The recently held Toyota Caravan seminar on safety and environment also had a brief drive of the Toyota Prius for media. Although it was a short stint, here are our first impressions.
*The design of the fourth-generation Prius does mimic the outgoing version, however, the sharp lines and contours give it a more aggressive silhouette over the third generation hybrid. In the flesh, the design isn't elegant and may look overdone for a hybrid vehicle to some potential buyers. There are too many lines and creases on the panels, all of which when combined do not exude an appealing or proportional design. That said, it does manage to stand out and will turn heads too on our roads. Seeing those heads though might be a problem, owing to the limited rear visibility.
*Inside the Toyota Prius, the gear shifter is still placed on the centre console, similar to the earlier version. However, the hollow space beneath the centre console in the older Prius is no longer available in the new version. The gear lever, which is quite small in size feels more like a switch than a gear selector. The central touchscreen is larger than the older model and the dashboard too features a cleaner and more upmarket design. The split display has been retained from the older model and it still sits oddly at the top of the centre console.
*Power is expected to come from a combination of an electric motor and a 1.8-litre Atkinson Cycle, four-cylinder, inline petrol engine. The engine generates 95 hp of power at 5,200 rpm and 142 Nm of torque at 3,600 rpm. The electric motor in the new Prius is a Permanent magnet AC Synchronous motor, which draws its power from a battery pack comprising of Ni-MH (Nickel-Metal Hydride) cells, which have always been part of the Toyota Prius. The motor itself develops 71 hp and 121 Nm of torque, while the combined output of the hybrid powertrain stands at 121 hp. The powertrain is paired to an ECVT (Electronically Controlled Variable Transmission), which further improves fuel-efficiency.
*The coefficient of drag (Cd) is 0.24, which is incidentally equal to the Tesla Model S and would help stretching every drop of fuel further when travelling at highway speed. The claimed fuel-efficiency figure for the Prius in India, hence, owing to all the mentioned measures is an impressive 40.1 kmpl.
*Safety features such as ABS with EBD, airbags and more will be standard and only one variant will be offered in the country
*Fun Fact: The Toyota Prius was the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle and was launched in December 1997, globally.
*Launch of the fourth-generation Toyota Prius in India is expected to happen in January, 2017.
After the brief drive which included an acceleration and braking test followed by a slalom course, the Toyota Prius does have all the traits present is past Toyota cars. This includes the practicality, reliability, handling and fuel efficiency (claimed mileage of the Toyota Prius is 40.1 km/l) in one package. Overall, our short experience with the Prius hinted on a greener future and left a lasting impression. We'll get you a detailed road test review soon. Stay tuned to Express Drives.