Latest Prius is a major step for Toyota's green giant.
IN a motoring world now dominated by the need for green credentials and low emissions, it seems hard to believe the Toyota Prius has been around for such a long time.
First introduced to the UK in 2000 and revamped in 2004, the makers of the latest version of the family-sized hybrid seems to be adopting the philosophy of if it ain't broke, don't mend it.
This is a feeling which seems to have resonance with owners, with a high brand loyalty easily apparent.
Toyota has recognised this and treated current owners to a first view and drive of the new model before it goes on sale at the beginning of next month - and they lapped it up.
Little seems to have changed with the exterior of the car, there are a number of cosmetic changes to grille, bumper and lights and the car is slightly longer with tweaks to suspension, but major changes have take place under the skin.
It will be available in three grades: T3, T4 and T Spirit. Prices remain unchanged for T3 and T Spirit at pounds 18,370 and pounds 21,210 respectively while the T4 will cost from pounds 19,990.
In three generations the Hybrid Synergy Drive system power has increased by 35 per cent, says Toyota, yet fuel consumption reduced by 23 per cent and CO2 emissions cut by 25 per cent.
It comes with a bigger, more powerful engine and a bigger, more powerful battery that powers the big electric motor.
But that doesn't mean that green credentials have been sacrificed.
It now produces lower emissions and even better fuel economy. At 89g/ km of CO2, it is exempt from road tax and company car tax is at the lowest levels, and at a claimeed 72-odd mpg, there is not much out there to challenge it.
On a fairly lively test run, the onboard computer was still showing 60mpg plus, but it is still powerful enough to compete with the best on the motorway.
Best of all, with all these improvements, the price remains the same for the T3, which costs pounds 18,370 and T Spirit models.
The 1.5-litre petrol engine has been upgraded to a 1.8-litre VVT with a power increased to 134bhp, while the battery, although smaller, now produces more power.
This is clearly a good idea with such a big car, which sits firmly among full-sized family cars.
When needed, acceleration is brisk, but pottering around town is has a three mile range running on battery power alone. Accelerate above 30mph and the petrol engine kicks in.
Other additions include three drive modes, EV which is electric power only, ECO, which maps the engine for maximum economy and POWER, which can all be selected at the touch of a button.
In power mode, economy suffers. Alternatively just slip into drive and let the car decide the optimum mode.
The interior also features upgrades and modifications. The steering wheel has a new design and other new features include a head-up display incorporated into the new dual zone dashboard. This display is invaluable in a car that has a cockpit like a space shuttle, with the temptation to look away from the road and monitor fuel economy.
Hill hold is also included, which allows a few seconds leeway when starting on a slope.
Also available with the new version are automatic air conditioning, front fog lamps and Smart Entry & Start which are standard on all models.
The Prius is also fitted with seven airbags as standard including a driver's knee airbag.
There are no dramatic changes to the look but the latest version is a massive step forward for a car that has already sold 130,000 in Europe and 1.2 million worldwide.
THE car features Touch Tracer switches on the steering wheel to let the driver operate the audio system, air-con and Eco Drive Monitor without having to look down or take their hands off the wheel.
An optional solar-powered ventilation system prevents the car getting too hot when parked, and a remote control allows the air-con to be activated before getting into the vehicle. The range-topper also features Intelligent Parking Assist, which detects the space in tight spots and parks automatically. The driver just controls the braking.
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|Publication:||Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)|
|Date:||Jul 17, 2009|
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