More space, more power and better economy for the third-gen Toyota Prius hybrid
9 May 2008

The third-generation Toyota Prius hybrid is getting the finishing touches before its debut at the Detroit motor show next January. It will go on sale in the UK late next year.Sources say that the new hybrid will be larger than today’s car but still be recognisable as a Toyota Prius. Crucially, though, it will be greener and better to drive than today’s globally successful model.The hatchback will be about 10cm longer and 3cm wider than today’s car and, to cope with the bigger size, the engine will move up from 1.5 to 1.8 litres. Power should increase to 100bhp.Toyota says it can achieve this higher output while still improving economy and lowering emissions. Sources in Japan claim that Toyota is aiming for a 12 per cent improvement in fuel consumption, leading to a combined economy of over 70mpg and C02 emissions of just over 90g/km.Toyota’s trademark hybrid system will be more tightly packaged and efficient, ensuring that the car is able to run longer on pure battery power.At launch the Prius will stick with the current style of nickel metal hydride batteries, but the ‘smarter’ style of lighter, high output lithium-ion batteries may arrive by 2010. The first plug-in versions of the Prius are likely to go on limited release at the same time.The Prius hatchback pictured here will be part of a range of hybrid models that Toyota intends to launch to with a Prius badge.One of these could be a minivan based on the Hybrid X concept from Geneva 2007.

Peter Nunn


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Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius is an easy and very visible route to greenness, even if its reputation as the minicab of choice for UK drivers is now impossible to shake off

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10 May 2008

I'm glad they've got plans to improve how the Prius is to drive instead of just focussing on greeny tech (no matter how clean the emissions, it's never likely to balance out the pollution caused by manufacturing and disposing of the batteries). The Prius is already an extremely compelling mix of space, specification, performance, price, reliability and running costs- virtually every competitor is lacking by comparison in at least one of those fields, even if they beat it in others (for example, the Mini diesel gives better fuel consumption, but is much smaller). The only all-round better car I can think of off the top of my head is the Golf Plus, which is even more boring than the Prius.

The only real problems with the car, other than people's perceptions, are refinement and driver feedback.

  • Unless you're accelerating hard, or climbing a hill, the petrol engine is *very* quiet below about 70mph. Between 80 and 90 it's noticeable but mostly drowned out by the road noise. However, when cruising above 90, the engine produces a continuous, loud droning noise, which makes high-speed journeys much more tiring than they should be in this kind of car. Cruising above 100mph will tire you out pretty quickly.
  • As mentioned above, road noise can be a problem, especially at high speed; it's difficult to hear the stereo properly above 90mph. This is very much at odds with the practically silent way that the Prius handles metropolitan driving.
  • Ride quality is slightly bumpier than I'd expect. Not as much as a lot of other family cars, but I still think they could do better.
  • Steering feel is literally non-existent - I understand that an aim of this car is to be effortless to drive (which I very much appreciate, given that I have chronic fatigue syndrome), but there needs to be SOME feedback from the road. Brake feel is a bit lacking too, but nowhere near as much.

It would be nice if the beeping while reversing could be disabled, as well as adding a mode to permanently enable the rear-view camera, but those aren't exactly critical.

While those are the problems I would very much like to see fixed in the new Prius, the existing model is a highly competent and misunderstood car. It takes virtually no energy to drive, is staggeringly reliable (had mine for 19 months without so much as a creak in the dash), jam-packed with technology to fiddle about with, and returns good fuel consumption (~50mpg for standard driving, averaging about 44 if you're heavy on the pedals or 56 if you're insanely economical) despite being quite a big car and no slouch.

10 May 2008

Nice post. The best way to compare a Toyota (petrol/electric) hybrid is with a Toyota petrol or diesel variant. Toyota 'strangely' don't provide the Prius in alternate engines but up the model range they do. If fuel economy is your goal the diesels provide exactly the same MPG as the hybrid (unless your office is 2 miles away!). If you seek power and performance, the petrol hammers the hybrid into the dust.

So the only thing that makes a Prius 'interesting' is the 'emotional value' of its purported green credentials which cost you £2,000 more on the other models than the petrol or diesel variants. Which just goes to show the Greens can't count value and are too emotional (stupid) to run anybodies economy wisely or prudently - see the UK's ethanol farce/scandel for secondary confirmation of green bankruptcy habits.

Personally your Prius' 45mpg doesn't impress me in my 35mpg BMW 335d around town. And out on the road my BMW gives 30mpg anywhere from A to B roads or cruising at 120mph (gets 20mpg at 130mph).

Your 'refined' tin-can carrying 80kg of lame battery would wheeze its way up to 120mph in about 2 days given a long enough road and give 10mpg at anything above 80mph doing so.

If the Japanese Government had not underwritten the entire cost of the Prius technology (which both the Jap Govt and Toyota deny) the £2,000 premium would be even higher and Toyota would have binned this lame project. Can I suggest you try a BMW hatch when their new twin tubo charged diesels and petrols come out and save yourself the time of justifying an expensive, over-emotional purchase.

