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.”