Pioneering Prius gets a facelift | Fin24

Pioneering Prius gets a facelift

Jun 10 2019 11:50
Glenda Williams

The Toyota Prius has gone under the knife. 

It is more flamboyant and somewhat unusual-looking, but its styling is now sharper and its futuristic interior has been toned down. 

To fully appreciate the pioneering Toyota Prius, one has to understand its history. 

In 1997 the Japanese carmaker adopted a petrol and electric hybrid system, adding the ‘green’ four-door sedan Prius to its offerings. 

It was a time when the eco movement was beginning to find favour with consumers. 

And the Prius was a natural fit.With its alternative drivetrain – a combination of electric motor that emits zero pollutants, and combustion engine to alleviate range anxiety and pep up performance – this hybrid was a pioneer of green motoring technology. 

In 2005 the second-generation five-door version made its way to SA, followed some years later by the third edition, with the halo self-charging vehicle comprising 21% of all alternative drivetrain vehicles ever sold in the country. 

Now the facelifted fourth generation is here. 

The refreshed Prius comes with updates to both exterior and interior. 

The five-door hatchback is bigger, roomier and more refined. 

And, as finweek discovered, still as eco-friendly. 

Sharper styling

Styling was less significant when the Prius had few eco-conscious rivals. 

Now that it has, it’s become a weightier issue.Previous styling was a tad bland, but its new chiselled and unconventional form means that’s no longer the case. 

Now longer by 35mm, its restyled front and rear give this latest Prius a wider-looking stance. 

The face features sleeker new Bi-LED headlamps and LED foglamps and a revised lower intake, all of which accentuate a sharper aesthetic.

At the rear, the look is more horizontal, emphasising the car’s width. 

New LED tail lights mirror the shape of the headlights. 

And a quirky looking rear ‘spoiler’ forms the ceiling of the glass strip above the boot. 

It’s a feature that results in a split rear window and an unconventional-looking rump. 

Space-age interior

Sporting a black console and black leather steering wheel, the single unifying colour is in contrast to the previous generation that offered an impractical white console. 

But the central positioning of instrumentation maintains a futuristic air. 

Central positioning means a shifting of eyes to the left of the dashboard as opposed to the conventional instrumentation position in front of the driver. 

Still, with the heads-up display (a standard offering) displaying data on the windscreen and thus keeping eyes looking ahead, there is somewhat less of that eye shifting needed.

Also mounted centrally in the centre console below the instrumentation panel is the multimedia and reverse camera display. 

Cup holders, seat heating switches and a wireless phone charger have also found their way into the centre console.

An impressive array of standard offerings also includes smart entry, climate control, dual-zone cruise control, reverse camera, rain sensing wipers, six-speaker touchscreen audio, and auto-dimming interior mirror. 

Bluetooth and USB bring a straightforward affair to phone pairing. 

Seat adjustment, however, is a manual effort rather than an electric one.

The Prius competes in the C-segment or small, family car segment. 

But it is not that small a car. There’s no compromise on cabin space in this five-door hatch. 

A true five-family car, the latest Prius offers a spacious interior while loading space is comfortably able to accommodate the needs of a small family.

Rocksteady on the road

When it ain’t broke there’s little reason to fix, so the petrol-electric hybrid powerplant remains unchanged.

The pairing of a 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine with two motor generators gives this car a very respectable power output of around 100kW, together with impressive fuel efficiency. 

Gearing is from a continuously variable transmission (CVT), an automatic gearbox that changes seamlessly.

Release the footbrake and it’s a silent getaway as the electric motor kicks in, the discreet cough of the combustion engine only triggered by a speed of around 35km/h.

Ergonomic black leather seats add to ride comfort that is bang on. 

The current generation Prius rides on Toyota’s New Generation Architecture platform. 

The platform not only delivers notable ride comfort, but also agile and responsive driving dynamics.

This front-wheel drive hybrid surprised with its direct steering and sharp cornering. 

Riding on new 15-inch alloy wheels, it is unexpectedly planted; rocksteady on the straight and impressively grippy in the bends. 

The Prius offers three drive modes: eco, normal or power, the latter offering a somewhat livelier performance than anticipated. 

It’s got the kind of torque needed for a reasonably fast getaway and comfortable overtaking. 

For someone who likes to step on the gas, that was a welcome surprise.

Speaking of gas, fuel frugality is impressive. Fuel consumption for the combined cycle is specified as 3.7 litres per 100km. 

But fuel efficiency depends on driving behaviour and road conditions.

A spirited driving style in a combination of normal and eco mode brought an average of 4.7 litres/100km. 

However, in the course of a more sedately driven sortie in eco mode, a low 3.3?litres/100km was posted. 

Impressive stuff, even more so if you take exuberant driving in power mode into account, where consumption only rose into the mid- to late fives.

This snappy hybrid keeps you updated on electric or combustion engine use and when electric power is being generated. 

It even lets you know whether your air conditioner setting is optimal.

The car fared well in all aspects of comfort, on-road performance and fuel frugality. 

Safety, too, is covered with seven airbags and a suite of active electronic safety systems that includes ABS braking, brake assist and traction control.

All told, there is little to gripe about. 

The exception is that horizontally split rear window that, in my opinion, impairs rear vision. 

I found it distracting and was continually second-guessing my rear visuals.

Once the car of choice for eco-conscious motorists, the Toyota Prius now has a host of eco rivals as the global rollout of hybrid models continues at pace.

Notwithstanding its eco credentials, on-road capabilities and fuel frugality, the Prius does have another ace up its sleeve – its price point. 

It’s the only hybrid vehicle offering under R500 000.

The result is a car that truly delivers most of what consumers say they need.

Its looks may not take your breath away, but Prius fans are likely to be suitably impressed with the refinements to the latest generation. 

The question, however, is whether Toyota can expand its base to entice more conventional family car buyers with its latest generation Prius. 

Its unconventional rear styling and increasing number of hybrid rivals may prove to be a sticky point in moving that needle.

This article originally appeared in the 6 June edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here or subscribe to our newsletter here.

facelift  |  prius  |  eco-friendly

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