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New Prius Towers above the rest 

LIKE many Scottish children I was treated to an annual visit to Blackpool – usually on a September holiday weekend.

The highlights of these trips as a youngster were the Pleasure Beach, illuminations, the trams and the Tower.

So to keep up the tradition, my wife Jackie and I took our grandson Cooper down to the ever-popular English seaside resort a few weeks ago.

At two years five months, he is still a bit young to sample the roller coasters but he did get to ride in a vehicle that wasn’t around when I was growing up – and a good bit after that.

His adventure started when he was clicked into his seat in the back of the Toyota Prius I was testing.

This is the world’s best-selling hybrid car and the all-new fourth generation model shows massive improvements since its first appearance in 1997.

Toyota has pioneered hybrid technology with the first Prius a compact four-door saloon that boosted an average 55.4mpg fuel consumption and 120g/km CO2 emissions.

Unfortunately, there was little in the way of real driving pleasure in these early models – but that has all changed.

The latest arrival is built on a new platform and this brings more precise and responsive handing.

And a new rear suspension means you get a much smoother ride when going over uneven surfaces.

With its low stance and sleek lines the Prius also has a sporting to it – enhanced by the test-car’s Hypersonic Red colour.

The roomy, bright interior as also new with the infotainment system’s touch-screen in the centre of the dash with instrument clusters housed in 4.2-inch colour screens along the top.

The drive control knob sits in a white-coloured unit between the front seats which also contains a wireless phone charger.

Toyota’s latest hybrid, with its new compact battery and improved 97bhp 1.8-litre VVT-I petrol engine – giving it a combined output of 121bhp – is quieter than previous models.

Driving in town, it operates on battery alone and you can hardly hear the noise change when the engine joins in.

Despite the massive improvements to fuel economy, the Prius doesn’t fall short on performance.

It has an acceleration time of 10.6 seconds from zero to 62mph and has a top speed of 112mph.

Some models are capable of achieving 94.1mpg while the figure for my top-of-the-range Excel was 85.6mpg.

The power comes through an impressive CVT system that made smooth changes and was responsive enough when required.

Overall comfort in the Prius is good and it was ever so quiet and smooth while cruising at motorway spee-ds.

It also appears to be the ideal car for carrying children in as Cooper sat quite happily in the rear and managed a couple of hours’ nap on our three-hour journey.

It’s amazing the amount of luggage you need to pack for just a couple of days away from home but the boot – with a 570-litres capacity – was large enough to take buggy, scooter, case and bags.

Prius prices range from £23,295 with the test car costing £27,450.

There are four trim levels with standard features on entry-level Active models including LED headlights with auto high beam, smart entry, push-button start, dual-zone air conditioning, multimedia system with touchscreen control, DAB radio, and top safety features such as forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, road sign assist and lane departure alert.

Higher grade models bring additional items such as colour head-up display, wireless phone charger, blind spot monitor with rear-cross traffic alert, and heated front seats.

Other goodies on my test car included 17-inch alloy wheels, park assist, leather upholstery, JBL premium audio system and Toyota 2 with Go Plus which includes sat nav, Wi-Fi hotspot and Bluetooth.

Toyota has upped the stakes once again when it comes to hybrid power technology with the latest Prius a standout attraction for buyers – just like Blackpool Tower.