The new all-wheel-drive variant of the hybrid hatchback features an additional high-torque electric motor that sends power to the rear axle. Toyota says it is engineered to engage for extra traction when pulling away at speeds of up to 6mph, and will also be used at speeds between 6mph and 44mph when sensors detect low-grip conditions.
The "compact and lightweight" 7bhp secondary motor works alongside the current 1.8-litre hybrid system, producing a relatively high torque output of 420lb ft to aid with low traction acceleration. The firm added that, because the unit does not use a centre differential or front-to-rear driveshaft, it will have a minimal impact on the both Prius’s boot capacity and emissions ratings. Fuel efficiency is also relatively unchanged, with a WLTP-certified rating of 58.6-64.7mpg on the combined cycle.
The Hybrid AWD-i Prius draws power from a nickel-metal hydride hybrid battery, which Toyota said has been optimised for cold weather performance, while the front-wheel-drive Prius has been equipped with a new lithium ion hybrid battery.
Toyota has also made a range of minor updates to the whole Prius range for 2019, including revamped exterior styling including new-look front and rear lights, a reworked bumper and a new trapezoid shape design in the car’s rear.
Inside, Toyota has reworked the dashboard of the car, and reconfigured some of the controls on the instrument panel. It will now be offered with a larger wireless charging tray, due to the growth in size of smartphones, and the latest version of Toyota’s Touch 2 infotainment system which responds to pinch, swipe and flick gestures in the same manner as a modern smartphone. The new model follows the fifth-generation RAV4 in receiving Toyota's Safety Sense driver assist system, featuring road sign recognition, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control.
The new-look Prius, along with the Hybrid AWD-i version, will initially launch in Britain and western Europe in Spring, with a central and eastern European launch to follow. Official pricing and range details for the new model will be announced nearer the time.