There are not many vehicles that can claim being “game-changers” like the Toyota Prius can. The Prius was the first hybrid to be mass-produced when it was launched in Japan in 1997, making hybrid technology readily available to the car market. However, it was only with the launch of the second-generation Prius in 2005 that South Africa first tasted hybrid technology.
Brian Joss – In keeping with the Prius name – which means “front runner” in Latin – the new-generation marvel continues to build on its green car credentials and now comes with even more technical breakthroughs to reaffirm its status as the world’s best-loved hybrid. In fact, Toyota had sold more than 3.5 million Prius hybrids before the launch of the fourth-generation model. In the past three generations each Prius had a defined role to play.
Glenn Crompton, Vice President of Marketing for Toyota Motors South Africa, says: “The fourth-generation Prius builds on the strengths and achievements of its predecessors and establishes new benchmarks in fuel economy, emissions and efficiency. It will add further impetus to the growing appeal of hybrids in the global market, achieving its strongest environmental performance yet, while delivering much improved styling and surprising driving dynamics from a green car.”
The new Prius is founded on the latest evolution of hybrid technology, delivering the afore-mentioned efficiency and environmental performance.
However, beyond these green credentials the new Prius also embraces stronger emotional and performance qualities that give it wider and greater appeal to customers who appreciate eye-catching, original styling, high levels of sensory quality, practicality and a driving experience that is genuinely fun and rewarding, Toyota said.
The realisation of these is based on three pillars: Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), authentic design and styling and a new generation full hybrid system, according to Toyota.
The new Prius is the first model to use a chassis based on Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA). It will also underpin other future models and will be joined by further platforms suitable for different vehicle applications, from compact sports cars to SUVs. The TNGA platform makes a big contribution to the improved driving dynamics – beyond what might be expected of an eco-car. These superb driving qualities are also enhanced by Prius’s new double wishbone rear suspension, which produces one-third the level of shock when driving on uneven roads compared to the outgoing model. To achieve better handling with more direct response, the front MacPherson strut suspension has been revised with an increase in the incline angle of the shock absorbers and the use of slant bearings.
TNGA also brings a new approach to the design of the engine compartment, with a focus on placing components lower down in a more rationally organised “clean and tidy” space. In the new Prius this allows for better packaging, a lower vehicle centre of gravity and a more attractive, lower bonnet, which in turn improves safety by giving the driver a clearer forward view.
The new Prius is not simply “another green car,” its design and high quality throughout give it greater emotional appeal and a powerful, desirable presence, underpinned by the fundamental strengths of the new TNGA platform. As Toyota’s most advanced hybrid, it is appropriate that it is an image leader and the intention has been to produce a design that makes an immediate impact.
The car’s new, low-slung stance – made possible by the TNGA platform – suggests an excellent driving performance, supported by a distinctive new body silhouette that is both athletic and aerodynamically efficient. The result is a “human-tech” design with strong emotional quality, fully exploiting the opportunity presented by the car’s lower centre of gravity.
Prius Chief Designer Shunsaku Kodama, who at 43 was Toyota’s youngest chief designer when appointed in 2011, led a team whose youthfulness generated a natural enthusiasm to challenge the status quo, even for a vehicle as revered as Prius. He says 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 profile, Prius displays a silhouette that is lower and more athletic. The TNGA platform has allowed for significant reduction in height in key areas to create a lower, more dynamic appearance. The overall height has been reduced by 15mm compared to the current Prius, to 1,490mm. The peak of the roof has been moved forward by 170mm, and the belt line has been dropped and angled forward and lower, emphasising the car’s stronger dynamic qualities. The rocker panel displays a light-catching surface that starts from the lowest part of the front bumper, runs beneath the front door, then races upwards, accentuating the car’s low-slung stance and the car’s low wind resistance features secure a world-class 0.24 coefficient of drag.
“Peace of mind” is the theme for the cabin, which is designed to be a welcoming, quiet and comfortable space, embracing the car’s “human tech” design concept by being futuristic and stylish, yet rational and ingenious. The cabin has a strong design that is advanced, functional and makes a big visual impact. It inherits the intuitive concept of previous Prius generations by consolidating operational functions closest to the driver and placing the information functions further away. The functionality of this approach can be seen in the layered construction of the dashboard with distinct control and display zones.
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, for example 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 instrument cluster features dual 4.2-inch full colour TFT (thin film transistor) LCD screens with easy to read displays. The screen nearest to the driver presents vehicle speed and ancillary 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 eco-driving tips and performance, together with multimedia and climate control system details and driver assistance alerts.
There is plenty of standard safety kit too, including rear-view camera with dynamic guidelines and no fewer than seven airbags (curtain, front, side and a driver knee airbag). Convenience features include customisable dual Multi-Information Display screens and seat heaters for driver and front passenger. The new Prius also boasts a Toyota-first full-colour Heads Up Display (HUD) projected directly to the windscreen.
The engine’s maximum output of 72kW is delivered at 5,200rpm, with peak torque of 142Nm at 3,600rpm.
The new Prius accelerates from 0-100km/h in 10.6 seconds. Highway overtaking acceleration from 80 to 120km/h can be accomplished in just 8.3 seconds and the top speed is 180km/h.
Toyota has developed lightweight alloy wheels which complement the performance of the new Prius’s suspension and improve handling stability by being more rigid. This higher rigidity also has an impact on the level of tyre resonance that’s generated, thus reducing road noise.