The fourth generation of the Prius marks a significant step for Toyota. It is the first model to be developed on the firm’s Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform, a modular set of components designed to offer quicker development of new models as well as cost savings and improved margins across the product line-up.
The new platform brings a more sophisticated chassis than that of the outgoing Prius. Double wishbone rear suspension replaces the current torsion beam layout, accompanying a revised MacPherson set-up at the front.
Toyota says the new platform helps to lower the centre of gravity and that this will give the Prius “improved handling response and agility”.
The front of the Prius gets more dramatic headlights and complex surfacing on the bumper, while the side profile is helped by a blacked-out C-pillar that’s designed to create a ‘floating roof’. The rear has clear cues from the Mirai, including the deep crease above the back wheels, tall tail-lights and a spoiler integrated into the hatchback glass.
Toyota hasn’t issued any technical details, but the front and rear overhangs look slightly longer than those on the current car, so the new Prius is likely to be slightly longer overall. The powertrain is almost certain to be an updated version of the existing combination of 1.8-litre petrol engine and electric motor, featuring a more compact nickel-metal hydride battery pack that’s quicker to charge.
Senior officials have hinted at fuel economy gains of 10%. That could give the Prius a combined economy figure of around 82mpg, potentially taking the regular, non-plug-in version of the car to less than 80g/km of CO2 emissions.
The TNGA will play a key part in Toyota’s future product plans. The firm has previously stated that up to 50% of its global product line-up will eventually switch to the new architecture and that it will offer gains in body rigidity of between 30% and 65%.
The new Prius is due on sale early next year. Prices are likely to stay broadly in line with the current car’s, with a starting figure of around £22,000.
Comment – Why the new Prius matters
Toyota may make great claims about the high percentage of Auris hybrids in the overall sales mix and the enthusiastic response to the Mirai fuel cell vehicle, but the Prius is likely to remain the flag-bearer for the company’s hybrid powertrains for some time to come.
So successful has the model been that for many people, Prius is hybrid.
Don’t expect a revolution in the powertrain technology that underpins the new car — although even modest gains should be enough for the Prius to trump the NEDC efficiency test and get under the magic 80g/km CO2 mark.
The chassis is the most interesting bit. Everything from Avensis to Auris and lots in between will use the TNGA platform in the years ahead, so the Prius will give us our first look at how Toyota’s vision of a global platform compares with the VW Group’s complex (and expensive) MQB.
Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below: