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Ford Focus


Toyota Prius V

Summary

Ford Focus

Ford's small hatch, the Focus, is criminally under-bought in Australia. The latest model is  one of the best hatchbacks on the road and when you chuck in the decent price, impressive equipment and absurdly powerful engine for its size, it's a winner.

But you lot? You don't buy it in nearly the kinds of numbers it deserves. Partly because there isn't a bait-and-upsell boggo model to lure you in, partly because it's got a badge that is not exciting Australians any more and partly because it's not a compact SUV.

Or is(n't) it? Because alongside the ST-Line warm hatch is the identically priced and therefore technically a co-entry level model; the Focus Active. Slightly higher, with plastic cladding, drive modes and a conspicuous L on the transmission shifter, it's a little bit SUV, right?

Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.4L/100km
Seating5 seats

Toyota Prius V

I could use three words to describe this car: Toyota, family, hybrid… A fourth word comes to mind, which begins with 'b' and ends in 'oring'…

That might seem harsh, but this isn’t what I’d describe as an aspirational purchase. If you do aspire to a Prius V, though, you’re probably either a hardcore Toyota fan, someone who has a large family, or someone who likes hybrids.

But then again, if you are a potential Toyota Prius V buyer, you could also be one of the smarter examples of our species. While only about 3000 Aussies have chosen a Prius V since it went on sale in 2012, it’s a very, very clever option for family buyers who want to do their bit for the environment, not to mention their own hip pocket.

The Prius V is the most affordable seven-seat hybrid vehicle on the market, and in terms of price, it competes with mainstream models like the Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan X-Trail. But what about space? Practicality? Performance? Let’s take a deeper look, shall we?

Safety rating
Engine Type1.8L
Fuel TypeHybrid with Regular Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency4.4L/100km
Seating7 seats

Verdict

Ford Focus7.4/10

Ten years ago, the idea that the higher-riding version of a hatchback would be a good city car would have been laughable. The Focus Active is pitched as a kind of SUV with its different low-grip driving modes, which you'll never touch if you stick to the city.

The Ford Focus is genuinely a brilliant car, no matter where you take it. The Active takes a terrific chassis, tweaks it for comfort but, ironically, doesn't lose much of the speed.


Toyota Prius V7.1/10

No, the Prius V isn’t exciting. But it does what it’s designed to do - move families in decent comfort without using much fuel. And if that’s what gets your (hybrid) motor running, then you really ought to take a closer look.

Would you consider a Toyota Prius V over a more conventional seven-seat SUV? Let us know in the comments section below.

Design

Ford Focus

For a fairly conservative hatchback, the Focus came under fire for what some termed its derivative styling. I quite like it, and not just because the styling work was led by an Australian. The front end is very much family Ford, as long as it's the European arm of the family, fitting in with its smaller sibling, the Fiesta. The Active scores the usual black cladding, higher ride height and smaller diameter wheels, in exchange for more compliant, higher-profile tyres. All of that takes nothing away from a design that I think looks pretty good.

The cabin is well put together, with just that oddly angled touchscreen causing me a bit of a twitch. The design is a fairly steady Ford interior with a lot of switchgear shared with the Fiesta, but it's all quite nice. The materials feel mostly pleasant  and the hardwearing fabric on the seats feels right for this kind of car.


Toyota Prius V

The world was a different place when the Toyota Prius V came out. Back then, the iPhone 4s was at the cutting-edge in phone design, Gangnam Style was smashing it on the charts, and car design was in a very different place.

There are some signature Prius elements, with a swept, aerodynamic looking roofline and sleek front-end styling. The facelift that was applied to the Prius V in 2015 saw sharper lines and more aggression, but it arguably doesn’t have a lot of aesthetic appeal given the way Toyota has evolved its design since then.

It isn’t a traditional people-mover, because it has regular doors at the back rather than sliding doors to allow simple access to the third-row seats. It’s more like a hatchback that’s been stung by a bee, looking a bit bloated. But as one pint-sized tester put it this week, it’s one very big little car.

