to play their part in protecting the environment.

The Prius is a hybrid, meaning it is powered by a petrol engine and also an electric motor. It either runs on the petrol motor, its electric motor or a combination of both. Electronics ensure the car uses its most efficient operating mode. Toyota claims the Prius has up to 47 per cent better combined fuel economy than its lower- medium automatic competitors. In fact its maker describes the Prius as 'the cleanest family car on the market'.

Unfortunately, in this road test I'm unable to calculate my own fuel consumption, as I haven't had the car long enough. But don't let the word 'hybrid' fool you into assuming this is a novelty car. Climb into the cabin and there is nothing to suggest it is any different from any other family car on the market.

It is automatic, has air conditioning and a decent stereo. Satellite navigation is also an option but it is not fitted to our test vehicle.

It wasn't until I'd driven the car for a couple of days that I learned it had a 1.5-litre petrol engine - the power it produces suggests a much bigger motor.

Its CO2 emissions of 114g/km mean the Prius undercuts the 165g/km minimum qualifying threshold for next year's emissions-based company car tax system by 51g/km. And because it is a hybrid, the Prius is also eligible for further tax discounts. The tax falls from 15 per cent of P11D price to 11 per cent, meaning a 22 per cent taxpayer will pay just £467 in benefit-in-kind a year from April 2002.

But it's not all good news, because the trade is still suspicious of hybrid vehicles and this is reflected in CAP Network's lowly residual value prediction after three-years/60,000-miles of just 24 per cent, meaning a Prius will lose £12,480 over the same period. However, Toyota offers a fully-maintained contract hire agreement called Prius One, and also wants to be offered first refusal to buy back outright purchased models.

I've thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Prius and so far my only complaint is its looks - it is not a pretty car. In fact, it's an ugly car in my view. If I were a fleet driver constantly caught up in congestion my green conscience would persuade me to consider the Prius, but I'm afraid its looks might be the key reason why I wouldn't choose one.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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