Toyota Prius (2009 – 2016) Review

Toyota Prius (2009 – 2016) At A Glance

3/5

+Low CO2 emissions and zero car tax. Spacious cabin makes it a realistic family car. Plug-In version escaped London Congestion Charge.

-Not so efficient for long distances at motorway speeds where some diesel cars still beat it. Feels strained when accelerating hard, especially uphill. Thefts of catalytic converters reported.

Insurance Groups are between 15–16
On average it achieves 71% of the official MPG figure

The third generation Toyota Prius was not only the best Prius yet - it's was also the best hybrid car on the market in 2009 and made its main rival - the Honda Insight - look distinctly second rate. There were some key improvements over the previous model but perhaps the biggest endorsement of the Toyota Prius is that it doesn't actualy feel like a hybrid to drive. That may sound strange, but the fact this car is so normal is its key strength. It means you don't have to make compromises to own one.

The hybrid system has been upgraded but the basic principle remains the same. There's a petrol engine - in this case a 1.8-litre unit with 98bhp - along with an electric motor which adds a further 36bhp giving the Prius a more than adequate 134bhp altogether. The electric motor can drive the car on its own at up to around 30mph, when the petrol engine takes over as well as providing extra boost to the combustion engine when needed, for stronger performance.

The electric motor is in turn powered by high-performance batteries which are charged during deceleration and braking, so the system is self-contained. The result of this clever system is an economy figure of 72.4mpg while CO2 emissions are just 89g/km, meaning the Prius is peanuts to run. The fact it's a proper five-door hatch means it's a realistic family car too - not some weird and wonderful model - and there's plenty of space for those in the back, plus a larger boot than a Volkswagen Golf.

It's rerasonable to drive too with the CVT automatic gearbox making for smooth progress. It feels lively when you want it to, but will happily cruise along. However the Atkinson cycle engine and CVT trandsmission mean if you press the accelerator pedal hard it can feel strained and quite noisy - it's far happier in relaxed driving. The motorway isn't the natural environment for hybrids, here the benefits over a diesel are eroded, but the Prius is smooth at 70mph and quiet too.

A Prius Plug-in model followed in 2012, which functions as an electric vehicle on short trips and as a conventional hybrid on longer distances. What sets it apart is its use of a lithium-ion battery. This offers greater capacity, giving it a longer range in electric mode at speeds up to 62mph. It also has a battery charging function so you can fully recharge it from an ordinary electricity supply, in less than two hours. And the plug-in Prius remains London Congestion Charge  exempt even after the limit was lowered to 75g/km.

Real MPG average for a Toyota Prius (2009 – 2016)

RealMPG

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance

71%

Real MPG

43–130 mpg

MPGs submitted

733

Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

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Ask Honest John

I need a reliable used car for £12,000 - should I buy a Toyota Prius?
"I need a reliable used car. I only cover 5,000 miles a year, mostly local shopping trips and a monthly long journey to the Lake District from my home in North Yorkshire. I have seen a 2012 Prius for £12,000 via Toyota's used car scheme. It comes with a 12-month warranty and has had two previous owners, with 50,000 miles on the clock. Does this read like a good buy? "
You're right to be a bit cautious – any older vehicle will need more maintenance than a nearly-new car. That said, Toyota has an exceptional reliability record, and the Prius ought to be extremely cheap to run. They're popular with private hire drivers for this reason – so look out for signs it may have been used as a taxi, although that's unlikely on an approved used car with 50k miles on the clock.
Answered by Andrew Brady
Which used Toyota Prius hybrid should I buy?
"Many of us are being forced to consider changing petrol cars to used hybrids. Could you tell me which Toyota Prius models/years from 2008 onwards qualify for free or reduced road tax, Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) exemption and London Congestion Charge exemption? "
I'd recommend the old shape Toyota Prius 1.8 petrol hybrid. It emits less than 100g/km and qualifies for zero VED road tax. Hybrids are not exempt from the London Congestion Charge, but the Prius will not be charged to enter the London ULEZ. For more information, see: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/toyota/prius-2009/
Answered by Dan Powell
I have £4000 to buy a used Toyota Prius. Do you have any advice on what to look out for?
"I’m looking for a used Toyota Prius as I think that’s the most affordable, reliable and economical used automatic family car for my budget. I’m also a huge fan of Toyotas based on my previous two Mk1 Yaris, which I had to sadly part with. It'll mostly be used for city driving in London with some long trips. What are the pitfalls I should look out for on inspection and test drive? With a budget of £3000-£4000, what would be the best year/model to purchase? Thanks in advance!"
The Toyota Prius is a very reliable car. Your biggest challenge, particularly at this budget, will be finding one that hasn't had a hard life as a taxi. If you can find one that hasn't covered an excessive amount of miles and comes with evidence of regular maintenance, it could be a good purchase. Receipts for servicing at a Toyota dealership will be a bonus – they carry out a hybrid health check which should give you an insight into the status of the batteries.
Answered by Andrew Brady
I need a reliable car for £5000. What's your advice?
"I'm looking at spending no more than £5000. I would like a Vauxhall Astra and it needs to be diesel. I'm hoping to get one that is around 5-7 years old with less than 60,000 miles with a good or full service history. I've just been made redundant and lost my company car so I'm using all my redundancy pay on getting me something reliable. Am I looking at the right car?"
You need to be careful about buying an older diesel. They can suffer from a wide range of issues and can be expensive to repair. This is especially true if you don't cover many miles, or use the car for a lot of short journeys. In this case, the diesel particulate filter (DPF) can get blocked. Even if you do cover high miles, you might find that a low-mileage example already has issues when you buy it. For that reason, you might be better looking for a higher mileage car - a used Astra diesel that's done 120k miles on the motorway will be a much better option than one that's done 60k of short journeys. If you're not covering lots of miles (more than 12k a year), you'd be better looking for a petrol or hybrid alternative. How about a Toyota Prius? They're popular with taxi drivers for good reason - they're extremely reliable and cheap to run. Alternatively, consider a more conventional petrol choice like a Honda Civic.
Answered by Andrew Brady
More Questions

What does a Toyota Prius (2009 – 2016) cost?