On our trip to Iona, and talking more than usual about sustainability, we decided it was time to go back to one car, and cut down on how much we used that. And see if we can work towards giving up the car entirely, like urbanites Martin and Meg have done.So we set out to find a replacement to the Skoda Octavia estate that we've had for four years, and sell the little Fiat. We were very happy with it—as are the various others we know who have ones—but we were looking at an expensive but non-essential repair for it, and Emma wasn't happy to drive it (or we to insure for her). So what instead? It needed to be smaller, not more than 3 or 4 years old, economical to run and with low emissions. The smaller Skoda Fabia estate suited, but hardly any were on the second-hand market. And so we got to thinking about the Toyota Prius, the first hybrid mass-market car. It wasn't really smaller than the Octavia, but it does still definitely have some eco-cool, despite newer hybrid models now coming out. (Did you know that Lexus only make hybrids now? Neither did we. Amazing what you find out when enjoying hospitality in the Lexus showroom. They share a building with Toyota, and alas, the Toyota part was being re-furbished, so we had to slum it with Lexus ...)But another factor emerged: unwelcome pain in Martha's hips, which was exacerbated by certain types of movements, including longish periods behind the wheel. So we thought it was worth giving the Prius a try as it only comes in automatic models. We were fortunate that a suitably-priced one became available within a few days at Listers Toyota in Cheltenham. So we gave it a test drive, and loved it. Driving an automatic is always easier and simpler than a manual, but this was something else. Once we got over the rather fiddly actually-get-it-moving process, and the unusual sight-lines, we loved it. And we still get a kick out of the thing running at times on battery only, and tyres against the tarmac being the only thing we hear.


And with our journeys since, over a mixture of town, country and motorway, we're getting 55-57 mpg. Not bad at all for a petrol engine. Though slightly disappointing when compared with the 60+ mpg we could usually get on motorway-based journeys in the Octavia, but then it was a diesel. And you can't beat only having to pay £10 road tax for the year, as the Prius' CO2 emissions are so low.Here's to a hybrid future!

AuthorJonathan Clark