NEW PRIUS FUEL OF SURPRISES
LOOK INTO FUTURE UNDER BONNET
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.