I like a car with grunt (the kind that fires up an engine readily allowing me to move quickly when possible) but since having a family it's now more about reliability, ease, space and safety.
Just over a week ago I was invited up to Toyota HQ, Epsom to test drive some of their hybrid cars for Mumsnet.
Up until then I knew very little about 'hybrid' cars apart from they use two types of fuel ... petrol and another (often electricity) and tend to be a tad expensive. Oh, and that second fuel isn't always easy to use or get hold of. Never a plug when you need one!
As it turns out I knew diddly.
Toyota have been making hybrid cars for over 12 years and have sold over 2.4 million Prius hybrids to date. They are at the forefront of hybrid technology and currently have the following hybrid cars available in the UK
Yaris Hybrid (smallest)
Auris Touring Sport Hybrid (bigger family version)
Prius+ Hybrid (seven seater)
I was given the Yaris Hybrid to test drive which wouldn't be my car of choice for my family of five ... but it sure was fun to drive, especially whilst doing a GPS challenge.
The Yaris Hybrid is an automatic (as are all hybrid cars) which makes them very easy to drive and the engine is freakily quiet (I had to ask if the engine was running each time I started the car up). Clever technology means that the transition between petrol engine and electric motor is seamless and the steering wheel is beautifully responsive and light with a fantastic turning circle. All this makes for a fun and relaxing drive which is great for stop start driving around town. The car also has a nice bit of poke/grunt, meaning I could easily pull out and get away at junctions and roundabouts.
The centre console has loads of whistles and bells, if you like that kind of thing. There are displays that show you how the car is choosing to use the two different fuel types, data screens that help you to use your fuel types more efficiently and in some models rear view parking cameras. All of the cars have parking sensors, some as mentioned come with parking cameras and some even park themselves!
The main and rather exciting thing I learnt is that most Toyota hybrid cars use a 'Full' Hybrid system that allows the car to generate it's own electricity when the petrol engine is being used. The technology is clever enough to decide when to automatically switch between petrol, electricity or use both depending on the driving conditions meaning that there is no need for a plug. But if you really want a plug you can buy a Prius Hybrid Plug in (this wasn't part of the fleet we test drove).
And because hybrid cars don't generate as much CO2 you pay zero road tax, apart from the Prius that costs £20, and of course you buy less petrol as the car uses it's electric motor for some of the drive.
Sadly the Yaris Hybrid would be too small for my family of five. I did have a quick look at the Auris Touring Hybrid and the Prius+ hybrid before I left. The Auris although a nice looking car was still on the small size (the middle seat at the back isn't full size). The Prius+ on the other hand was better (the middle three seats all moved independently and were all full size) and there was clever use of boot space with hidden compartments for extra storage.
I came away from the day really enthused about Toyota hybrid cars and was impressed with the technology and the drive. I wouldn't change my current main car (Volvo XC90) for one as size wise the current hybrid fleet doesn't match up but I would certainly think about a hybrid more seriously if we ever change our second car.
I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity
Car photo's courtesy of Toyota - I normally use my own but the weather was abysmal as were my snaps on the day.