Toyota’s Prius enters its fifth generation with a sleek new design language and, for the first time, all-wheel drive.
Teased as a silhouette outline just over a week ago, the brand-new Prius has now been unveiled 22 years after its forebear arrived in North America. Since then, and across four generations, more than 20 million examples have been sold globally, with over five million being sold in North America alone.
Expected to be a forerunner on Toyota’s emission-free fleet, the new Prius is also the first model to don the ‘Beyond Zero’ badge, a reference to the Japanese conglomerate’s bid for carbon-neutrality and the nomenclature behind Toyota’s new, fully-electric bZ4X SUV.
The most notable new direction is the Prius’ aero-optimized ‘One-Motion Silhouette.’ The front – inspired by a hammerhead shark – now features much subtler hood grooves, while the air intakes previously mounted behind the front wheel arches have been removed entirely for a slimmer, full-width example along the front sill.
Stretched, horizontal tail lamps and a bolder Prius badge command the rear, with Toyota having also done away with the sharp bodylines and pronounced ‘lip’ over the rear lights. The dimensions have also been subtly tweaked, with the Prius now 20 mm wider at the rear, 25mm longer, and with a 50 mm lower roofline.
The all-new “sophisticated” cabin meanwhile has been built around an ‘island architecture’ concept to make the interior more spacious. The Toyota Multimedia touchscreen – available in either an 8-inch or 12.3-inch, depending on the trim – is the dashboard anchor, and, in a neat touch, is also twinned with a new illuminated warning feature that activates and/or flashes the ambient lighting to alert the driver to a potential collision. A 7-inch instrument cluster before the steering wheel has been mounted thusly to keep the driver’s attention on the road.
An updated version of the Toyota New Global Architecture – specifically TNGA-C – is at the heart of the brand-new model. Lighter than the example on the outgoing model, additional bracing means the fifth gen model is also stiffer and features a lower centre of gravity in an effort to improve the handling. Interestingly, the new design language was also a key consideration, the new platform proving flexible enough to adopt the larger 19-inch wheels (the hip point is 30 mm lower than before) and “achieve the exhilarating styling.”
Another significant change are the hybrid powertrain options for the North American market. The entry level ‘Hybrid’ Prius features a larger, 2.0-litre four-cylinder – compared with the 1.8-litre example on the outgoing model – that’s mated with a high-output e-motor powering the rear wheels and a newly-developed lithium-ion battery, relocated under the rear seats rather than the cargo area to increase luggage space. The battery is not only smaller and lighter than its Nickel Metal predecessor but also boasts 15 per cent higher capacity. Combined output is 196 hp, enough for a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 7.2 seconds, almost three seconds faster than the outgoing front-wheel drive model.
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The higher spec Prius ‘Prime’ meanwhile features the same all-wheel drive 2.0-litre / e-motor combination, albeit with power hiked to 220 hp, a 100 hp increase over the old model. While Toyota Canada has not yet confirmed range figures, the Prime’s estimate is said to beat the old model’s 40 km estimate by “over 50 per cent,” even with its sprightly 6.8-second 0-100 km/h sprint time. Interestingly, and unlike the ‘Hybrid’ example, the Prime is the only available option with plug-in hybrid capabilities.
Though Canadian pricing and the on-sale have yet to be confirmed – those details won’t be released until later in the year – Toyota Canada has confirmed trim levels for both the Hybrid and the Prime. The entry level Hybrid ‘XLE AWD’ and Prime ‘SE’ come as standard with the 8-inch multimedia touchscreen, while the SE is also the only trim kitted with 17-inch wheels as standard. Both feature wirless Apple CarPlay/ Android Auto, a Softex leather-trimmed heated steering wheel, six USB-c ports, heated front seats, and a Blind Spot Monitor, while the XLE also throws in a digital rear-view mirror.
The multimedia screen is bumped up to 12.3-inches from the Prime ‘XSE’ grade onwards, which also introduces rain-sensing windshield wipers, rear seat heaters (plus additional cupholders), a fixed glass roof, wireless charging, and Traffic Jam Assist. The Hybrid ‘Limited AWD’ and Prime ‘XSE Premium’ are top of their respective ranges, and throw in an eight-speaker JBK sound system, heated and ventilated seats, a power tailgate, panoramic view monitor, and ‘Advanced Park’ driver assist systems, among others.
New safety systems round out the Prius’ cribsheet, including the latest generation Toyota Safety Sense collision warning via cameras in the front and rear bumpers – which comes as standard – and, as standard on the Limited and XSE Premium, a digital key, which effectively allows the user’s smartphone to act as the keyfob.