GREEN WITH ENVY

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - Front Page -

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.

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