The inside is a bit of a marvel in terms of space management. This car measures just 25mm longer than a Corolla sedan (4645mm long), and it's only 1775mm wide (the same as a Corolla sedan) and 1590mm tall, because it needs a bit more room to fit seven people in. And it can.

Practicality

Ford Focus

The Focus is quite roomy compared to other cars in its class. The rear seat has good leg and headroom, with the feeling of space accentuated by large windows. Annoyingly, though, all that work put into making the rear a nice place to be is ruined by a lack of amenities like cupholders, USB ports or an armrest. 

Front-seat passengers fare better with two cupholders, a roomy space at the base of the console for a phone and a wireless-charging pad. The front seats are very comfortable, too.

The boot starts at a fairly average 375 litres - clearly sacrificed for rear-seat space - and maxes out at 1320 litres with the seats down. While you have to lift things over the loading lip and down into the boot, it's one of the more sensibly shaped load areas, with straight up and down sides. Ironically, the smaller Puma has a noticeably larger boot.


Toyota Prius V

The cabin of the Prius V highlights the notion of versatility. There are two rows of seats at the back, with the middle row sliding and folding to allow easy third-row access. And I mean easy - even me, a 183cm-tall human - can clamber into the back seats without too much in the way of old-man noises.

The space in the back row is limited, though, particularly for knee room and foot space. It is best left for children, then. But the second row has three individually slide-able seats, meaning if you really need to fit seven adults in, you theoretically could.

That second row is nicely useable. The fact the seats are sculpted individually means they feel made for a proper family getaway, and even with them set as far forward as they can go (to allow maximum legroom in the third row) I could sit in the outboard seats without much discomfort. The sun-blinds that are built into the back doors are a really welcome touch for parents and adults alike.

What isn’t so great is the lack of rear air-vents - there aren’t any face-level vents in either the second or third rows, meaning things could get stuffy on a hot day.

But the practicality side of things is reasonably well sorted, with useable cup holders in the rear wheel arch moulds, plus there’s a 12-volt outlet in the third row, too. The middle row has bottle holders in the doors, and there are map pockets in the front seatbacks. 

Up front there is more smart storage; a pair (yep, two) of gloveboxes adorns the dashboard, and there’s a pop-out cupholder on the passenger side, too. Two more cupholders grace the centre console (which itself is very shallow, because the hybrid batteries sit inside it), plus a small storage box - presumably for your keys to sit. A small shelf sits at the bottom of the centre stack, and that’s where you’ll find a USB port to connect to the media screen above.

That 6.1-inch touchscreen is fine, but pretty ancient. It has some small menu buttons, won’t allow you to input phone numbers or connect to Bluetooth when the car is moving, and you (or your fellow front passenger) can’t manually enter sat nav details when you’re driving. There is voice control, but it’s painful. Forget Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, too - neither is available in the Prius V. 

While the boot space is pretty limited with seven seats in place - Toyota claims 180 litres of capacity in that configuration - there’s still enough room for a suitcase or two. 

But with five seats in play it makes quite a bit more sense, more easily fitting family things like prams with its 485L of cargo capacity. And remember, there are no batteries under the boot floor eating into space, and you get a space-saver spare wheel as well.

Price and features

Ford Focus

The Focus Active wears a $30,990 sticker but the several people I know who  bought one haven't paid that much, so Ford dealers are obviously keen to do deals. Even at that price, it's got a fair bit of stuff. The Active has 17-inch wheels, a six-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, auto LED headlights, LED fog lights, sat nav, auto wipers, wireless hotspot, powered and heated folding door mirrors, wireless phone charging, a big safety package and a space-saver spare.

Ford's SYNC3 comes up on the 8.0-inch screen perched on the dashboard, which weirdly feels like it's facing away from you slightly. It has wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, DAB+ and also looks after various functions in the car.

The panoramic sunroof is a stiff $2000 and includes an annoying perforated cover rather than a solid one.