10 May 2008

Maybe you need to read my post again, because it says pretty clearly what my criteria were for choosing the Prius. Emotion doesn't come into it (other than my general loathing of the Volkswagen Golf), and I don't buy into the 'green' fad.

As for BMW, the very most basic 1-series at the moment, the 116i, is only about a grand cheaper than the Prius, but doesn't come as standard with aircon/climate control (once you add those it's quite a bit more expensive than the spartan-spec T3 Prius), and while it's a bit quicker it's not as spacious and doesn't return anything like as good fuel consumption (again, you need to read my post more carefully, because I'm averaging 52mpg at the moment), and doesn't come in under the 120g/km co2 bracket. Not to mention the higher insurance and, I'd imagine, lowered reliability. The most basic diesel fixes the consumption and emissions shortfalls, but it's even more expensive (and it's a diesel, with the lumpy delivery and horrid engine noise that goes with it). And let's not forget that if you're after an automatic, which I am because of my energy issues, you'll have to part with an extra £1,460.

I don't know what these new engines you mentioned are going to be capable of, but if the new Prius adds steering feedback, refinement and further improved emissions, BMW will have a very hard time tempting me. If I was after a communicative drivers' car, the 1-series would certainly be at the top of my list.

10 May 2008

[quote Vertigo]The Prius is already an extremely compelling mix of space, specification, performance, price, reliability and running costs[/quote] it isn't. No one that I have ever heard of buys a Prius on the basis of anything other than its alleged (well..non existent) green credentials. It costs nearly £18k for goodness sake ! In my experience of travelling in a few (taxis in Paris) they are also very poorly built pieces of kit in comparison to other cars.

You buy what car you like for the reasons you like - hey its a free world - but you will never convince me that anyone should buy one on the strength of the criteria you detail. Its bloody ugly too.

10 May 2008

"When you just use the argument of fuel efficiency, the purchase of a hybrid car is not justified" - Kazuo Okamoto, Head of R&D, Toyota.

Vertigo, to be honest I'm not exactly sure what you want from a car no matter how carefully I read your post!! You want a "55mpg automatic" and "more space than a Golf" or a BMW 1-Series. But you then list "air-con as standard" complain about "lack of driver feedback" and "noise at higher speeds" with "loads of technology to play with" etc etc.

And of course you're "not green" but you can be politically managed into a holding pen by Big Bro Nu Labour with their policy of tax-and-control to make the public jump through their tax hoops as you want to "avoid 120g CO2 tax".

You also say it's "reliable" but in the US alone Toyota have recalled over 1 million! Hope your battery doesn't pack up because it's nearly £4,000 to replace.. a big cost for going green!

You say you "can't hear the stereo above 90mph" ...well I can right up to 155mph in a 335d and I'd pass 2 or 3 petrol stations you'd need to pull your wheezing fridge on wheels into at that speed before I need a refill. The BMW 116i is also 3 times the car your Prius is in terms of driving feel, quality and engineering as James post points out.

BTW the Twin Turbo 4 cylinder petrol and diesel engines from BMW I referred to earlier are out next year I believe. Like the current 3.0ltr Twin Turbo petrol and diesels (models 335i and 335d) the 4cyls are likely to hammer any other engines on the planet for both power and economy.

I know you value space so the Prius may be best for you. Your choice. Here's an article for you which shows the Toyota Camry hybrid takes 8.2 years to breakeven compared to the powerful six-cylinder Camry LE and 5.8 years with the loaded 4cyl Camry XLE. And the Lexus RX 400 hybrid takes a whopping 13.6 years to breakeven compared to the Lexus RX 350.

In short, I'm not surprised Toyota don't make 'straight' versions of the Prius because on pure economic terms (which you puport to only be interested in) you wouldn't buy the hybrid... unless you're green!!

11 May 2008

I enjoy driving my Prius which was bought nearly 4 years ago. It achieves a minimum of 55/56mpg just running around the villages and local town and on longer runs, using the cruise control and sticking to the speed limits, has seen 60mpg plus regularly. I would be sorry to see it get any bigger (although I suppose 10cm is not much) as it strikes a nice balance of size and accommodation at the moment. It could certainly do with some more dramatic styling - the current smooth but bland style is at odds with it being cutting edge technology and some more vibrant colours would not go amiss either. I cannot agree with JJBoxster's comments about how wonderful his BMW 330d is in comparison to the Prius. I agree it is a very desireable car but is considerably more expensive than any Prius, both in purchase and running costs and although it has great performance, where can one safely use it nowadays ? and 35mpg does not really compare to mid-50s, surely. The other objection to buying a BMW in my view is the apparant attitude of many drivers who have them - pushy, arrogant, up-ya-bum always trying to pass at whatever cost - not a very feel-good image. Well said Vertigo, I agree with virtually everything you say. It needs a few more owners to stand up and defend the Prius against all the knockers who have suddenly started to appear, most of whom have probably never even driven one. In many ways that is its biggest drawback; you cannot appreciate how good it is on just a short test drive, it needs a few weeks to adjust one's driving habits to get the best out of it, its only then that you can really appreciate how good it feels.

