TOYOTA HAS UNLEASHED its most eco-friendly model yet, launching the third-gen 2010 Prius into the Australian market.
The Prius ties with the MINI Cooper D for average fuel consumption - requiring just 3.9 l/100km on the combined cycle - but beats it for CO2 emissions with its 89g/km rating.
Surprisingly, it's quicker as well as being more fuel-efficient. The 1.8 litre Atkinson-cycle engine is appreciably larger than the 1.5 litre unit that powered the second-gen Prius, and combined power from the petrol-electric powertrain is up 21 percent to 100kW.
Torque has improved too, and it's the bigger engine's added grunt that endows the latest Prius with its fuel-sipping ability.
The rest of the car's hybrid drivetrain is similar to that used by the outgoing model, with a CVT gearbox taking drive from the petrol-electric powerplant to the front wheels.
It's also eco-friendly in other areas. The seat cushions, for example, are made of bioplastic and require less CO2 to be emitted during their production.
The up-spec Prius i-Tech variant also comes with a solar panel array on its roof, which powers a heat-extraction fan while the car is parked and keeps it cool without needing to keep the engine running.
Even the airconditioner can be run for three minutes without the engine running and can be started up by a button on the keyfob - perfect for those blisteringly hot summer days.
The body styling is classic Prius, but it's slipperier than the last shape. It also happens to be the most aerodynamic passenger car in production, with a drag coefficient of just 0.25.
It's slightly longer and wider than the outgoing Prius, but the wheelbase has stayed the same.
Thanks to the dimensional changes, an extra 31 litres of cargo room has been liberated in the Prius' boot, bringing total luggage capacity to 446 litres with the seats up.
More powerful, more efficient and more voluminous than the second-generation Prius, the third-gen model is also more expensive.
The new Prius range starts at $39,900 for the base model - $2500 more than the equivalent second-gen model - rising to $53,500 for the flagship Prius i-Tech.
Justifying its pricetag, the i-Tech ships with the Pre-Crash safety system,dynamic radar cruise control, satellite navigation, parking assist, a rear-view camera, LED headlamps and leather upholstery.
The standard Prius doesn't entirely miss out though, receiving the intuitive Touch Tracer display interface, a heads-up display, stabilty control, traction control and a full complement of seven airbags.
The 2010 Toyota Prius is now on sale nationally. For more detailed information, check out Toyota's press release below.
NEW PRIUS SETS ENVIRONMENTAL AND PEFORMANCE STANDARDS
Toyota has reinvented the Prius petrol-electric hybrid car, releasing a third-generation model range that sets new standards for environmental and driving performance.
In almost every respect, Toyota has fine-tuned and refined new Prius to provide a substantial step-up and expand the gap over the competition.
Styling is fresh, but unmistakably Prius, while the interior is slightly larger and the car contains features and options commonly found in premium cars.
The Hybrid Synergy Drive system mates a bigger and more powerful petrol engine with a stronger electric motor.
As a result, Prius is quicker off the mark while delivering better fuel economy than its predecessor.
It is the cleanest production car sold in Australia with CO2 emissions of 89 grams/km - the only vehicle on the local market under 100g.
Fuel consumption has been improved by more than 11.3 per cent to 3.9 litres per 100km (official combined cycle). City cycle is also 3.9 and highway cycle is 3.7 litres/100km.
Maximum combined power from the hybrid system has been boosted more than 21 per cent to 100kW.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the larger petrol engine helps improve fuel economy with the added torque providing more efficient highway operation and improved uphill performance.
Every new Prius gains several new technologies that improve safety by providing "at-a-glance" information, reducing driver eye movement for better concentration on the road.
A Head-Up Display provides speed and other information on the windscreen in the driver's line of sight.
When the driver touches the audio or information controls on the steering-wheel hub, Toyota's world-first Touch Tracer system displays a duplicate read-out on the instrument panel.
A Multi-Information Display monitors fuel and energy consumption, providing feedback that helps the driver acquire economical driving habits.
All Prius models are fitted with seven airbags - two front, two side (front), two curtain-shield (full-length) and one protecting the driver's knee.
Stability and traction control, active front head restraints and anti-skid brakes are also standard.
Another innovation is ecological plastic - the world's first automotive use of injection-moulded material derived from plants. Used in several locations throughout new Prius including the driver's seat cushion, the plastic emits less CO2 during its lifecycle than materials derived from petroleum.
Toyota Australia's senior executive director sales and marketing David Buttner said the new Prius will appeal to a wider group of owners by using even less fuel, while meeting customer expectations for better performance.
"It projects a style that is more mainstream while being unmistakably Prius," Mr Buttner said.
"It will satisfy the varied demands of many customers - whether their priority is a car with ultra-low emissions, excellent city and highway performance, economy of operation, or more space for their families and luggage."
NEW ENGINE AND IMPROVED HYBRID SYSTEM
A 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine replaces the 1.5-litre engine on the previous model.
The bigger engine produces more power - 73kW, up from 56kW - and more torque - 142Nm, up from 110Nm.
This helps trim the 0-100km/h time from 10.8 to 10.4 seconds.
