All-new Toyota Prius - 21st Century Green Machine

The Toyota Prius is a true motoring icon - the first hybrid to hit the road. Toyota has now sold over 3,5 million units worldwide and the rest of the industry has long since caught up with them – practically all the big players now offer hybrid models. Toyota has to work a lot harder in today’s market to ‘bring the magic’ and attract interest in their pioneering sedan. To ensure they still have an edge over the competition the 4th generation Prius has been reinvented in every conceivable way.

The Prius (which means ‘front runner’ in Latin) fairly bristles with innovation, all of which is designed to improve overall performance and efficiency. Toyota have also placed huge emphasis on making the drive more intuitive, responsive and refined. Without a doubt the Prius still represents the cutting edge of personal transport technology. As such it’s definitely worth considering for your next car if you want something that makes a statement while also being very practical and incredibly economical.

The key figure here is fuel efficiency – Toyota claims the Prius is capable of an incredible 3,7 litres per 100kms! Now a lot of the time these figures are somewhat optimistic, so we are pleased to report that when Car magazine road tested the Prius in Johannesburg traffic they found them to be very close to reality. They achieved between 4 and 5 litres per 100kms in urban driving, depending on which driving mode they engaged. While not quite as good as Toyota’s number, this is still amazing fuel efficiency for a full-sized sedan.

So what’s new about the new Prius? Basically - everything!

A firmer foundation - revised chassis and suspension

The new Prius really is a completely new vehicle in every way. Toyota’s engineers started from the ground up, beginning with the foundation - the chassis. The mission was to give the car a lower centre of gravity with a more engaging driving position and thereby to improve handling - making it more precise and responsive and reducing body roll.

Much of this was achieved by creating a body that was 60% more rigid than the previous model, thanks to high strength steel and additional reinforcement to the centre pillars lower structure and the panel connection.

But they also overhauled the suspension, a double wishbone rear suspension that delivers one third the level of shock when driving on uneven roads compared to the out-going model. The front MacPherson strut suspension has also been revised to achieve better handling with more direct response.

As an overall result, there is considerably less body roll and the car demonstrates outstanding straight-line stability.

Striking styling, efficient design

One thing is for sure, you cannot confuse the Prius with other sedans on the road. Love it or hate it, you can’t ignore it. In our opinion, the new shape is a major improvement over the old one, which managed to be boxy and strange-looking all at once.

Not surprising then, that the new Prius’s chief designer, Shunsaku Kodama, is only 43, the youngest chief designer ever appointed at Toyota. Their focus was to “inject ego” into the car by crafting a more powerful, engaging and sporty image that would increase pride of ownership beyond Prius’s traditional ethical profile. In other words, they wanted to make it cool AND green.

Kodama and his team have given it a more aggressive, low-slung stance, helped a great deal by its lower profile. The overall height has been reduced by 15mm and the peak of the roof has been moved forward by 170mm; the belt line has been dropped and angled forward and lower. The new model is also 60mm longer overall at 4,540mm and 15mm wider at 1,760mm.

Most striking are the new headlights, which allowed for slimmer, more striking headlamp units to be designed. These combine with an intricate but unfussy treatment of the fog lights and air intakes to give the car a distinctive and intelligent appearance.

No less eye-catching is the revised rear design, which includes a unique aerodynamic treatment to the rear section of the roof, which aids the clean flow of air over and away from the vehicle. The rear spoiler isn’t just for show, its length and angle has been precisely calculated, working in conjunction with the tapered bodywork to smooth airflow and reduce drag. As we said – efficiency is the name of the game with the Prius!

Even the windscreen gets in on the action – graduated vertical channels on each side of the windscreen direct airflow and rain water up an over the roof without generating wind noise. Aero stabilising fins - featured on the front quarter light trim and rear combination lamp housings - control air turbulence along the side of the car.

All of this adds up to a wold-class drag coefficient rating of only 0.24.

The Toyota badge with its distinctive blue colouring tells you that this is one of Toyota’s ‘green’ cars.

The Prius is available in seven colour options - Passion Red, Attitude Black, Glacier White, Pearl White Metallic, Graphite Grey Metallic, Satin Silver Metallic and Dark Blue Metallic.

Space age interiors loaded with tech

Slip inside the Prius and you’ll know immediately that this is no ordinary car.

The dashboard wraps gently around the driver and flows almost seamlessly into the door panels. The number of different parts that make up the instrument panel has been reduced - the piano black section is now a single unit. This creates a strong visual contrast with the areas of the dashboard and door panels, finished in a high-quality white material that is scratch-resistant.

