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Toyota’s new Prius designed for wider appeal

POSTED BY Nigel Andretti ON 10 September 2015

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TOYOTA unveiled the next-generation 2016 Prius hybrid in a glitzy Las Vegas presentation overnight, hyping the hybrid car’s sleeker new lines and saying it will add another 10 percent to its already impressive fuel economy rating.

The fuel-economy boost should allow Toyota to maintain the 2016 Prius as a fuel-mileage champ among cars that don’t come with a plug, with an average of about 4-litres per 100 kilometres.

The current 2015 Prius is rated at 4.7-litres/100km. It will be helped by lighter hybrid components and a battery with higher energy density.

In a surprise move, Toyota says it will make an “Eco” version of the Prius, which is unusual since the whole point of the current car is to be economically friendly and easy on gas.

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“We’ve raised the bar” on efficiency, Toyota senior vice president Bob Carter said, adding that the new model has a more premium feel, with more soft-touch materials, that could broaden its audience.

He says that pricing will be in line with the current Prius and that it will come to show rooms next year.

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But the big talking point of the new Prius is its new looks, with a high-tech looking front end, dramatic creases running along the sides and new, dramatically vertical tail-lights in the rear.

The new generation will have more passenger room since it’s 6 centimetres longer, 1.5cm wider and 2cm lower than the outgoing Prius.

“Prius set the global benchmark for hybrids, but now is breaking its own boundaries with more engaging style and fun-to-drive dynamics,” said Bill Fay, general manager of the Toyota Division.

It will be underpinned by Toyota’s New Generation Architecture (TNGA) that will eventually form the basis of more than half of its models, including some Lexus models, by 2020.

The new platform is stiffer, according to Toyota, and is “at the heart” of the the major changes and improvements to the new model, including greater occupant protection and a more responsive driving experience.

The size and weight of some major hybrid components has been reduced, while the company says that a lower centre of gravity, a new double wishbone rear suspension set-up and a more rigid body make for a better driving experience.

According to Toyota, the new suspension set-up ensures a better connection to the road, greater control and feedback, while the body helps improve responsiveness without impacting ride quality.

The latest iteration of the Prius is 60mm longer, 20mm lower and 15mm wider than the outgoing model, ensuring more cargo space and cabin room.

Toyota has brought the cabin right up to date, with the centre-mounted instrument cluster the only obvious Prius feature to be carried over.

Elsewhere, designers have created a modern-looking interior space with a wrap-around cockpit featuring integrated door and dash panels, a dominant display screen in the centre stack, some contrasting white plastics and a new gear lever that juts out from the lower stack.

A full features list is yet to be announced, but Toyota says to expect safety and driver aids such as a pre-collision system, lane-departure warning, auto high beam and adaptive cruise control.

More details, including powertrain details and performance and fuel economy figures should be announced either at Frankfurt or later in the year.

Toyota Motor Corporation Prius global chief engineer Kouji Toyoshima said the new model offers a more emotional design and engaging drive than before.

“There is much more to the new Prius than a green image,” he said. “From the bold design to the quality interior, the Prius has never had such a powerful presence.”

“We have developed an even-better Prius by expanding its environmentally sensitive DNA while ramping up its desirability with an emotional design and an engaging drive. It offers a new perspective of what a hybrid can be.”

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