When the first Prius was introduced in 1997, some underestimated the ugly and innovative car for its time. 25 years later, no one disputes that it was one of the most influential cars in the automotive industry. Now, when Toyota presents another generation of its own instead of joining the electric trend, it is once again looked at with a crooked eye. But Toyota insists that today, as then, there is no single solution for transportation, and that most customers are not yet ready to switch to a fully electric vehicle. Toyota advocates its “multi-tech” approach – a variety of technologies for a variety of uses. The new Prius is one of them.
Design: In keeping with the overall approach of the model, the new Prius goes with its exterior design where no Prius has gone before. Beautiful or not – it’s a matter of taste, but the way in which Toyota managed to maintain and even improve aerodynamic efficiency in its 4.6 meters, along with a sporty look and a futuristic appearance, is very impressive.
Passenger cabin: the general appearance is reminiscent of the bz4X with a large, effective and impressive multimedia screen and a small dashboard in a high position in front of the driver. While the dashboard and the rest of the layout of the controls in the cabin are very good and easy to use, this dashboard creates a dilemma between a good driving position and being able to see the whole thing. The quality of the materials is not very high, including the very simple fabric seats. We will disclaim that we drove pre-production cars and things may change. Rear visibility is impaired by the small window, it is further impaired if you sit in the back seat.
Despite moving the batteries from the trunk to under the rear seat, the legroom and headroom are good, even when a not-short person is sitting there. We were disappointed not to find air conditioning ports. The trunk has added 33 liters compared to the outgoing generation – and still 284 liters are borderline minus for family use.
Safety: Prius gets the third generation of TSS, Toyota’s family of safety systems. An improvement to the cameras, the radar and the data processing capabilities upgrades the capabilities of the adaptive cruise control, automatic braking (also at intersections), correcting the deviation from the lane (with the position of the car within the lane itself according to the environment), recognizing more traffic signs in the adaptive cruise control and more.
Performance: This has never been the Prius’ strong suit, unless you consider fuel economy. Here the direction is different: the plug-in version, the one that will reach us, uses a 2.0-liter gasoline engine and an electric unit and is the strongest in the supply. 223 horses and 6.7 seconds stabilize it in a place where no Prius has been before. In practice, you get a very agile car, with immediate power supply from the electric motor and the addition of the gasoline engine. The continuously variable transmission is still the car’s Achilles heel. The car, which has not yet completed the final certification, is supposed to provide 69 km of electric range from the 13.6 kWh batteries. In the very unrepresentative driving route at the launch, it registered 30 km per liter, but we will wait for a local test.
Comfort and behavior: Despite the 19-inch rims, the Prius proved to be quite a comfortable car. The main criticism is for the noise isolation – and specifically for those of the gasoline engine when it is required. Despite relatively narrow tires, which are good for fuel consumption but less for grip, the Prius not only surprised in this aspect, but even impressed from turn to turn. Even when the pace picked up, it proved to be in no rush to throw up its hands or beg us to stop, as Prius models have done in the past. So it’s not a sporty family car that will dethrone Leon Kopra, and there is also room for improvement in the steering wheel’s response to steering, but definitely a very positive surprise.
The bottom line: the Toyota Prius has become synonymous with a car that celebrates all that is functional and the complete opposite of all that is emotional. So it was the only alternative for those who wanted to be green and economical. Today, in front of electric alternatives, being good in the kitchen is not enough – this time you also need a sophisticated and attractive look and a little pepper in the bedroom. But even before that, it will have to overcome the price challenge. Prius was not a cheap car in the past, the new one will be more expensive than ever. There is no final price, but there are general estimates – and they are north of NIS 200,000. In this situation, the people for whom it would be very suitable may miss out on the best Prius ever and one of the more interesting Toyotas we’ve met.
The reporter was a Toyota guest