The dominant centre cluster has a silver-finish frame and a “floating” design, created using a sculpted and near-invisible rear mounting. The seven-inch touchscreen panel is designed like a tablet and allows intuitive operation of the audio, including scrolling through the displays with one flick. The standard six-speaker audio package provides a rich soundtrack to your daily journey.

The instrument cluster features dual 4.2-inch full colour LCD screens with easy to read displays. The screen nearest to the driver presents vehicle speed and information such as fuel level, odometer, trip meter, driving range, average fuel consumption, outside temperature and drive mode. The background colour changes according to the drive mode selected: blue for ECO, grey for Normal and red for Power. The second screen provides information about the hybrid system and efficient driving tips and performance, together with multimedia and climate control system details and driver assistance alerts. With so much to read, you’ll have to remind yourself to keep your eyes on the road!

Little touches like the Prius logo that decorates the air vents, intuitive positioning and wide adjustment options for the seats and leather steering wheel trim enhance the feeling of luxury in the cabin. Seats for both passenger and driver are heated and the new Prius boasts a full colour Heads Up Display that is projected directly to the windscreen, a first for Toyota.

The front seats have been completely redesigned for greater comfort while reducing weight and saving space. The fit is snugger, with better body holding.

The safety options include a rear-view camera with guidelines and no fewer than seven airbags.

Storage space is also ample, thanks to the more compact hybrid system and battery. The cargo floor is set 110mm lower, which means boot capacity is now 502 litres. Storage areas in the cabin include front and rear door pockets, an overhead console, glove box and a console box with a removable inner tray.

New generation engines

The key to the Prius is of course its powertrain, a unique combination of electric and combustion engine that produces maximum efficiency in all traffic conditions.

The new engine puts the focus on an easier and more intuitive drive, so that you get an immediate and smoother response as soon as you press the accelerator.

Fuel economy is a huge selling point for the Prius and Toyota has ensured that the new system is even more efficient by reducing weight and size. The battery is also revised and offers high energy density – allowing it to absorb a full 28% more energy in the same period of time.

The thermal efficiency of the petrol engine has been increased to 40% - the highest of any petrol engine in the world.

The Prius features a 1.8 VVT-I Atkinson cycle petrol engine which has been completely re-engineered to deliver significantly better fuel economy. Major improvements have been made to reduce heat and energy loss to improve operating efficiency in all weather conditions.

In addition, the entire engine underwent computer-aided engineering analysis to achieve the best rigidity possible and reduce noise and vibration.

The engine’s maximum output of 72kW is delivered at 5,200rpm, with peak torque of 142Nm at 3,600rpm.

The two motor-generators are all-new and are smaller and lighter than before to suit the new multi-shaft transaxle design, with no negative effect on fuel economy.

Higher motor speed and new forced water-convection cooling in place of air cooling improve the efficiency of the electric-drive motor (MG2), which delivers 53kW of power and 163Nm of torque.

Further gains have been made by reducing the energy load of the air conditioning system, improving the rolling resistance performance of the tyres and creating a more aerodynamically efficient vehicle design.

Precision and Performance

Just because it’s green doesn’t mean the new Prius is for wimps. It accelerates from 0-100km/h in 10.6 seconds. It will accelerate on the highway from 80 to 120km/h in just 8.3 seconds and the top speed is 180km/h. Most critically with careful driving you can achieve truly amazing fuel economy while still enjoying an incredibly comfortable and refined ride. In an era of ever-rising petrol prices, that is nothing to sneeze at.

The new Prius maintains the smooth, quiet and refined drive that has characterised previous generations of the model, its shift-by-wire transmission making it as easy to drive as an automatic. The driver can choose from three selectable driving modes – Normal, ECO and Power – to suit driving conditions and personal preference.

The driver can also switch to EV mode, for short distances in pure EV driving, such as entering a parking space or garage.

Further fuel savings can be made via the regenerative braking function, which uses the electric drive motor as a generator, converting kinetic energy created when the vehicle slows down into electricity which can be stored in HV battery.

The new Prius is a remarkable testimony to engineering and ingenuity. Although it has long been considered a ‘niche’ vehicle, Toyota have clearly gone to great lengths to enhance the driving experience and to give it a more desirable and aspirational image. Given the very reasonable price point for what you get, they are certain to get a positive response from a market where hybrids are still struggling to take hold.

PRICE -  R427 200
The new Prius comes standard with a 5 year / 90 000km Service Plan, a 3 year / 100 000km Warranty and a Hybrid Battery Warranty of 8 years / 195 000kms.

The Toyota Prius is available now from Bidvest McCarthy Toyota dealerships! You can find your nearest dealership here


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