Engines and Transmission
The Hybrid Synergy System of the Prius 3 is essentially the same as the
previous model. At the core, one petrol engine and one electric motor with a powerful
battery and a constant variable transmission effortlessly blending power from the two sources.
The petrol engine charges the battery when in use whilst under braking and deceleration
the electric motor adds additional charge.
Even though there are no groundbreaking new components, around 90% of the system has been re-designed
to be smaller and lighter, with improved energy saving features such as an electric pump
and exhaust gas recycling.
The new Prius has significantly increased power thanks to the upgraded petrol and electric motors.
The latter is rated at 80 bhp with the 1.8 petrol engine giving 97 bhp at 5200 rpm.
Total combined power is now 134 bhp with official figures from Toyota giving fuel efficiency on an extra-urban
cycle of 72.4 mpg. Production of CO2 is down to 89g/km which is well within EURO 5 emissions levels.
The battery has also been improved through use of a higher voltage and lower current.
Some Prius owners might be surprised to read that the old 1.5 litre petrol
engine has been replaced by a larger 1.8 litre unit considering that the objective
is to reduce emissions and increase MPG. The new engine has increased low-down torque
and this will make faster journeys (eg on the motorway) more efficient when the engine
can run at lower revs.
This engine should also address some of the criticisms of the old Prius which some said
revved too high when under heavy acceleration.
On the Road
All versions of the new Prius include a smart key system for keyless entry/ignition which
makes starting the car a very straightforward task. Once the ignition button has been pressed
the starting sequence is: foot on the brake, select drive mode
with the gear lever, check for the "ready" sign on the panel then release the brake and move silently away.
The car is slightly lower and wider than the old version which helps to give it a much more sporty look.
This also translates into improved handling and the Prius 3 is flatter around corners with reduced body roll.
The driving position is good with a comfortable seat and clear forward vision. To the rear, the split
tailgate can take some getting used to but then the usable visibility is actually better than expected.
The power increase is obvious from the start (especially as there is only a slight increase in weight
over the Prius 2) and this results in the new car getting to 60 mph half a second quicker.
This Prius runs off its battery below speeds of 31 mph which is ideally suited
to town driving and the petrol engine stop/start is almost impossible to detect.
As described earlier there are three drive modes that can be selected from the dash: EV, Eco and Power.
EV attempts to keep the car running on the electric motor for as long as possible although in reality
this depends on the battery charge level. Any sharp acceleration will result in a switch back to normal petrol/electric mode.
Eco or Economy alters the throttle response to effectively curb aggressive acceleration whilst Power mode is the opposite
and provides a crisp and robust response.
During its one week test drive the new Prius was set to work on a range of traffic situations including rush hour
crawling, fast A roads and a small amount of motorway exposure. The MPG didn't match the official figure from Toyota but the
62.1 was pretty impressive and a good match for the most fuel efficient modern diesels.
The Prius is still relatively expensive to buy compared to the competition
but there are a number of positive factors to balance against this cost.
The car has an excellent reliability record and is designed to be low maintenance.
Examples of the latter is a maintenance free timing chain, no drive belts, long life brake pads
(60000 miles) and low rolling resistance tyres (30000 miles).
Other benefits include a 5 year/60000 mile warranty, no congestion charge or road tax and a
reasonably low insurance group of 6/7. Service interval is 10,000 miles.
Company car drivers get the lowest Benefit in Kind Tax Rate - 10%.
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