The 2016 Toyota Prius is a very accomplished hybrid vehicle. It does all the things that it promises to do, and it does them well, yet it has lost its edge as the technological halo of the world’s largest automotive manufacturer.
The 1.8-litre petrol engine, which Toyota claims has the best thermal efficiency (energy conservation with limited loss from heat) for any petrol engine in the world at 40 per cent, produces 72kW of power and 142Nm of torque.
The electric motor pitches in a further 53kW and 163Nm of torque, which means the new Prius is almost on par with the previous generation in terms of power output.
Our first impressions are that the fourth-generation Prius seems more like a substantial mid-life facelift than an all-new car. It lacks the wow-factor that the Prius is meant to have and using essentially the same engine and battery systems as its predecessor doesn’t really help its cause.
Toyota itself, seemingly aware of this dilemma, likens the Prius to Nissan-brand ambassador Usain Bolt, by noting that when Bolt goes out to do a 100m sprint, he is not going to beat his record by seconds, but potentially by milliseconds. It’s an odd attitude, one that suggests the Prius has hit its peak and technological saturation point and Toyota is not ready yet to make the transition to full electric vehicles.
To give credit where credit is due, fuel usage has gone down from 3.9L litres per 100 kilometres to 3.4L/100km and including better thermal efficiency, aerodynamics, and hybrid software and hardware.
The updated battery carries the same level of energy as before but is now 10 per cent smaller and is capable of absorbing 28 per cent more energy in the same amount of time as the previous car, allowing for faster charging while on the go. It has been moved to sit behind the rear seats.
It’s the first car to be built on a new global architecture from Toyota, which has resulted in a lower centre of gravity (-24mm), improved torsional rigidity (+60 per cent) and the use of laser screw welding. It makes use of a proper double wishbone rear suspension rather than a torsion beam for better dynamics.
Published: Wednesday, March 9, 2016