The price of petrol is rising, which makes it a good time for the Toyota Prius to roll out in the Middle East. With combined mileage of 52 MPG, the Prius is easy on the bank account. But is it easy on the eyes? Maybe not in the conventional sense, but with nearly two decades on the market, the car has definitely gotten better looking.
“Modern.” “Dramatic.” “Emotional.” Toyota is happy to call the new Prius all three. Take a look at the original version, and it’s hard to argue, at least by way of contrast. This Prius retains the silhouette, but is longer, lower and wider than its forebears. The changes have allowed Toyota to create a car that is roomier, and meant to handle better than the outgoing car. It’s also the kind of car that has excellent aerodynamics. If you want to go fast in a Prius, put the car in neutral on a very steep hill, you’ll be flying past V8s in no time, traffic allowing. All that time in the wind tunnel has helped the new Prius to garner improved fuel efficiency as well, although Toyota is adamant that the design was as much about, er, design as it was engineering goals.
“This Prius will invite new drivers into the category by delivering an impressive look and feel, built on the foundation of safety and eco-consciousness that define the vehicle’s heritage,” said Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager, Toyota Division.
The new Prius centers on a premium interior that is tech and amenity rich, a trend that seems important the fuel efficient vehicle segment in particular. The wrap-around dash design, form-hugging seats, ease of controls and enhanced visibility all contribute to the appeal. We noticed that road noise is significantly reduced in the new model, which made for a better environment to enjoy the Entune Premium JBL Audio system.
Another way that hybrids have the public thinking about cars differently is the focus on safety, a close analog to tech. The car includes Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS (P)), a new multi-feature advanced safety package anchored by automatic pre-collision braking. TSS bundles cutting edge safety technologies including Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection; Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist; Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Automatic High Beams.
We tested the automatic emergency brake system on a closed course, and the technology proved adept at mitigating collisions with (albeit simulated) pedestrians and vehicles. Here’s hoping this kind of safety kit is in every car one day.
To get around, the Prius mates the output of a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine and two motor/generators through an electronically controlled CVT. The new car uses smaller, lighter hybrid components, including a new lithium-ion hybrid battery that replaces the nickel-metal hydride battery in most models. The new battery’s smaller size and flatter shape allows it to fit under the rear seat instead of beneath the luggage area, which means that the new car has more cargo area than its predecessor.
The new car is quieter and more efficient and, shocker, actually kind of fun to drive. The smaller transaxle and power control unit allow for the auxiliary battery to be installed in the engine compartment. New shift-by-wire technology uses electric signals to transmit shift operations and offers light, fingertip operation from the dash-mounted shifter. Dab the shifter to P, and the car locks into place.
The car now offers more customization in the throttle response, as the car now offers Normal and Power driving modes— Normal balances both fuel economy and acceleration feel; Power prioritizes acceleration.
The new hybrid transaxle and motor use a multi-shaft layout with higher motor speed range and a reduction gear mounted on a parallel shaft to reduce parasitic losses by 20%, while an enhanced DC-DC boost converter contributes to enhanced fuel economy by reducing output current in low-load situations.
All told the Prius is a capable, and even enjoyable car to spend time in, with it’s well appointed cabin and ample off the line torque. Granted, the car isn’t fun the way a Toyota 86 is, but it makes for a good daily driver and, given the rising cost of fuel, offers savings at the pump. It’s fair to way, the 2016 Prius isn’t too many people’s dream car, but it is definitely a car that people who make good, practical decisions will find themselves thinking of more and more.