It is perhaps hard to believe that the Toyota Prius, the “original” hybrid, is entering its fourth generation. For almost two decades, it has helped reshape the way we think about motoring and the environment.
Back in 1997 Prius was a quirky little sedan with a revolutionary new power system under the hood. Turn the clock forward to 2016 and it has been progressively transformed into a sleekly styled hatchback, packed with user-friendly advanced technologies and genuinely fun to drive.
What’s more Toyota has achieved the biggest leap forward yet in the performance of its full hybrid powertrain. That means not just even lower CO2 emissions and improved fuel consumption – starting from just 70g/km and 3.0l/100km – but more responsiveness when you press the accelerator pedal and an all-round better driving experience.
So what has been the thinking behind the new model? Toyota realises that while Prius has been a successful ground-breaker and an opinion former for a new, environmentally conscious approach to motoring, people want – and deserve – more than just an eco-car. They are looking for all the performance, comfort and rewards offered by the best new models, in addition to the green credentials traditionally associated with Toyota hybrids.
To meet these expectations, Toyota has pushed forward in all areas, without compromise, to create a car that has distinctive contemporary styling, exceptional interior comfort, genuine driver engagement and better-than-ever performance delivered by advanced engineering and technology. True to its heritage, the new Prius is easy to drive, utterly reliable and immensely practical.
A new full hybrid system
Every part of the full hybrid system has been changed or improved to make parts lighter, more compact and more efficient. Big gains have been made so that more energy is obtained from every drop of fuel. Importantly, the Prius is able to run more often on its electric motor alone (a unique feature of Toyota’s full hybrid technology), which means zero fuel consumption and zero emissions – including NOx, a major concern for air quality.
Style and design
You can see how radically the Prius has changed at first glance, thanks to all-new exterior styling that has plenty of visual impact. But those sleek lines don’t just look good, they are precision-calculated so that the car cuts through the air with least resistance – an important element in its all-round fuel-saving qualities.
What lies beneath the skin has played a fundamental part in helping the designers produce a car that sits lower to the ground, with a lower hood and roof. This not only makes the car look more appealing, it gives the driver better view from the wheel and contributes to genuine fun-to-drive handling. This Prius has real character, with sharp lines and detailing that catch the eye and mark it down as something very new, special and highly desirable. And if you really want to make a statement, check out the hot new Emotional Red paintwork option.
A sophisticated traveller
Open the doors and an all-new cabin is revealed. “Peace of mind” was the guiding principle here, something that is captured in the sophisticated look and feel of the interior, its comfort and calming quietness. Special attention has been paid to the clarity and lay-out of the controls, the key functions being arranged closest to the driver.
The best traditions of Japanese hospitality are reflected throughout the interior, from the supportive comfort of the seats, the ambient lighting and the efficient climate control, to the ease with which you can be entertained, informed and connected with the easy-to-use audio, navigation, phone and audio features.
The Prius has a great reputation as being a “technology ambassador,” introducing new features that go on to be used more widely in Toyota’s model range. It’s a role the new car maintains, offering an unmatched array of forward-thinking, but useful new items that make life on board safer, better connected and more comfortable.
Toyota has looked at how information can be quickly and clearly delivered to the driver, with least need to look away from the road ahead. The new Prius is equipped with a dual multi-information display in the centre of the driver’s instrument binnacle. Using thin-film transistor technology and colour graphics for pin-sharp clarity, this gives instant access to a great range of key performance data. A new colour head-up display is also available, projecting details such as vehicle speed, navigation instructions and Toyota Safety Sense alerts on to the base of the windscreen, in the driver’s eyeline.
Focus on safety
Toyota Safety Sense, an integrated package of active safety and driver assistance features that’s fitted to all versions of the new Prius. It includes a radar-controlled Pre-Collision System that can detect both vehicles and pedestrians in the car’s path, and trigger alerts and braking to help prevent a collision, and an Adaptive Cruise Control system that can keep you a safe distance from the vehicle in front, even bringing the car to a standstill if need be, with its “all-speed following” function. Automatic High Beam helps maintain the best possible headlight illumination in night-time driving, Lane Departure Alert warns if you begin to stray unintentionally out of your lane, and Road Sign Assist helps make sure you don’t overlook important highway signs by replicating them on the multi-information and head-up displays.
Toyota’s comprehensive safety approach is like having a sixth sense when you are behind the wheel, even detecting hazards in areas you cannot see, thanks to a Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
Fun to drive
But what is the new Prius like to drive? Certainly it has a more rewarding character than ever before, thanks to the use of the new TNGA platform, a much more rigid bodyshell and re-engineered suspension, steering and braking systems. The result is better handling, sharper response and improved driver feedback, without taking anything away from smoothness and passenger comfort. Toyota has also worked on the electronic transmission, making it quieter and matching acceleration better to the engine revs.
All these qualities and more contribute to making the new Prius more relevant to modern motoring and the needs and preferences of customers than ever before.