Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The latest hybrid car in the UK

It was last weekend when I was fortunate to have an in-depth look at and drive of the latest Toyota Prius. This is the third generation of the model to hit the UK's roads and is a significant leap forward from the previous generation. The hybrid performance has been improved and the CO2 emission figures reduced below the magic 100g/cm3 despite the petrol engine included under the bonnet (hood for our US readers!) having been boosted to 1.8 litre.

The high end (spirit) model includes all the previous innovations such as voice control, automatic parking assistance and route guidance integrated with traffic news / incident replanning but a couple of new features caught my eye. The first is the introduction of a fighter-plane style Head Up Display (HUD) projected onto the windscreen (US: windshield!). This really does mean that in driving the car you need to divert your eyes from the road considerably less. The second innovation which is an costly option (probably only worth it if you live in a mainly sunny area such as California!) is a solar powered sunroof and air-conditioning system which pre-cools the car before you get in if left in a sunny spot but without turning on the ignition and without using any petrol (US:gas) fuel. Interestingly if you choose this solar sunroof option, you must have smaller and hence lighter wheels (and no spare) fitted in order that the overall weight allows the fuel efficiency figures to be achieved, which shows how close to tolerances the environmental aims are pushing things.

The new model Prius drives much like the previous one although the throttle response is variable and very obviously different in three new power settings (eco/elec/perf). Externally as well as being a little longer, the most striking change is the redesign of the light clusters. The latter seems to cause the main dislike I have about the new model which is the move to a single reversing and single fog lamp at the rear, compromise too many in my view. Overall the car is great example of pushing the hybrid lead that Toyota have even further.

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