Wishing for a compact hybrid seven-seater? Toyota's lithium-assisted Prius+ is here
Plus-size Prius The Toyota Prius+ has superior ride and handling characteristics and feels more assured around bends, with its extra width and lower centre of gravity. ST PHOTOS: BENJAMIN SEETOR

Toyota has replaced its Wish - possibly its best compact multi-purpose vehicle - with a petrol-electric hybrid seven-seater. How does the new-age successor named Prius+ measure up?

First off, let's look at space. The new car is slightly longer and wider, but sits a tad lower. Its wheelbase is 30mm longer at 2,780mm.

With the extra width, occupants in the second row have three individual seats, as opposed to the compromised middle seat in the Wish.

Boot space has also increased marginally to 200 litres, up from 186 litres in the Wish. It is still not much of a stowage area, but an improvement nonetheless.

Passengers in the third row, however, are in cosier quarters, with less headroom and knee room.

Up front, the empty centre aisle - a convenient feature - is now occupied by a console which stores the car's 56-cell lithium-ion batteries.

Seats in the Prius+ are as easily configured as those in the Wish, with sliding and folding functions accomplished without risk to nails or muscles.

Overall, the cabin is still fairly liveable for a young family, even if there are no rear air-conditioning vents. On long hauls, the third row is best reserved for small children.

Now, for the driving. The Prius+ is generously equipped at the helm, with modern amenities such as steering-mounted controls, cruise control, keyless system and a 4.2-inch infotainment screen.

As with all hybrids, it comes with a choice of drive modes: Eco, Normal, Power and Electric.

And like most hybrids, the Prius+ has a throttle calibrated for efficiency. So, it is not exactly spontaneous, even if the car actually has more torque - available from lower revs - than the Wish.

Hence, despite being 200kg heavier than the Wish, the Prius+ matches its 11.3-second century sprint time. For less explosive endeavours however, it is the Wish that feels more responsive.

On the flipside, the Prius+ has superior ride and handling characteristics. The cabin is better insulated against noise and vibration and jolts associated with badly paved tarmac are kept better at bay.

The car also feels more assured around bends, with its extra width and lower centre of gravity.

Unlike early hybrids, the Prius+ coasts freely and its brakes do not activate with a wooden feel.

Its main proposition, of course, is economy. Over a weekend of mixed driving, the test-car managed 6.8 litres/100km. This is better than the 8.6 litres/100km the Wish averages, but shy of the 4.5 litre/100km stated in the Prius+ brochure.

The lighter fuel bills will go some way in offsetting the car's slightly higher price tag. But since the Wish is no longer available, this is a moot point.

The Prius+ is also a more modern car. It has LED headlamps with daytime-running lights, UV-protected glass all round, Apple CarPlay, a multi-function four-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel, anti-glare rearview mirror, digital instrumentation, an extra 12-volt outlet at the back and more cabin lights.

Along with its hybrid drivetrain, these features make the Prius+ a more up-to-date machine than the Wish, even if the older car is far from shoddy on the utility front.