GREEN WITH ENVY
would appeal to a wider group of owners by using even less fuel, while meeting customer expectations for better performance.
"It projects a style that is more mainstream while being unmistakably Prius," he said.
"It will satisfy the varied demands of many customers, whether their priority is a car with ultra-low emissions, excellent city and highway performance, economy of operation or more space for their families and luggage."
A 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine replaces the 1.5-litre engine on the previous model.
The bigger engine produces more power ( 73kW, up from 56kW) and more torque (142Nm, up from 110Nm). This helps trim the 0-100km/h time from 10.8 to 10.4 seconds.
The petrol engine has no belts, a first for Toyota. Power steering and the water pump are electrically operated, which improves fuel economy because drag on the crankshaft is reduced.
In addition to driving Prius like a normal car, the hybrid system offers three new driver-controlled modes: EV (electric vehicle), Eco and Power mode.
In Eco, the throttle is managed for fuel economy and the airconditioning is strictly controlled.
In EV, the vehicle stays in electric-only mode longer at lower speeds. The vehicle can operate up to about 50km/h for approximately 1-2km, depending on the state of charge. Power provides maximum acceleration response. The new Prius is built on the Corolla platform with significant improvements to the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension systems.
Two equipment grades are offered, Prius and Prius i-Tech.
Prius starts at $39,900, an increase of $2500 compared with added specification of more than $4000.
It comes to the market at $90 less than the price of the first-generation Prius when it was introduced in 2001.
In the past six years, the price of secondgeneration Prius has risen a mere $ 410 or 1.1 per cent, despite the pressures from inflation at around 3 per cent a year and the value of improved features.
Standard features in third-generation Prius, such as seven airbags, stability and traction control, Smart Entry and Start, multi-information display, Touch Tracer and Head-Up Display, are new or were previously offered only with the i-Tech.
The technology standard-bearer for Prius, the i-Tech model, features solar panels attached to the sunroof.
The panel generates 59W of electricity to run a fan that cools the interior when the car is parked.
Remote-control airconditioning is available by pushing the "A/C" button on the key fob. In another world first, the remote airconditioning system is powered by the hybrid battery for up to three minutes.
Prius i-Tech is fitted with a Pre-Crash safety system that uses advanced millimetre wave radar to scan the road ahead.
If there is a high possibility of a collision, the system will alert the driver and provide additional braking assistance to supplement the driver’s own braking effort.
Even if the driver doesn’t take any action, Prius will automatically apply the brakes to help reduce the severity of the collision. It will also activate the seatbelt pre-tensioners.
Dynamic Radar Cruise Control uses the radar to govern speed to keep a selected distance from the vehicle in front.
Once the road ahead is clear, Prius automatically returns to its original set cruising speed.
New-generation Intelligent Park Assist is available to help the driver enter parking spaces, for both parallel and 90-degree reverse parking.
A rear-view camera, which provides a view of obstacles when reversing, is available with the navigation system.
Other i-Tech features include LED headlamps, chromatic rear-view mirror and leather.
With additional features valued by Toyota at around $10,000, the list price of new i-Tech is $53,500, an increase of $6600.
Toyota is also offering an option pack on the standard Prius, with the satellite navigation system, rear-view camera and intelligent park assist, for $5000.
ON THE ROAD
The third-generation Prius is a much better drive than the current model.
It feels slightly more peppier, steers better, rides more smoothly and is quieter.
There’s more rear leg and headroom and more luggage space, an increase of 31 litres to 446 litres. It can now fit three golf bags.
The suspension is more compliant and forgiving, the tyres offer more grip, there’s steering with feel and a more upmarket interior.
While there are some hard plastics it’s not the black shiny stuff. It’s no sports car but it is not a robotic, unfeeling type of drive.
Left in economy mode and the Prius is a bit sluggish. Selecting the power button gives it more verve.
The gear lever is simple with D for drive, N for neutral and R for reverse. There’s a push button to select for Park instead of being part of the gear lever. Don’t ask me why.
The parking brake is an antiquated foot operated pedal, certainly not in keeping with the hi-tech image.
Visibility is good all-round, although the thick A pillar can hinder forward vision, especially during cornering. The split rear hatch window can distort rear views.
On a peak-hour commuter run we initially used fuel at the rate of 4.6L/100km and then this increased to 4.8L/100km out on country roads with some hills.
On a return from Camden to Sydney airport with lots of stopping and starting, some motorway work and a few hills we deliberately left it in eco mode and drove for economy. We achieved 3.9L/100km, the official combined use figure and we believe low 3s are entirely achievable.
The Prius sits on a Corolla chassis and uses the same suspension.
It started as a cost-cutting move and has resulted in better driving feel with the suspension flowing over potholes, instead of crashing into them like Prius II.
The Prius makes plenty of sense against the latest European turbo-diesel cars, even if it is not as thrilling to drive as a Volkswagen Golf or a Mini Cooper.
It also emits 35 times less tailpipe emissions than the diesels, making it the cleanest and greenest car available in Australia.
Toyota expects to sell 3500 Prius hybrids this year, including 2000 Prius III and next year aims to increase that to 4500.
They expect the top of the range version to account for more than a third of sales.