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Toyota has reinvented its Prius petrol-electric hybrid passenger producing the third generation model range that sets new standards for environmental and driving performance.
Prius was the first mass-produced hybrid, with leading edge technology combining an electric motor with a conventional petrol engine and since its introduction 12 years ago has sold over 1.2 million vehicles globally.
Now two generations on, Toyota has launched its latest version, which is available in two models, the Prius and the top of the range Prius i-Tech which is packed with additional technology and creature comforts.
Prius is synonymous with fuel efficiency, low emissions and intelligent technology all with the solid engineering of Toyota. Its name actually means "to go before". The new Prius is an impressive car that lets you sense the future of automobiles.
With fresh styling Toyota has retained the wedge-like triangular form of the previous model but redefined its exterior with a sleek, more angular profile, with sharper edges to the front and rear.
The Hybrid Synergy Drive system combines a bigger more powerful engine with a stronger electric motor, resulting in greater acceleration, while delivering better fuel economy than its predecessor.
With arguably the best fuel economy of any vehicle and more horsepower when you need it, the official fuel consumption figure achieved under combined urban and ex-urban conditions is 3.9 litres per 100 kilometres with CO2 emissions of 89 grams per kilometre. (ADR81/02 Combined)
The petrol engine in the new Prius grows in size from a 1.5 litre engine to 1.8 litres yet delivers fuel efficiencies. This helps boost power from the combined petrol-electric Hybrid Synergy Drive system by more than 23.5 per cent from 81kW to 100kW.
Despite the increase in power, new Prius achieves a 16 per cent improvement in CO2 emissions over the outgoing model to just 89 grams of CO2 per kilometre travelled.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the larger petrol engine helps improve fuel economy with its added torque providing more efficient highway operation and improved uphill performance.
This new model Prius gives three drive modes to choose from for improved fuel economy and performance to meet driver's requirements; Electric Vehicle (EV), ECO and Power modes.
The EV Mode limits engine startup and can be used to drive using only the electric motor for one or two kilometres dependent on driving conditions and the state of charge, and enables the type of quiet driving expected from a hybrid vehicle.
The ECO Drive Mode is the answer for those who want economical driving. When this mode is selected, power output is lowered in relation to accelerator pedal operation, and the air conditioner's performance is also suppressed. Both are done to further economise on fuel.
The Power Mode is characterised as the flip side of the ECO Mode, and provides dramatically powerful driving performance with the seamlessness expected of a hybrid vehicle.
The display zone in the Prius incorporates a new eco drive monitor which is a useful tool to teach drivers how to achieve more fuel efficient driving.
During normal driving, drivers tend to press excessively on the accelerator pedal without really noticing.
With four displays provided for different purposes, drivers can visually confirm and understand the eco-friendly and fuel efficient driving ranges, and instinctively make use of the electric motor-only driving range.
A combination of advanced equipment and features to improve overall efficiency, have been included in the new Prius to create one of the most energy efficient mass produced vehicles available. Many are firsts in the Toyota passenger range.
The i-Tech model is equipped with a glass roof with solar panels located over the rear seating area, powering a new ventilation system.
This solar powered ventilation system uses an electrically powered air circulation fan that doesn't require energy from the engine or the battery.
The system reduces the interior air temperature while the vehicle is parked, making cool down time shorter when the driver returns to the vehicle and therefore reduces the use of the air conditioning.
A remote air conditioning system is also included in the top of the range i-Tech model. It is a world first and can function on battery-power alone thanks to the high capacity hybrid battery. It can be enabled by remote operation so the driver can reduce the interior temperature on a hot day before entering the car.
To activate the system, all the driver needs to do is activate the A/C button on the key fob while walking toward the car, giving the air conditioning a jump-start on cooling before the driver gets to the driver seat.
The new Prius features a smart entry and start system for both models. Instead of a conventional button, there is a touch sensor on the front door handles. By simply carrying the key, the doors can be unlocked by grasping the outside door handle, and locked by touching the newly adopted sensor on the door handle.
LED (Light Emitting Diode) headlamps of the i-Tech model, and standard in the tail and stop lamps of both models, provide not only more effective lighting but help reduce the vehicle's power consumption.
Compared to the outgoing model, electricity consumption is reduced from 10 watts to 1 watt through the use of the LED lights helping increase fuel efficiency and reducing maintenance costs for the owner.
Air conditioning, a major energy drain, has been re-engineered to increase efficiency and cool-down performance.
In addition, an exhaust heat recirculation system reduces heat waste by warming the engine coolant during cold start up for improved performance, and also heating up the cabin more efficiently.
The new Prius is built on a new platform, enabling improvements in handling stability, NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness) and collision safety. The suspension consists of front struts and a rear torsion beam design as before, but handling stability is greatly enhanced.
