The latest Prius we have here is red in colour and the previous model is blue, but both are geeky green cars.
NEW TOYOTA PRIUS 1.8 versus OLD TOYOTA PRIUS 1.8
ACROSS three model generations since 1998, the Toyota Prius has been the international poster car for ecomotoring, from the US to the UK and every pollutive metropolis in between. The famous green machine might not have saved the planet, but it certainly saved plenty of fossil fuel along the way.
Other petrol-electric hybrids have tried to park on the same global eco poster, such as the Honda Insight, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Toyota’s own Lexus CT200h. But only the Prius C, an entry-level 1.5-litre hybrid hatchback, managed to get near to the clean and green parking spot reserved for the Prius.
The latest-generation Prius looks dramatically different from the third-generation model, whose styling is an evolution of the version before. The latest look is nothing less than a revolution – if the old Prius is like a modern Japanese aircraft, the new one is like an anime alien spacecraft.
Longer, lower and groovier, with a prow that could be from an exotic prototype circa 2020 and boomerang-shaped LED taillamps that produce a fascinating light show, the newcomer is an eye-catcher.
New Prius’ dashboard is classier and has more features, but old dash (top right) remains futuristic and user-friendly.
Its 2009 predecessor still looks interesting, though, even after seven years (and over a thousand Prius taxis plying the roads) have passed. And it remains aerodynamic, with a drag coefficient of 0.25 against the new model’s 0.24, which won’t make much of a difference in terms of drag unless both cars are being compared in a wind tunnel.
Their 15-inch aluminium wheels, by the way, might be mistaken for fancy hubcaps. The old set looks sportier from a distance, but the larger gaps between the spokes suggest it might be less “aero” on the go.
Both cockpits have a spaceage theme, but the newer one takes the theme deeper into outer space with its obvious “Star Trek” gadgets – a full-colour head-up display, twin 4.2-inch multi-info monitors (also in full colour) and a central infotainment touchscreen (pretty colourful, too, and upsized from 6.1-inch to 7-inch).
The other Prius cockpit is not so gadgety, with less vivid displays and more basic graphics. But the “Sega joystick” gearknob is as cool as ever, the “PSP” Touch Tracer switches on the steering wheel are nifty, and there’s a monochromatic head-up display. There are also enough connection options (both wireless and wired) to keep gadget freaks connected and contented.
At the same time, the dashboard is organised neatly and it offers storage points aplenty (including a versatile double glovebox) for personal effects, cups and such.
The new dashboard has a single, less versatile glovebox, but its front doorbins are bigger and it has little rear door pockets where the old Prius has none.
In addition, there are handy USB and 12-volt ports for the ecoconscious road warrior, while the decor-conscious traveller might like the retro “Bakelite” trim.
The interior quality is superior, too, except for the stalks, which are strangely shaky. All the cabin’s controls, fittings and lightings are less toy-like than in the previous Prius, and the leathery upholstery is nicer than the old car’s partsuede material. However, the latter extends to the doors, where the patches of fabric provide some padding for elbows and forearms.
Both backseats are equally spacious for two or three adults, but the new fold-down armrest is slightly wider and has a more useful cupholder compartment.
Incidentally, the “dolphin roof” profile should be signposted on the inside with a “mind your head” reminder for rear passengers taller than 1.75m me.
These petrolelectric drivetrains deliver excellent efficiency in every driving situation, with the newer one doing it more smoothly.
Behind the wheel of the new Prius, visibility is better to the front and sides, but worse towards the back. In any case, the car comes with a reverse camera that’s clearer than the old one.
The driving position has been given better seat support and a little more rake, plus a sleeker steering wheel.
The driving experience has been improved, too, and it begins with the underpinnings. The rear suspension has double wishbones instead of a torsion beam, the vehicle’s centre of gravity is 24mm closer to the tarmac, and the body is 60 percent stiffer.
The 1.8-litre 4-cylinder petrolelectric drivetrain has numerous improvements, too. Its hybrid transmission is 20 percent more efficient, the electric motor is 20 percent lighter, and the power control unit is 30 percent smaller yet even more effective.
There’s less power, though, with the combustion engine producing 98bhp on its own and 120bhp in tandem with the battery/ motor, compared to the old Prius’ 100bhp and 136bhp. The power-to-weight figure is under 90bhp per tonne for the new Prius and almost 100bhp, or 11 percent higher, for the old one.
Despite all that, the newcomer feels a bit faster from a standstill to 60km/h or so. This could be due to the quicker, slicker responses of the throttle and drivetrain. It still sounds like an indifferent industrial apparatus when working hard, but with much less of a ruckus now.
When the new Prius is accelerating gently or just cruising along, it’s very quiet, almost like a luxurious Lexus. “Sounds” like a good job by the upgraded insulation.
And the ride is refined, with a suppleness that accepts broken bitumen more softly (in both sound and effect) than the earlier edition. The car is also smoother in terms of Hybrid Synergy Drive transitions (engine-battery motor-generator-etc), with the ensemble operating in a well-oiled manner that makes the complex engineering seem as easy as ABC.
The D (for drive) doesn’t require effort either. That gearlever is a piece of automotive science fiction, like the one in the last model, but you don’t need to be a sci-fiexpert to use it correctly.
Also, the electric steering feels less remote now and the handling is more positive than before, but incisive it is not. The left pedal that works the regenerative brakes no longer feels like an uneven wooden peg, but it rattles a little (in the test car) when released in a hurry.
As for real-world fuel economy, the litmus test for Priuses, I managed 18km per litre in the new model and 16km per litre in the old model.
Green enough in my biodegradable book of geeky hybrid cars.
"If the old prius is like a modern japanese aircraft, the new one is like an anime alien spacecraft."
Similar cabin space in both cars; new cargo hold is 57 litres roomier, but old boot is easier to organise.