LONG-TERM UPDATE 3 | The Toyota Prius is big on comfort
I’ve been driving the Toyota Prius for nearly four weeks, and in this time I’ve been really impressed at how comfortable and refined it is for a fuel-saving hybrid hatchback.
The seats in particular are tremendous. I’m a tall and lanky bugger with a bad lower back but I can spend hours at helm with minimal stiffness and irritation thanks to the soft seat cushioning Toyota chose to use. There’s also electronic lumbar adjustment which allows one to fine tune the backrest to suit your spine. As cushy as these chairs might be, they also offer decent lateral support. Look, they’re not racing-spec Recaros but they certainly do a more than acceptable job at keeping your frame in check through sharper corners. They’re heated too, which helps you stay extra cosy when the next cold front blows over.
From a driver’s point of view there’s also plenty of adjustment on offer to help you find your perfect driving position. The seat can be manually raised or lowered while the small diameter, leather-stitched multifunction steering wheel adjusts for both rake and reach. Down in the footwell there’s ample space for your pins to stretch out with a goodly sized footrest to support your left leg – an important addition for longer trips. Ditto the soft leather-trimmed central and door-card armrests that help take the strain off your elbows.
While the Toyota Prius scores well on the ergonomics front, it also comes equipped with an impressive amount of standard features – as it should considering its lofty R566,400 price tag. As it was recently treated to a specification upgrade, this hybrid now sports Toyota’s latest-generation touchscreen infotainment system that supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Not only is it an intuitive system to use, it also comes wired to an impressive six-speaker sound system that’s both punchy and detailed. Whether you’re blasting out the bass-rich sounds of Atoms for Peace or enjoying the more subtle and nuanced tones of jazz sax legend Sonny Rollins, this audio setup never disappoints. Seriously, it’s better than some of the big-brand Bose and B&O systems I have sampled.
Other highlights include dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and automatic headlamps. The latter are of the LED variety (because energy efficient) and provide exceptional nighttime performance. Even on a moonless night in the middle of the Karoo, forward illumination is more than ample. Things included that I didn’t use, however, are the head-up display (HUD) and the wireless charging pad because I’m years behind the tech curve and still rocking an old iPhone 6S.
Also forming part of the 2021 refresh is the inclusion of the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) system: a suite of active safety features including adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and lane keep assist. Again, all are a real boon on long distance treks.
So, any niggles then? Yes.
Firstly, I think the Prius could come with a few more USB ports as one just doesn’t cut it in 2021. Secondly, I found the automatic high-beam assist often dimmed things far too late, which caused oncoming traffic to be temporarily dazzled. And thirdly, well, I just can’t believe that the Prius ships without front parking sensors. This is a car with a long and pointy nose that falls away quite dramatically so not having any aids up at the sharp end feels like a total oversight. Toyota, sort this out.
Finally, I’d like to end this update by commenting on the Prius’ refinement. While previous generation models (especially the Mk2) might have got some flak on the NVH front, this one is commendably quiet out on the open road with little wind or road noise filtering through into the cabin at highway cruising speeds. All of which makes the 2021 Prius a surprisingly calm and soothing place to be when it comes to devouring the kilometres.