A new approach
It will soon be 30 years since Toyota launched an automotive revolution with the Prius. In the meantime, the Japanese have reached the fifth generation – and now everything will be different. Not only is the Toyota Prius significantly more powerful. For the first time ever, the hybrid pioneer is now also a visual eye-catcher.
The new Toyota Prius is 4.5 centimetres shorter than its predecessor and two centimetres flatter. On the other hand, its width has grown by a little more than two centimetres. And the wheelbase has been extended by five centimetres. The roof line now rises further towards the rear, and in combination with the strongly sloping windscreen, the result is a very wedge-shaped exterior that also has a very aerodynamic effect. Visually, the wedge shape is further emphasised by the significantly reduced window areas compared to the previous generation. But as Toyota boss Akio Toyoda always preaches: “No more boring cars”.
Inside, too, everything is different. And surprisingly, the design is more conservative than before. There is now a large instrument cluster in the upper centre of the dashboard, which the driver can see over the steering wheel rim, similar to some French brands. The dashboard is also now more conventional, with the gear lever moved to the centre console. Seen from the driver’s seat, this looks good overall. The majority of the car’s functions are controlled via the large touchscreen, but the most important functions are still controlled either via the steering wheel or the traditional controls on the dashboard and centre console; the touchscreen is now actually clear enough at 12.3 inches in the best trim levels. On-screen graphics and the entire operating system have also taken a decisive leap forward.
Thanks to the extended wheelbase, legroom in the back seat is excellent. A small minus point, however, is the fact that headroom for adults quickly becomes tight. With a body height of over 180 cm, the rear passengers have to compromise on the seating position and neck posture. This is not really a problem for the smaller family members, but the Prius has also been popular with taxi and Uber drivers. The boot is easily accessible via the mighty tailgate, and the space itself is adequate but only slightly deep; compared to its predecessor, the volume has shrunk somewhat. But the quality feel has improved throughout, the materials look and feel good, and the interior feels much more dignified.
The driving position is also better than before, the driver no longer sits as high as before. The driving feel is much better, you feel much closer to the road. The lower centre of gravity and wider body make the Prius more pleasant to drive, a bit sportier. And remains pleasantly comfortable at the same time. Of course, the silence that reigns in the Prius, at least in E-mode, contributes a lot to this positive driving experience.
Under the bonnet of the Prius now works a larger 2-litre petrol engine with 152 hp output. It is coupled with an even more powerful 163 hp electric motor. The combined output of these two engines is a whopping 223 hp. This is almost double the 122 hp of the previous generation. Of course, one might wonder if this doesn’t go against the eco-spirit, because less would be more than enough. Certainly, but the extra power also means that you don’t have to load the petrol engine as much as before. This improves comfort in the interior, as the combustion engine no longer makes as much noise as it did before. Overtaking is also quicker, which is a good safety aspect in itself.
In the new version, the battery capacity has been increased to 13.6 kWh; by the way, the more compact battery is now installed under the rear seats. Toyota believes that a range of 69 kilometres purely electric is possible. Despite significantly higher power, the preliminary WLTP value is 19 g/km. That is three grams less than the previous generation plug-in. And that is an important keyword: Toyota will only deliver the new Prius to Europe as a plug-in for the time being. For many customers, the easy handling of the hybrid vehicle has always been a selling point. They simply sat in the car and drove off, the technology did the rest. Now the Prius has to be actively charged, which means that the vast majority of the five million Prius buyers to date also have to actively change their way of thinking.