Cape Town - The Prius was the first hybrid to be mass-produced when it was launched in Japan in 1997, according to Toyota. However, it was only with the launch of the second-generation Prius in 2005 that South Africa first tasted hybrid technology.
In keeping with the Prius name - which means 'front runner' in Latin - the new-generation continues to build on its green car credentials and now comes with even more technological breakthroughs. Toyota has sold more than 3.5 million Prius hybrids before the launch of the fourth-generation model.
Glenn Crompton, vice-president of marketing for Toyota Motors South Africa, says: “The fourth-generation Prius builds on the strengths and achievements of its predecessors and establishes new benchmarks in fuel economy, emissions and efficiency.
"It will add further impetus to the growing appeal of hybrids in the global market, achieving its strongest environmental performance yet, while delivering much improved styling and surprising driving dynamics from a green car," he said.
1 New hybrid system
The new Prius introduces the next-generation of Toyota’s signature hybrid powertrain.
Toyota has focused its efforts on making this next generation of hybrids even easier and more intuitive to drive, the company says. The system has been set up so that it gives a natural, immediate, but smooth response to any accelerator pedal input, while improving fuel economy. The new hybrid system comes in a more compact package that is lighter in weight and lower in cost.
The new hybrid battery offers higher energy density and a reduced size by 10%. It can now absorb 28% more energy in the same amount of time, which means that it is faster charging, Toyota says.
2 Improved petrol engine
As in the current model, Prius’s hybrid system works in conjunction with a 1.8-litre VVT-i Atkinson cycle petrol engine. However, the unit has been completely re-engineered to deliver significantly better fuel economy, the manufacturer says. The gas flow, combustion, cooling and knock control have all been improved and much more effective use is made of exhaust gas recirculation, Toyota claims.
The engine’s maximum output of 72kW is delivered at 5200rpm, with 142Nm at 3600rpm.
3 Smaller, better electric motors
The two motor-generators are all-new and smaller, and lighter than before - all to assist in improving fuel economy.
Higher motor speed and new forced water-convection cooling in place of air cooling improve the efficiency of the electric-drive motor, which delivers 53kW/163Nm.Stronger, more frugal: Toyota SA says its fourth-generation Prius will is even more fuel efficient than before. Image: QuickPic
3 New electric power steering
The steering has been redesigned and recalibrated, enhancing each phase of its operation, the company says. Feel, effectiveness and feedback have all been improved and a new, quicker steering gear ratio gives a sportier quality, says Toyota SA.
The car’s new platform, lower centre of gravity and revised front suspension resulted in an improved turning circle of only 5.1m.
Electric power assistance is always available, even when the petrol hybrid engine is shut down to save fuel.
4 New wheels and tyres
Toyota says it developed lightweight alloy wheels to complement the performance of the new Prius’s suspension and improve handling stability.
The 15'' wheels are 30% more rigid, and 12.7mm wider at 165.1mm, enabling better grip to be gained from the new low rolling resistance tyres. Keen to make savings wherever possible, Toyota has also shaved 1kg off the weight of the temporary spare wheel.
5 Pricing and warranty
Price: R427 200
Fuel consumption: 3.7 litres/100km
Service plan: 5-years or 90 000km
Warranty: 3-years or 100 000km
Hybrid battery warranty: 8-years or 195 000km