The Prius is the most popular hybrid, and now it’s been updated with a release date in Australia of February 2016.

Toyota has revealed details of its updated Prius hybrid, and there seem to be a range of improvements, ranging from engine performance, aerodynamics and range extension.

Engine efficiency – better thermal efficiency, which means more energy produced for a given amount of heat.  There’s a 20% reduction in mechanical losses, and the engine has a better power to weight ratio.  Lower-viscosity oil is used too, so there’s less energy required to move the moving parts of the engine.  The air swirls around more efficiently inside the cylinders, which will lead to more effective combustion of fuel.  The regenerative charging via braking is improved, although Toyota say it feels better without making any claim for greater energy harvesting.

Drag – the drag coefficient is now 0.24, down from 0.26.  A normal car would be around 0.3.  This means the new Prius will require less energy to cruise.  Note that drag coefficients are relative to size, so as the new Prius is pretty much the same frontal area as the old the two drag figures can be used as a meaningful comparison.  The roofline is 20mm lower and the high point of the roof is 170mm further forwards, which helps make the car more of a teardrop shape – the ideal shape for aerodynamic efficiency.  The nose height is down 70mm and that should help aerodynamics, as well as the driver’s view.

Weight – smaller and lighter components such as the transaxle which is now shorter, and split over two axles.

Reduction in energy usage – LED headlights, and no doubt other minor reductions in energy use. Not all of a car’s energy goes on propulsion, a decent proportion goes towards accessories and the like.

Handling – body ridghity up 60%, new power mode.  The petrol and electric motors now work better together for what Toyota say is “better acceleration feel”.  And there’s this – “The hybrid system responds to the driver’s desire for more sporty performance, adjusting engine braking performance and throttle response.”  A sporty Prius?  We will see.

Exterior – the usual car PR blurb about cutting edge design and emotional responses.  Hold your breath and then look at the title photo, if you can handle the excitement.

Interior – battery is now under the rear seats, a la the Prius c, so there’s now more room, up to 502 litres of luggage space which Toyota say is equivalent to a mid-sized car.  There are various refinements such as instrument panel upgrades, seat springs and materials.  Despite the loss of 20mm in height headroom and interior room appears to be unaffected.

Toyota have improved the look and performance of the multi-information display in the driver’s instrument binnacle. Data and images are now presented in full colour with high-resolution graphics on two 4.2-inch displays, which is good news because then you can have two displays at the same time and not need to cycle through options on just one.

The right-hand section shows speed, fuel level and other basic data and the left section is a multi-display where the driver can select preferred content using a switch on the steering wheel.  There’s also a colour heads-up display projects vehicle data and alerts on to the lower section of the windscreen onto the road ahead, focused at infinity.

The automatic air conditioning system uses an S-FLOW function to improve efficiency. It detects whether the front and rear passenger seats are occupied and adjusts ventilation and heating performance accordingly, minimising air flow around any empty seats. In addition to making the cabin environment more comfortable, this also improves fuel efficiency.

Here’s the few specs we have, and a comparison to the old one.  We did ask about fuel consumption and were told that would be revealed later. 

 Prius 2016Current Model (2015)Difference
Type4-cylinder in-line, DOHC4-cylinder in-line, DOHC
Max. output72kW @ 5,200rpm100kW @ 5200rpm-28
Max. torque142Nm @ 3,600rpm142kW @ 4000rpm0
Max. output53kW73kW-20
Fuel consumption (Combined / Urban / Extra Urban)Not known3.9 / 3.9 / 3.7

So the news there is pretty much the same size, but…quite a bit less powerful, both in electric and petrol modes.   We’re speculating now, but the power-to-weight shouldn’t be too bad as it seems this new Prius is lighter, and will lose less energy through friction. And Toyota do say both engines work better together – in the Prius you cannot add the two engine outputs to make a total.

However, if there were any big gains you’d expect Toyota’s press release to shout about how much more efficient the car is, or how much lighter it is, and there is nothing on either score.  Our guess is that this new model will be about the same as the old for power and feel, a bit more efficient, and this is another gradual evolution rather than a revolution.

Don’t miss our Prius c test and our Prius vs diesel comparsion.  Coming soon is an analysis of hybrid costs.


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