An all-new Toyota Prius will launch next year, and it’s not just the styling that will be radically different.
The first model to be based on a new TNGA platform – Toyota’s answer to the Volkswagen Group’s MQB architecture – the new Prius will be significantly more efficient, feature a lower centre of gravity for improved handling and move upmarket with four-wheel drive.
Despite heavy camouflage, our latest set of spy shots confirms that the 2015 Toyota Prius will retain the wedge-like shape of the current model. The high tail, low nose and smooth roofline are all essential to maintain the slippery 0.25Cd drag coefficient.
However, our exclusive image shows the overall look will be quite different. The styling is inspired by the Toyota NS4 concept first seen at the 2012 Detroit Motor Show, and is intended to give the Prius a more aggressive character. Slimmer headlights, LED ‘eyebrows’ and a wider lower intake will transform the front end, and are the latest in a series of bold design moves from Toyota. The company is beginning to shrug off its reputation for drab design with stunning concepts like the FT-1 Supra successor and bold production models like the new Aygo and GT86.
With an all-new platform to work with, Toyota’s engineers have been free to develop a clean-sheet hybrid synergy drive powertrain. The new configuration will bring an improvement in fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions, to around 90mpg and 70g/km, and while the front wheels will still be driven by a 1.8-litre petrol engine and a downsized electric motor, the rear axle will also be powered by an electric motor.
The so-called ‘e-4WD’ system will only work at speeds of up to 37mph, Auto Express has learned, but willboost grip in poor weather conditions.
One of Toyota’s major dilemmas has been deciding whether to stick with cheaper but bulkier nickel-metal hydride batteries, as used in the current Prius, or upgrading to lithium-ion cells. It’s believed the four-wheel-drive system and significant interior quality upgrades have helped to justify the extra costs of lithium-ion. As a result of the more premium mechanical package, the Prius could move upmarket slightly, starting from around £25,000, leaving the Auris and Yaris hybrids for those on a tighter budget.
A new Prius Plug-in will also be introduced next year, featuring a small boost in the electric-only range of 15.5 miles and an incremental improvement on the current economy and emissions figures of 134mpg and 49g/km. These will come from upgrades to the lithium-ion battery pack, aerodynamics and friction losses in the powertrain.