Toyota Prius V

Not only is the Prius V the most affordable seven-seat hybrid car on the market, it’s also the cheapest Toyota with seven seats. 

It undercuts the Tarago, Kluger and Land Cruiser Prado by a decent margin, with pricing starting at $37,590 for the base grade model and stretching to $45,380 for the top-of-two-tier i-Tech flagship. Should you bother spending up on that version? In short, no.

That’s because the regular Prius V has a pretty strong standard equipment list. Push-button start, keyless entry, sat nav with SUNA live traffic updates, a reversing camera, climate control and a head-up display are all standard. You also get 16-inch alloy wheels, which have a set of plastic wheel covers over the top (great for kerb touch-parkers).

The i-Tech sees the addition of Bi-LED headlights with auto-levelling (as opposed to the halogens with LED daytime running lights you see on the base model), plus fake leather seats (not cloth), heated front seats, a dual-pane panoramic glass roof (which doesn’t open), an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and a semi-automated parking system. 

Plus, whether you choose the entry grade or the high-spec, you get Toyota’s 'Safety Sense+' system - read the details in the safety section below.

Colour options for the Prius V are quite broad. There are nine rather sedate hues to choose from, with eight of them being 'premium colours' that attract an additional cost ($450). 

And, as with most Toyota models, there is a range of additional factory-backed accessories that you can choose, such as a bonnet protector, boot scuff guard and even door handle protective film (to stop rings from scratching them up), but things like roof racks/roof rails or a roof pod are unavailable.

Engine & trans

Ford Focus

Ford does an excellent range of small turbo engines. The "normal" Focus range (such as it is, now the wagon has disappeared from the market) comes with a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine. Bucking the SUV-this-size trend (yes, I know it's not really an SUV), this punchy little unit delivers an impressive 134kW and 240Nm. They're both very decent numbers for such a small engine.

The big numbers continue with the transmission boasting eight gears, a number you don't often find in a hatchback. It's a traditional torque-converter auto, too, so those of you who have bad memories of Ford's old PowerShift twin clutches should worry no more.

Power goes to the front wheels only and you'll get from 0 to 100km/h in 8.7 seconds.


Toyota Prius V

Powering the Prius V is a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine, which uses a CVT auto and combines with a lithium-ion battery pack and two electric motors. It’s what’s known as a series parallel hybrid set-up.

The system can allow the car to run using both the battery and engine, or just the battery, or have the regenerative braking system feed the battery pack more juice. That tech isn’t necessarily cutting edge today, but it was when the car launched (waaaaay back in 2012).

The engine can produce 100kW of power and 142Nm of torque. The electric motor can produce 73kW on its own, but the maximum combined power output is still 100kW.

Fuel consumption

Ford Focus

Ford's official testing for the big window sticker delivered a 6.4L/100km result on the combined cycle. In my time with the Focus, I got 7.2L/100km indicated on the dashboard, which is a pretty solid result given the Focus spent a good deal of the time on suburban or urban roads.

With its 52-litre tank, you'll cover around 800km if you manage the official figure, or just over 700km on my figures.


Toyota Prius V

Obviously if you are considering a hybrid, you’re looking to take advantage of excellent fuel consumption. And the Prius V doesn’t disappoint.

The claimed consumption is just 4.4 litres per 100km. In the real world, you can expect to use about 5.5L/100km if you’re light on the throttle, and 6.5L/100km if you thrash it. 

You can’t skimp on the fuel when you get to the bowser, though - the Prius V insists on running using 95 RON premium unleaded.

Driving

Ford Focus

Despite the very mild off-road pretensions, if it's a comfortable city ride you're after, the Active is the Focus to have. While the ST-Line isn't uncomfortable - not by a long way - the Active's more compliant tyres and higher ride height (30mm at the front and 34mm at the rear) iron out the bigger bumps without sacrificing much of the sportier car's impressive dynamic prowess, even with the low-rolling-resistance tyres.

The cracking 1.5-litre turbo is responsive and well-matched to the eight-speed auto. The big torque number pushes you along the road and makes overtaking much less dramatic than a 1.5-litre three-cylinder has any right to. 

