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I can not believe that an Englishman writes a good review for a non-performance car like the Prius.

Hijacked from a post from "Prianista" at PC...

http://www.burnhamandhighbridgeweeklyne ... _dream.php

Toyota's electric dream
By Gazette Correspondent

IF THERE'S one thing you won't get from me, it's a doom-laden view of the future - you know, peak oil, climate change and all that.

In contrast, you can be forgiven for thinking that it's my job to big up the car industry and all its associated activities.

After all, my job is to tell you how great cars are - especially the new ones, the fast ones and the luxurious ones.

In fact, all the ones the green people would like to see crushed, turned into jewellery and, in some post-modern, ironic way, sold at new age music festivals to like-minded bunny-huggers.

Well, I hope you're ready for this - and you're sitting down - because I'm going to come right out and say it: Toyota's Prius is a rather good car.

Now I like a 500 horsepower sports car as much as the next man, but I'm not one of those petrolheads who derives pleasure in taking the Michael out of slower, less exciting cars. No, in my book if it's a good car, it's a good car whether it's got five horsepower or 500.

So what makes the Prius a good car? Before answering that, it's worth spending a few moments examining it.

Although Toyota's first attempt was a commendable one, it wasn't what you could call easy on the eye.

In an age where marketing and image matter, it doesn't matter how clever a car is if it doesn't look appealing in the eyes of the consumer.

It didn't and, unsurprisingly, wasn't embraced by the majority.

Fast forward to the second generation car we have now.

It's certainly more glamorous than Toyota's first attempt, yet retains the tried and tested practical family car silhouette.

But that's where the similarities with your average Ford Focus ends.

The fancy hybrid drive gubbins is very clever - too clever for me.

What's important is that it just works. There's nothing worse than owing a stylish music player if its controls are confusing because you'll end up not using it.

The Prius is the reverse, and as such is incredibly user friendly. In fact, it proves easier to drive than a regular car.

And here's the crux of the argument for the Prius.

Yes it's very clever and yes it's very economical - I routinely saw the high fifties mpg on the trip computer without even trying.

Most importantly for a car that's tasked by the environmental lobby to chance perceptions and win over petrolheads it must not be intimidating or complex to drive, that way it will appeal to a broad audience.

It goes something like this - with the keyless ignition system it's simply a case of walking up to the car, getting in, belting up, pressing the starter button, sticking the car in Drive, releasing the handbrake and pulling away.

As an added bonus, if there engine's not too cold or the car's already been driven, you'll be driving off under battery power for the first few yards.

From an ergonomic perspective, everything that's driver-orientated in the cabin is simple to operate, The steering is Toyota's usual town lite' setting, making urban running a breeze, while the stubby fascia-mounted gear lever needs nothing more than a quick nudge in the desired direction.

There's no manly, oversize lever protruding from the floor, which frees up space in the cabin.

Continuing the ease of use theme, the digital instruments and, in the case of the flagship T Spirit specification, the touch screen sat-nav, audio function, climate control and Bluetooth phone interface all work well.

There's a cavernous centre armrest storage box and rear seat passengers are spoilt by the amount of room available.

In essence the car works well as a five-door family hatch.

There's no question that the car's lavish specification and exceptional cabin refinement are two important factors in the car's appeal.

However, the more time you spend behind the wheel the more you appreciate the relaxed nature and simplicity of the driving experience.

The Prius is no sports car but it can be driven briskly, although ultimately it prefers it if a more sedate pace is maintained.

One bonus of the hybrid drive is the electric motor's ability to step in and add some extra oomph when you're accelerating or putting the petrol engine under a heavy load.

Along with the extra pace, the electric intervention helps reduce an ordinarily heavy hit on the car's fuel consumption.

Ride comfort is first rate for something of this size, while the transition back and forth from electric running to the petrol engine is almost impossible to detect.

On the latest cars you have option of switching exclusively to electric power, which is handy in car parks and for stop-start traffic. Don't worry, the petrol engine kicks in above a predetermined (low) speed or when the battery charge is low and in the first instance it won't let you impersonate a milk float if the car's too cold.

I could never say I was an environmentalist, but I do like the Prius, not because it has become the poster child of the enviro-transport lobby, but because the technology behind it just works and it's a smart, refined car that doesn't cost buckets of cash to run.

There are less expensive compact family hatches around, but none with Lexus-levels of standard kit.

However, for me the Prius is a shining example of what can be achieved when technology is used positively, not just to superficially impress buyers.

As a fuss-free mode of transport for active urban families, it hits the spot. Why can't more cars be like the Prius?
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