A heavily disguised version of Toyota's popular Prius hybrid hatchback has been spotted undergoing testing ahead of launch.
The car is due to be revealed at September’s Frankfurt Motor Show, and these shots suggest a cleaner, more aerodynamic front is to be expected, with Mirai FCV-inspired headlights and bumpers. At the back, the sloping roof meets a high-lipped spoiler, with a Honda Civic-style split screen.
This Prius is set to be more slippery than at present, and one of the most efficient cars on sale. Last month, Toyota product manager Richard Lacey told us it’ll be “better than the current Yaris Hybrid”, indicating sub-75g/km CO2 emissions.
It's expected that the Prius will be offered in a variety of trim styles for the first time – with the Plug-In adopting a darker front bumper and sharper lines for the LED running lights. Different alloy designs will further set them apart.
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.
Style-wise, 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.