Ford's trademark Euro-tuned quick steering is also along for the ride, making darting in and out of gaps a quick roll of the wrist, which has the added benefit of meaning you rarely have to take your hands off the wheel for twirling. That darting is aided and abetted by the engine and gearbox, with the turbo seemingly keeping the boost flowing with little lag. It's almost like they planned it that way.

You have good vision in all directions, which almost renders the fact that the blind-spot monitoring is optional acceptable. Almost. It's very easy to get around in, easy to park and, just as importantly, easy to get in and out of. Compared to, say, a Toyota Corolla, the rear doors are very accommodating. 


Toyota Prius V

If you’re a car geek like me, you likely find driving as efficiently as you can fun. If so, you'll love this. You can watch the car switching between EV mode - which it will use for up to about 30km/h, but only for a couple of minutes - and hybrid power. And honestly, if you’ve never driven a hybrid you might think it sounds dumb, but being a fuel miser can be fun!

But the fun factor is pretty much limited to being a cheapskate on fuel. It really isn’t that fun to drive otherwise, but that’s not what it’s designed for.

Still, the drivetrain does a decent enough job for most families - it builds pace pretty easily, and while the refinement and power could be better, if you’re not aiming to break records on the school run, you shouldn’t be too disappointed.

The ride is mostly good, though it can be a little sharp over patchy surfaces, and the steering is decent, if a little lifeless. My biggest issue is the brake pedal response, which takes some getting used to. Sometimes it feels like it won’t stop quick enough. 

That, and the adaptive cruise control doesn’t slow to a stop on the highway - it cuts out at about 30km/h, so you’ve gotta be on your toes if the traffic starts to build up.

If you want the latest and greatest in hybrid family friendliness, you really ought to wait for the new-generation RAV4, which - admittedly - mightn’t have seven seats, but it will have a hybrid drivetrain offered. And it’ll be much more modern inside and out.

Safety

Ford Focus

The Active has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward AEB (low speed with pedestrian avoidance and highway speeds), forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, speed-sign recognition and active lane-keep assist.

Annoyingly - and I can't for the life of me work out why this is a thing - despite some advanced safety features in the base package, you have to pay $1250 extra for blind-spot monitoring, reverse cross traffic alert and reverse AEB, which are part of the Driver Assistance Pack. No, Ford is not the only company to do this.

The back seat has two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors.

The Focus scored five ANCAP stars in August 2019.


Toyota Prius V

Every Prius V still carries the same maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating that it was stamped with in 2015, even though the car was actually tested in 2012.

The range is covered with the safety systems you’d expect, including electronic stability control, ABS, electronic brake distribution, plus there’s a reversing camera, too. Rear parking sensors are a dealer-fit accessory.

There was a bit of back-and-forth between myself and Toyota Australia over airbag coverage. The company stated on its public site that the car had curtain airbag coverage all the way to the third row, but no image to support that. I’ve since had it confirmed by Toyota Australia that it does definitely have third-row airbag coverage, which is a great added piece of mind element for family buyers (plus there are dual front, driver knee and front side airbags, too).

Airbags are one thing, but what about the other safety kit? Well, every Prius V has Toyota’s Safety Sense plus system, with auto emergency braking (AEB), pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, auto high beam lights and lane-departure warning.

Ownership

Ford Focus

Ford offers a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and a roadside-assistance package that consists of a membership to your local motoring organisation. 

The first five services cost $299 each and also include a free loan car and a 12-month extension to your roadside assist membership for up to seven years.


Toyota Prius V

It’s cheap to run a Prius V in terms of its fuel use, and it’s cheap to run in terms of its maintenance, too. Toyota lists its charges at just $140 per visit to the dealer under the Service Advantage offer, though you’ll need to take it in every six months or 10,000km.

The warranty cover is three years or 100,000km for the car, but the hybrid battery attracts an eight-year/160,000km cover of its own.