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The arrival of a New Prius is always a landmark occasion. This time, the pioneer of hybrid technology takes a bold new step. The dramatic new styling approach is unmissable. But looks are just part of the package. Behind the wheel, Prius defines a new direction, one where hybrid efficiency meets responsive performance

Toyota Prius, exterior Red, front side view, daytime shot in town, vehicle parked on the main road of a busy high-street with some people walking or cycling past.
Prius: the hybrid pioneer

Introducing the fourth-generation Prius. This model builds on the incredible achievements of the previous generations, which have, since its launch in 1997, sold more than 3.5 million around the world. So, the bar has been set high.

Like its predecessors, the Prius takes a big leap forward in improving fuel economy, emissions and efficiency. But it will also be more rewarding to drive, with power delivery that provides the driver with far greater emotional payback.

“The role of the Prius is to be fun to see, touch and drive,” says Koji Toyoshima, Prius chief engineer and head of development. “It’s about creating an emotional response. The design of the car, both inside and out, has a wow factor – making it appealing and impressing the people who ride in it.”

Waku Doki n. heart-pumping excitement

An essential part of dialling-up the fun-to-drive element is that the Prius is the first car to be developed using the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform. That may not sound fun, but it’s a whole new way of making cars. The new platform gives the Prius a lower centre of gravity, an improved driving position and better visibility. With TNGA, the Prius is 60 per cent more rigid, while the overall weight of the bodyshell has been reduced, thanks to a higher proportion of high-tensile strength steel. What does all that mean for you? The lighter, more rigid the car, the better the handling, stability and comfort. And that’s where this Prius delivers.

How do you create excitement in a car’s design?

The beauty of the TNGA-based platform is that it improves driving dynamics and also gives designers a freer hand to create rich visual appeal. Prius chief designer, Shunsaku Kodama, headed up the youngest-ever design team in Toyota’s history – one with a natural inclination to produce a car with a sportier image. The roofline of the car has been moved forward and the bonnet lowered to create a distinctive, aerodynamic exterior. This dramatic low-slung styling sets the Prius apart from every other car on the road, and also improves the driver’s view and interior passenger space.

The curved, triangular headlights also make a striking visual impression. Here, designers took advantage of small, powerful LEDs to produce a compact projector headlamp that uses a single LED for both high and low beams. The technology was instrumental in reducing the size of the headlamps, which gave designers the freedom to create that dramatic low bonnet line. At the rear, the playful red tail-lamp pattern is achieved from just two LEDs, with innovative guides to provide uniform illumination.

“It’s essential to create strong desire as soon as you set eyes on a car,” says Toyoshima. “You’ve got to want to come back time and again to drive it – just for fun.”

Breaking the stereotypes

Toyota designers broke away from the stereotype where cars are almost invariably described by their ‘face’ in human or animal terms. Exterior designers focused on creating something new as concepts went through various stages of approval. “At first, it was a predator, then it became a Japanese kabuki mask,” says Toyoshima. “The Prius is futuristic, yet it retains some element of a living being, so maybe it’s an emotional cyborg – combining emotion and machine.”

A showcase for innovation

Owning a Prius has always meant having the latest innovations. It’s no different with this model, which features helpful technology that makes every drive easier, more comfortable and safer.

Let’s start with the Simple Intelligent Parking Assist system. It uses an array of sensors to identify parking spaces, monitor surrounding objects and guide the car into the correct position for reversing. There’s also a clever automatic air-conditioning system that detects occupants, then adjusts ventilation performance to minimise air flow around empty seats.

The Prius also showcases a colour head-up display three times larger than the current model’s. This allows a wider range of information to be projected on the lower section of the windscreen, including speed, navigation instructions and driving-assist alerts, such as road signs recognised by the Toyota Safety Sense Road Sign Assist function.

New high-resolution, colour 4.2-inch screens on the dashboard give a more effective presentation of what you need to know when you’re driving, including speed, fuel level and the energy flow of the hybrid system. This is bolstered by the improved look and performance of the 7-inch multimedia display.

A welcoming feel

The interior of the Prius is themed around ‘peace-of-mind’ and the Japanese philosophy known as omotenashi (hospitality), which gives the car a welcoming feel. With great use of space, an improved driving position and comfort, the cabin is a special place to be.

“Some of the cues are meant to relax, others to excite,” says Toyoshima. “You are able to travel great distances in this car, and the experience needs to be exceptional.” The instrument panel has a slim, sculpted form. White accents on the steering wheel and front-console tray add to the design quality.

Toyoshima also made it a personal quest to redesign the seats. More focus on lower-back support improves the comfort of long-distance travel while the cushioning of the rear seats was enhanced to match the higher comfort levels achieved in the front.

Toyota Prius, exterior Red, side back view, daytime shot, vehicle parked at a busy high-street with a couple walking past looking at the vehicle.
Toyota Prius, exterior, close-up of white & black wheel.
Toyota Prius, interior, light grey leather steering wheel & front seats on display.
Toyota Prius, exterior, close-up of headlight
A fun and rewarding drive

Drivers of the Prius will notice the better driving performance and the car’s fun-to-drive character. Important changes to the car’s hybrid control system ensure that the car has a quick and smooth throttle response with better acceleration feel.

In the Prius, engine revs are more progressive and kept lower thanks to more electric power being used to support performance under acceleration. The transmission has also been made much quieter at high engine speeds.

This isn’t just down to mechanical improvements: New software has been introduced to enhance the vehicle’s response from a standing start, creating a more linear relationship between the pressure the driver applies on the pedal and actual acceleration.

When you’re behind the wheel, you’ll also benefit from a drive-assist system to provide a more responsive driving experience. This adaptive system continuously monitors the vehicle’s G-forces to understand driver behaviour and habits, a function activated when the driver selects Power mode. The hybrid system reacts to the driver’s desire for more sporty performance, adjusting engine braking performance and throttle response accordingly.

Hybrid: the next generation

The Prius has smaller, lighter components, motors and batteries to improve performance and durability. While the battery uses established technology, Toyota has succeeded in increasing its energy density. More power from a smaller unit has meant that the battery can now be located beneath the rear seat, avoiding intrusion into the boot space. Meanwhile, how the car charges its batteries on the move has been enhanced by 60 per cent.

It retains the 1.8-litre VVT-i petrol engine featured in the current model, but comprehensive changes have taken its high level of thermal efficiency to a world-leading 40 per cent. Together, this reliable technology targets an 18 per cent improvement in emissions and fuel consumption.

Safety. Always a priority for any new Toyota

The Prius is the driver’s sixth sense, recognising and anticipating things they might not notice. There are now 22 sensors (increased from nine on the previous model) which include front and rear radar, front and rear cameras, lateral laser sensors, front and rear acoustic sensors, dusk and rain sensors for headlight and wiper operation, and front door and boot sensors to enable keyless entry.

An advanced version of Toyota Safety Sense (a range of active safety systems) is also included, with the addition of Adaptive Cruise Control that adjusts your speed in traffic and a Pedestrian Detection capability. The Prius is also be available with a Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert to help you reverse out of a difficult parking space or driveway.

There is also an intelligent parking sensor system that will help avoid the kind of low-speed bumps that can happen during parking manoeuvres, regardless of accelerator and brake operation.


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