Enjoying a Fabia VRs - affordable performance

11 May 2008

[quote JJBoxster]Personally your Prius' 45mpg doesn't impress me in my 35mpg BMW 335d around town. And out on the road my BMW gives 30mpg anywhere from A to B roads or cruising at 120mph (gets 20mpg at 130mph).[/quote] I think you ought to read the post again, the figures you quote are not those achieved by Vertigo. My own experience over nearly four years of owning a Prius are 56/57 mpg overall with longer runs achieving over 60mpg (a best of 64mpg on one trip). The worst I've had was a few weeks of short trips during cold winter weather when consumption dropped to 46mpg over one fill-up. I would not consider a BMW 335d as a natural competitor for a Prius (list price £33720 , plus extras to bring spec up to same as Prius T-Spirit, list price £20677) and the running costs of the BMW are considerably more as well (I know of what I speak as my sister has a BMW 330d M-sport saloon). When I bought my Prius, I was looking at the VW Golf, Ford Focus and Audi A3 among others, but would consider the 3-series to be competition for the Audi A4, Merc C-Class etc, all bigger and more expensive than the Prius. For these and other reasons I find your comments and arguments largely ill-informed, poorly thought through and full of baseless conclusions. Sorry.

Enjoying a Fabia VRs - affordable performance

11 May 2008

JJ - hard to respect your argument when you resort to petty name-calling (fridge on wheels etc etc). Does your car have the strange flashing orange lights in the headlight units, most BMWs seem to come without them ;) How about this button:

Joking aside, 1.2 years 'payback time' at 25,000 miles a year in the USA with petrol at their prices is actually not bad going for what is a nascent technology. Remember the petrol engine has an enormous headstart and the benefit of mass-production. In contrast the power electronics that make the Prius even possible are a recent development and are still improving with each new generation. Batteries are still the biggie - though I wonder how many of those getting excited about battery disposal are in fact typing on a laptop computer containing a very similar battery...

Battery capacity is also due to improve significantly - who knows if it will ever rival gasoline, but it only needs to reach 1/4-1/3 the figure of gasoline to deliver the same range per unit volume before even considering reducing energy demand via regen braking.

Out of interest, how long does your BMW take to 'pay back' compared to an equivalently powerful petrol model of the same spec?

11 May 2008

Ordinary Bloke - You conclude with "it needs a few weeks to adjust.. only then can you really appreciate how good it feels". Forgive me but I sat in a BMW 1-Series and it instantly impressed, it exuded quality - and your mate complains it's dead, he hasn't felt a thing in years poor sod!!!

There's also nothing baseless about my claims. I've given links to Toyota hybrids versus Toyota petrol and diesel variants which demonstrate in a more factual manner than your rose-tinted assumptions - if you want economy the diesel matches the hybrid and the hybrid price premium doesn't add up until you take the age of the Moon into account. And also if you want performance petrol is the way to go, the hybrid is numb.

The 1-Series is 3 times more car than the Prius. You are quite entitled to go for the space of the Prius and wheeze around in something as visually interesting as a fridge with the plastics and build quality of Lego to get 55mpg.

You think that's condesending? Hey take a look at the comments on Forum of many new cars. We all judge cars by these factors so grow up mate. Just coz you own one doesn't mean I can't rip the crap out of it and give you my thoughts. It's not personal, it's your automobile I'm having a laugh at.

I compare your MPG etc to my 335d because that's what I drive. In your sector there's a Golf and !-Series but I'm not aware what matches the space of a Prius - maybe a Citreon Picasso? I don't know how it compares. but as I've pointed out Toyota don't make a straight comparison available in this model which strikes me as a bit strange so I've compared higher models - and the hybrids don't come out well.

You both bang on about MPG. I'm suggesting you try a diesel as an alternative rather than put the Prius forward as some great choice. It ain't. It's a lot of extra money for a myth. But hey, its your extra £2k not mine!

11 May 2008

Niall - my consideration for the £2k premium for 335 diesel over 335 petrol wasn't a big factor (pretty irrelevant in fact). For my driving, which in time terms is 80% urban 20% motorway and in milage terms is 80% motorway and 20% urban the diesel won out over the petrol.

The £2k premium didn't come into it because what I wanted was high speed economy (for touring) and power.. well the 428lb of torque on motorways (in Europe) and 30-35mpg touring against my 996 Turbo S giving 12mpg... without losing out to the Turbos motorway performance - a 335d will 'stay in touch' with a 911 Turbo and then overtake it as it refuels. The 335d will also hammer a 335i in a 80mph and above acceleration race and completly lose a 335i when it has to refuel. No contest.

So my other decision was £36k for the 335d and 428lb torque or £99k for a new 911 Turbo with 444lb torque. The 335d is more comfortable, better built, higher quality components, more refined and easier to live with than a Porsche Turbo. The £60k 'premium' there just didn't add up. The 335d won hands down against both alternatives.


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