NEW PRIUS FUEL OF SUR­PRISES

LOOK INTO FU­TURE UN­DER BON­NET

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - DRIVEWAY - Chris Ri­ley

TOY­OTA'S new Prius uses amaz­ingly lit­tle fuel, which is prob­a­bly no sur­prise.

But the real story is the all-new plat­form it rides on; one that in fu­ture can ac­com­mo­date a new breed of en­gines.

These en­gines, pow­ered by hy­dro­gen from an on-board fuel cell, will pair with hy­brid tech­nol­ogy to emit only water vapour from the ex­haust.

The Prius is the first model to be built on the TNGA plat­form, which is tipped to un­der­pin at least 50 per cent of Toy­otas within five years.

Launched here in 2001, hy­brid Prius was orig­i­nally in­tended to be a stop-gap model.

With its small-ca­pac­ity petrol en­gine sup­ple­mented by the torque from an elec­tric mo­tor, it was a cheap way of re­duc­ing fuel con­sump­tion and harm­ful en­gine emis­sions.

The em­pha­sis this time around is not on fuel con­sump­tion but on mak­ing the car more ex­cit­ing to drive.

The car was de­signed to fill the gap un­til the next gen­er­a­tion of pow­er­trains ar­rived, with devel­op­ment of elec­tric and fuel cell ve­hi­cles al­ready well un­der way.

The fourth-gen­er­a­tion Prius is lighter, stronger and more dy­namic than its pre­de­ces­sor.

The bat­tery pack has been moved from the back to a po­si­tion un­der­neath the rear seat, help­ing to lower the cen­tre of grav­ity.

This has freed up lug­gage space, but not too much; an ad­di­tional 12litres in the base model and 57 in the more ex­pen­sive iTech.

Why the dif­fer­ence? The base model's space-saver spare still takes up room. The i-Tech's 17inch wheel won't fit in the boot so it gets an in­fla­tion kit; the dif­fer­ence is about three fin­gers more in depth.

Kick­ing off from $34,990 ($42,990 for the i-Tech), a $2500 in­crease on the out­go­ing model, it is bet­ter equipped and uses a fru­gal 3.4litres/100km.

Toy­ota has placed a clear em­pha­sis on im­prov­ing the dy­nam­ics and fun fac­tor. The Prius is longer, the cen­tre of grav­ity is 24mm lower and there is a lower seat­ing po­si­tion too.

Its chas­sis, lighter yet 60 per cent stronger, works with new in­de­pen­dent, dou­ble-wish­bone rear sus­pen­sion to en­dow greater sta­bil­ity, which means it can corner more quickly.

Punt it hard into a corner and the car ex­hibits de­cent grip

En­gine power is down 10 per cent to 90kW but you wouldn't know it. That's be­cause the elec­tric mo­tor kicks in ear­lier and the gear­ing is more ag­gres­sive, adapt­ing to driv­ing styles.

Se­lect ‘power’ mode in the Prius and the adap­tive set-up ad­justs en­gine brak­ing and throt­tle re­sponse, us­ing feed­back from Gsen­sors. The re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing has been over­hauled and, with a new and qui­eter ac­tive hy­draulic booster, has a more nat­u­ral brak­ing feel.

Ver­dict: Iconic. What's not to like? It uses less fuel and is more en­gag­ing to drive. We can't wait for the next fuel-cell Prius.

The new hi-tech Prius looks , and is, more dy­namic.

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