The petrol engine has no belts - a first for Toyota. Power steering and the water pump are electrically operated, which improves fuel economy because drag on the crankshaft is reduced.
A new exhaust-gas recirculation system provides quicker warm-up time for the engine and also for the cabin-heating system.
Toyota's patented Hybrid Synergy Drive system is 90 per cent newly developed with significant improvements over previous models.
A new 60kW electric motor works in tandem with the petrol engine to improve acceleration.
The new hybrid transaxle is smaller, lighter and capable of handling a higher torque load. A gear drive replaces the previous chain drive.
The electric motor runs as high as 13,500rpm, resulting in less reliance on the engine.
The inverter, which converts direct current to alternating current, has a new direct cooling system to reduce size and weight.
Using proven and reliable nickel-metal hydride technology, the Hybrid Synergy Drive battery output has been increased through improved cooling.
THREE DRIVING MODES
In addition to driving Prius like a normal car, the hybrid system offers three new driver-controlled modes: EV (electric vehicle), ECO and Power mode.
In ECO, the throttle is managed for fuel economy and the air-conditioning is strictly controlled.
In EV, the vehicle stays in electric-only mode longer at lower speeds. The vehicle can operate up to about 50km/h for approximately 1-2km, depending on the state of charge.
POWER provides maximum acceleration response.
Third-generation Prius is built on a new platform with significant improvements to the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension systems.
Handling, stability and ride comfort have been improved to deliver better driving dynamics.
EXTERIOR AND INTERIOR DESIGN
New Prius has been extensively redesigned, though the exterior look is instantly recognisable.
The overall shape is sleeker, with a drag coefficient of 0.25 - making Prius the most aerodynamically efficient car in the world.
The highest point of the roof has been moved backwards, emphasising the wedge shape while providing more rear-seat head room and improving air flow.
Front and rear corners are sharp, sporty and aerodynamic and are complemented by strong side character lines that rise from front to rear.
New Prius has the same wheelbase as its predecessor while overall length and width have been increased marginally.
Weight was saved through use of aluminum in the bonnet, hatch, front stabiliser bar and brake caliper as well as super high-tensile steel in the rocker inner, centre pillar and roof reinforcement.
The interior features a "flying buttress" design for the centre cluster that flows from the instrument panel to the console and houses the new gear-shift lever.
Handy storage space has been added under the gear lever by taking advantage of the shift-by-wire system
The driver's seat cushion is wider and longer with thicker padding that offers better bolster support.
Rear-seat legroom is enhanced by a new space-saving contoured front-seat design.
Cargo capacity has been expanded by 31 litres to 446 litres and now accommodates three golf bags.
PRIUS MODELS AND PRICES
Two equipment grades are offered - Prius and Prius i-Tech.
Prius starts at $39,900- an increase of $2,500 compared with added specification of more than $4,000.
There is no new-model premium for advances such as the sharper styling, improved Hybrid Synergy Drive system, increased space and modern cabin.
New Prius comes to the market at $90 less than the price of the first-generation Prius when it was introduced in 2001.
In the past six years, the price of second-generation Prius has risen a mere $410 or just 1.1 per cent - despite the pressures from inflation at around three per cent a year and the value of improved features.
Standard features in third-generation Prius - such as seven airbags, stability and traction control, Smart Entry and Start, multi-information display, Touch Tracer and Head-Up Display - are new or were previously offered only with the i-Tech.
The technology standard-bearer for Prius, the i-Tech model, features solar panels attached to the sunroof.
The panel generates 59W of electricity to run a fan that cools the interior when the car is parked.
Remote-control air-conditioning is available by pushing the "A/C" button on the key fob. In another world first, the remote air-conditioning system is powered by the hybrid battery for up to three minutes.
Prius i-Tech is fitted with a Pre-Crash safety system that uses advanced millimetre wave radar to scan the road ahead.
If there is a high possibility of a collision, the system will alert the driver and provide additional braking assistance to supplement the driver's own braking effort.
Even if the driver doesn't take any action, Prius will automatically apply the brakes to help reduce the severity of the collision. It will also activate the seatbelt pre-tensioners.
Dynamic Radar Cruise Control uses the radar to govern speed to keep a selected distance from the vehicle in front.
Once the road ahead is clear, Prius automatically returns to its original set cruising speed.
New-generation Intelligent Park Assist is available to help the driver enter parking spaces - for both parallel and 90-degree reverse parking.
A rear-view camera, which provides a view of obstacles when reversing, is available with the navigation system.
Other i-Tech features include LED headlamps, chromatic rear-view mirror and leather.
With additional features valued by Toyota at around $10,000, the list price of new i-Tech is $53,500 - an increase of just $6,600, that does not include a new-model premium.
Toyota is also offering an option pack on the standard Prius, with the satellite navigation system, rear-view camera and intelligent park assist, for $5,000.
"The combination of price and level of specification we are offering improves the competitive position of Prius," Mr Buttner said.
Since the first-generation Prius went on sale in Japan in 1997, global sales have topped 1.29 million with almost 13,000 sold in Australia.