Return of the hybrid king, CAR+ October 2015

Published: 16 September 2015

► Toyota kicks-started hybrids in 1997
► Meet the fourth-generation Prius
► Design features inspired by Mirai 

1) Major chassis upgrade

When it comes to B-roads, the Prius has always been firmly Z-list. To change that, the new one will be first Prius to be built on the Toyota New Global Architecture Platform. It delivers a lower centre of gravity and 60% increase in rigidity thanks to the use of high-strength steels. The claim is tight handling without having to suffer brutally stiff suspension.

2) Double wishbones!

Building on the TNGA chassis, Prius 4 ditches its boring old torsion-beam rear end for sporty-sounding double wishbones that produce ‘one-third the level of shock when driving on uneven roads compared to the current Prius’. Also promised: reduced body roll in corners and better straight-line stability between them. Not promised: Caterham-catching ability.

3) Next gen hybrid power

Toyota hasn’t released power and performance figures yet (or eco numbers, come to that), but we know the (still) nickel-metal hydride batteries offer greater energy density and the smaller electric motors an improved power-to-weight ratio. That should mean more electric assistance, more performance, a fuel economy boost of around 20mpg and a greater zero-emissions range. There’ll be another plug-in version too.

The fourth-generation Toyota Prius

4) An eye for Mirai – why?

Drawing design inspiration from Toyota’s revolutionary but revolting Mirai, the world’s first mass production fuel-cell car, the eye-catching Prius is still a device for people who want to wear their ice-cap loving hearts on their recycled hemp sleeve. Yes it’s ugly, but that lower bonnet and sculpted tail help deliver a claimed ‘world class’ drag coefficient. The 2700mm wheelbase matches the old car’s, but new Prius is 60mm longer.

5) Zen-like interior

Acupuncture? Essential oils? Meditation? Hot stones? Only a long weekend blissing out with the Dalai Lama is going to come close to delivering the ‘peace of mind’ experience Toyota wants the Prius’s cabin to provide. We’ll reserve judgement until we’ve seen and tried it but we’re promised a better driving position, more glass thanks to the lower beltline, tactile materials and a whole lot more peace and quiet. Right on.

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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