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New Toyota Prius

The new Toyota Prius is on sale from August and with CO2 emissions of just 89g/km and economy of 72.4mpg, this is nothing short of outstanding for a five seater family hatchback. Prices start at £18,370 for the T3 model – the same price as the current model.

Equipment options includes solar powered ventilation and remote air conditioning systems, and a head-up display for line-of-sight vehicle information. Toyota promises that the new Prius has whole-life improvements in CO2 emissions, from design, production and driving through to recycling.

This time the Prius has a larger 1.8-litre VVT-i petrol engine with 24% more power – yet overall fuel economy has been improved by 10 per cent. Adopting a larger engine in place of the 1.5-litre unit reduces rpm in high speed driving to improve long-haul cruising fuel efficiency by about 10 per cent. The new Prius gets to 62mph in 10.4 seconds and top speed is 112mph.

The full hybrid Prius is the only family car to combine the fuel consumption levels of a small city car with a cruising range of almost 715 miles, which is 93 miles more than the current model, in spite of having the same size fuel tank.

When switched to EV (electric vehicle) running, the Prius can give zero emissions performance for up to two kilometres at speeds up to 31mph. The new Prius meets Euro 5 emissions standards and is expected to meet the Euro 6 requirements.

During deceleration and under braking, the electric motor acts as a high-output generator to effect regenerative braking, optimising energy management in the Hybrid Synergy Drive system by recovering kinetic energy (normally wasted as heat) as electrical energy for storage in the high-performance battery.

A new, lightweight and highly compact four-cylinder 1,798cc Atkinson cycle petrol engine replaces the 1.5-litre unit featured in the current Prius. As a result, both maximum power and torque are greater by 27 and 23 per cent respectively.

The new Prius will retain its established three-grade range structure in the UK – T3, T4 and T Spirit – but with significant improvements in equipment specifications at every level. At the same time, prices have been kept at the same level as current Prius for T3 and T Spirit versions.

The Prius looks better on the 17-inch wheels which come with the T4 and T Spirit grades. However fuel economy and emissions figures are quoted for the standard 15-inch wheels.

Owners of T Spirit models can take advantage of the optional Solar Pack. Featuring a sunroof with integrated solar panels, this allows automatic cooling of the interior while the car is parked. However this requires the fitting of 15-inch alloy wheels.

Thanks to CO2 emissions below 100g/km, the entire range falls within Band A for Vehicle Excise Duty, with no annual road tax charge. Insurance groups are yet to be announced.

Prices for new Prius start at £18,370 for the T3 model – the same price as the current model. Likewise, the price of the T Spirit model is unchanged at £21,210. The Prius T4 sits in the middle at £19,990.

The Prius has been a huge success for Toyota in terms of sales and image. Twelve years on from the launch of Prius more than 1.7 million Toyota hybrids have been sold around the world. Toyota accounts for 80 per cent of global hybrid sales, which, to date, has contributed to a reduction in automotive CO2 emissions of around nine million tonnes.

In 1994 Toyota initiated the G21 project with the aim of creating a “green and environmentally friendly car” for the 21st century, which, despite having impeccable environmental credentials, offered all the convenience and driving pleasure of a conventional vehicle. Initial development goals targeted a powertrain that would be 1.5 times more efficient than that of conventional petrol or diesel cars. However, with the use of hybrid drive technology in mind, that target was raised to double the efficiency.

The first generation Prius was launched as the world’s first mass-produced full hybrid vehicle in Japan in 1997, and in Europe in 2000. The name Prius, “to go before” in Latin, quickly became symbolic of a car that came to market before environmental awareness became a mainstream social issue.

Worldwide sales of the second generation Prius more than doubled between 2004 and 2008 to more than 285,000 units. In Europe, sales grew more than five-fold to almost 42,000 units a year during the same period.

By the end of 2008 cumulative worldwide sales exceeded 1.2 million units. Total sales in Europe were almost 130,000, with the UK contributing 28,034 to that figure.

By the early 2020s the company aims to offer all its models with a Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain derivative. The system has been designed to be “future proof” and is readily adaptable for use in both full-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Verification tests are underway in Japan, the USA and Europe for a Toyota Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle (PHV) that functions as an electric vehicle on short trips and as a conventional hybrid when travelling longer distances. As with the Prius, it runs on both a petrol-powered internal combustion engine and an electric motor. What sets it apart from current hybrids is a larger battery capacity that enables longer electric-only cruising over a range of about 10 kilometres, and a battery charging function that lets users fully recharge their vehicle from an external source, such as an ordinary domestic electricity supply, in less than two hours.

The PHV’s enhanced EV mode offers significant benefits: compared to Prius, it can run more frequently in electric-only mode, further reducing CO2 emissions.