New Toyota Prius is elegant and ‘earthy’

TOYOTA slipped between the cracks in all the reportage coming out of last week’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

The Japanese giant did, however, have several interesting vehicles debuting there, not least of which is the latest Prius hybrid.

Casting aside my own personal feeling, I recognise that there are millions of people who have adopted hybrid motoring as their conscientious contribution to saving the Earth.

Thus, a new Prius is going to cause more than a ripple or two across Toyota dealers’ forecourts in the coming years.

Toyota says the new Prius is founded on outstanding hybrid technology, and delivers unprecedented efficiency and environmental performance. It is targeting an 18% reduction in CO2 emissions, by comparison with the previous car, to further enhance its ‘green’ credentials.

‘Greening’ aside, Toyota has also got a little more worked up about the emotive elements of the car’s design and the way it interacts with its owners.

The Japanese giant maintains the new Prius embraces stronger emotional and performance qualities, which it hopes will give the car a wider and greater appeal to customers who appreciate eye-catching, original styling, high levels of sensory quality, practicality and a driving experience that is fun and rewarding.

Whatever about that last claim, Toyota says the realisation of its ambitions is based on three pillars: the Toyota new global architecture, design and styling, and a new-generation, full hybrid system.

Prius is the first model from the company to use Toyota’s new global-architecture (TNGA) platform. This plays a defining role in the car’s claimed, fun-to-drive quality, giving the new Prius a lower centre of gravity compared to the current model, which, in turn, allows for an improved driving position.

The new platform also is claimed to make a significant contribution to improved driving dynamics — beyond what might be expected of the usually anodyne driving experience we’ve seen from eco-cars thus far. Toyota says that the body is 60% more rigid than before, thanks to extensive use of high-strength steels and additional reinforcement to the centre pillars’ lower structure and the panel connection.

The result is — allegedly — superior, direct and responsive handling, without having to use firmer suspension settings. We shall judge that one in due course.

Elsewhere on the car, a new, double wishbone rear suspension is also said to play a significant part in improving the driving experience and the manufacturer says the chassis is fully able to harness the more responsive acceleration provided by the new full-hybrid system.

Greater stability is maintained, body roll is much-reduced in high-speed lane changes and performance is smoother on rough surfaces. On winding roads, the new Prius holds easily to the driver’s intended line and there is outstanding straight-line stability, when driving at speed.

On the styling front, Toyota says the design and high quality give it greater emotional appeal and a powerful, desirable presence, underpinned by the fundamental strengths of the new TNGA platform.

They designed it as an image leader and say the new, low-slung stance suggests an excellent driving performance, supported by a distinctive new body silhouette that is both athletic and aerodynamically efficient.

Again, we will judge that when we see the Prius in the flesh.

Toyota say that hybrid has become one of the company’s key competitive advantages.

Hybrid technologies have become a principal that differentiates it from other manufacturers and which gives it a specific strength in the marketplace.

This is reflected in the fact that Toyota hybrids make up more than 50% of all the alternative powertrain vehicles sold in Europe — more than all the other hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles put together.

Hybrid now accounts for 55% of all Auris sales and 33% of Yaris sales, and the company says it is bringing more new customers to Toyota, with these models attracting significantly high levels of conquest sales from other brands — up to 63% for Yaris Hybrid and 51% for Auris Hybrid.

And Toyota says hybrid’s potential will increase further, with more people taking up the technology, as the emissions performances of conventional gasoline and diesel engines come under closer scrutiny and legislative control.

At the same time, more manufacturers are getting on the bandwagon by introducing their own hybrid models. A good sign for Toyota.

In any event, the new Prius will be on sale in Ireland in December and the pricing will be announced next month.

Watch this space for more details.


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