Saturday 20 January 2018

Hybrid redesign delivers

Toyota’s new generation Prius promises improved economy, an appealing look and a fun-to-drive spirit

STRIKING: The fourth generation of Toyota’s pioneering hybrid, the Prius, grows in width and length and adds safety features
STRIKING: The fourth generation of Toyota’s pioneering hybrid, the Prius, grows in width and length and adds safety features
Geraldine Herbert

Geraldine Herbert

There’s something so smugly satisfying about driving a hybrid car; it is green, super economical and there is no range anxiety.

It was Toyota’s Prius almost 20 years ago that spawned the hybrid revolution and since then these hybrid pioneers have been continuously rewriting the rulebook. 

Endorsed by celebrity A-listers, the Prius gained an army of devotees keen to save the planet and became the world’s best-selling petrol-electric hybrid. 

Two decades later the hybrid market is a crowded one and eco-minded buyers now demand more than just green credentials.

While still the familiar Prius, the new model gets sportier styling, is now longer and wider and overall is a much smarter looking vehicle.

At the rear, distinctive character lines and a coordinated LED light cluster add to the car’s distinctive presence.

Inside, the new cabin is more upmarket with a modern, almost space age, feel. The instrument panel is now housed in the centre of the dash and there are nice details such as the Prius logos in the aircon vents.

The smaller battery is now positioned under the rear seats which allows for 56 litres of extra luggage space, bringing the boot size to 502 litres.

Powering the Prius is a revised 1.8-litre 16-valve VVT-I four-cylinder petrol engine paired to a new electric motor that provides a combined 122 bhp with peak torque of 142Nm at 3,600rpm. It goes from 0-100km/h in 10.6 seconds and has a top speed is 180km/h.

This is actually less powerful than the previous version which produced 136 bhp. 

According to Toyota, much has been done to improve the driving experience and the fourth-generation Prius is the first car to use the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), which consists of a more rigid platform.

On the winding narrow streets of Valencia, the location of the European launch, the Prius proved secure and predictable and changes to the car’s centre of gravity increases its stability in corners noticeably.

A double wishbone rear suspension now replaces the torsion beam layout with a revised MacPherson set-up at the front and the result is a much more comfortable and smoother drive.

Safety has also been improved with Toyota’s Safety Sense system, a collision avoidance and mitigation package that integrates four of Toyota’s existing active safety technologies: a Pre-Collision System that can detect both pedestrians and vehicles, Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beam, and Radar Cruise Control.

Toyota reckons the new Prius will return 94.1mpg (3litres/100km) on a mix of urban and motorway driving when fitted with the entry-level model’s 15in wheels. CO2 emissions of 70g/km means an annual road tax bill of just €170.

There is a host of new fuel-saving measures including an air-conditioning system that knows which seats are occupied and adjusts its airflow accordingly for maximum efficiency.

Prices for the new Prius start at €31,450 for the entry level while the Prius Luxury spec starts at €33,550. Standard equipment includes adaptive cruise control, 15ins alloys, front fogs, air con, rear-view camera, 7ins multimedia, 4.2ins TFT and the Toyota Safety Sense package.

The range-topping Luxury specification adds 17ins alloys, dualzone air con, heated front seats, wireless phone charger, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.

The new Prius is green, economical and versatile and is now just as suitable for the school run as it is for long-haul excursions. And it’s so much better looking, as we zipped around Valencia, a haven of architectural gems, old buildings and stunning bridges people stopped to look at our car, not the one behind us.

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