Improvements have been made to the interior space in the new Prius with rear seat legroom enhancements made by a new space saving contoured front seat design.
Key driving information can be seen more clearly and without the driver taking their eyes off the road with Toyota's new Head-Up Display (HUD) technology incorporated into both models of Prius.
HUD clearly displays information inside the windscreen in front of the driver which assists with safety by reducing the amount of eye movement away from the road. The HUD displays such information as vehicle speed, navigation information, audio, dynamic radar cruise control and pre-crash safety system warning information.
Another clever feature of the Prius is the touch tracer display, where touch-sensitive switches are located on either side of the steering wheel, displaying on the instrument panel directly in front of the driver, allowing the driver to operate commonly accessed switches without having to look down at the switch itself.
Aerodynamic performance was an important factor in the new Prius' design.
Minor alterations to the overall profile include the front pillar position and angle. The front pillar is extended forward helping to refine the performance-focussed shape form.
Strong side character lines rising from the front to the rear emphasises the sharp sporty shape.
Toyota focussed on making Prius one of the cleanest aerodynamic profiles of any mass-produced vehicle's in the world. This focus on the body shape, underbody, wheelarch liner, wheel shape and the addition of a fin under the rear floor, enabled the designers of the new Prius to reduce the coefficient drag (Cd) value to 0.25 (claimed to be the lowest of any mass produced vehicle) as well as increasing the vehicle's linear stability.
Prius protects its passengers just as it does the environment.
While the driver and front passenger advanced airbag system helps safeguard passengers in the event of a frontal collision, Prius' standard front seat mounted side airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags help provide protection against certain types of side impact collisions bringing the total number of air bags in new Prius to nine.
Active front head rests are used in both front seats to reduce the possibility of whiplash injury in a collision. An Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) Brake Assist (BA), electronic Traction Control (TRC) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) are included as part of Toyota's standard safety package.
A dynamic radar cruise control system using advanced millimetre wave radar, is incorporated into the i-Tech model. The i-Tech also features a pre-crash safety system, which alerts the driver if a collision is likely, then activates the brake system and retracts seatbelts to help reduce potential injury and damage.
Parking doesn't have to be a problem in the new Prius i-Tech, with simplified settings incorporated into the Park Assist function to enable easier parking for both parallel and 90 degree reverse parking.
Intelligent Park Assist assists drivers by guiding steering operations into a targeted spot when either parallel parking or when reversing into a park.
The driver merely has to check the surroundings for safety and control the speed with the brakes.
This advanced technology was adopted in the outgoing model as a world first and shows dramatically enhanced functions, being much easier to use in the new model.
Much effort has been put into the design and development of Prius to ensure the car is as eco-friendly on the inside as it is on the outside, and in its performance.
The Tsutsumi Plant where new Prius is produced has been designated as a model plant for eco-production, and a project is now underway to turn it into a sustainable plant that generates 50 per cent of its power with solar panels and recyclable water. It has grass growing on the roof, uses solar panels to generate power and special paint to clean the air by absorbing pollutants.
Some of the plastics used in the interior of new model Prius are plant based resins, with excellent recycling characteristics and they emit approximately 20 per cent less CO2 than oil-derived plastics.
Additionally Toyota Super Olefin Polymer is used throughout the Prius for excellent recyclability.
New Prius has nearly 70 per cent fewer smog-forming emissions than the average new vehicle.
Toyota's new Prius takes Hybrid Synergy Drive to the next generation.
The new Prius has inherited the basic hybrid system configuration of the outgoing model. However, such significant advances were made that you could say that the hybrid system of the new model is an entirely new system.
Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) is the marketing name for the Toyota Hybrid System (THS).
The HSD adopts a series-parallel hybrid or a strong hybrid configuration to deliver the energy-saving benefits of a series hybrid together with the acceleration of a parallel hybrid. This results in the HSD offering four key benefits - class-leading fuel efficiency, world-class low emissions, impressive seamless acceleration, and surprisingly silent Performance.
The 1.5L in-line 4-cylinder petrol engine of the current model has been replaced with the 1.8L in-line 4-cylinder engine and improves fuel efficiency at high speeds.
In addition, both maximum output and maximum torque have been improved by approximately 30 per cent with a 300cc increase in engine displacement.
With the operation of the power split device, the hybrid system adopted by the Prius can utilise the power generated by the engine and motor for different purposes based on driving conditions.
With this characteristic, electric motor-only driving is possible, and the petrol engine can operate in its most efficient range.
The Prius is available in seven exterior colours, white pearl, silver metallic, black, red, dark blue and abyss grey with different options for the interior upholstery, including a leather option.
The recommended retail price for the 1.8 litre petrol/electric hybrid Prius, 5 door hatch is $47,490, with the Prius 1.8 litre petrol/electric hybrid i-Tech 5 door hatch at $62,090.