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Engines on test: Toyota 2ZR-FE

A new body, which brings increased strength and lighter weight to the party alongside those looks, plug-in capability, and a solar roof mean that whilst familiar, there's an awful lot of all-new in the 2017 Toyota Prius

 

We’d tested the ‘regular’ Prius several months ago, but the arrival of a ‘plug-in’ option intrigued us enough to request a go in the all-new model. This generation Prius is the first to debut on Toyota’s all-new TNGA platform, meaning the car gains a whole new body in white, representing a major step up in torsional rigidity for a drastically improved ride. This is also partly thanks to a new double wishbone rear suspension, which replaces the previous generation’s twist beam.

However, to keep costs down, the car still largely uses the outgoing powertrain. UKDM models retain the Ni-MH batteries, despite other markets taking Li-ion versions. New Prius also makes use of the previous iteration’s Atkinson-cycle 1.8 engine and that CVT, so the overall driving experience is familiar, but just that little bit more refined thanks to the stiffer bodyshell. The 1.8-liter 2ZR-FE unit produces 97ps and 163Nm, which is paired to a permanent magnet synchronous motor, bolstering power by a further 53kW and 163Nm. The option to ‘plug-in’ the hybrid dramatically unlocks the full potential of the hybrid system, delivering significantly improved mpg over the ‘regular’ Prius.

The new Prius range, in general, sees a slight improvement in terms of efficiency, with a claimed consumption figure of just 2.5 l/100km (113mpg) and CO2 output of 70g/km. This is in conjunction with an improvement in thermal efficiency, now up to an estimated 40%. To our surprise, the real-world abilities of the hybrid powertrain saw the Prius register over 100mpg for our time with the car, peaking at 112.4mpg.

What impressed most, however, was the 2017-spec car came fitted with the optional solar roof. Whilst not a new concept in itself, the application here saw over two miles of range added to the car as it sat in the car park. Some may scoff at ‘just two’ miles being added, but they are free miles, free energy, free movement.

My biggest reservation with the 2017 Prius (CVT gearbox aside), however, is that the electrical system is so good and so capable; it does make you question the presence of the IC engine. After some 30-odd miles of pure electric driving, I realised the IC hadn’t engaged once. As weight is often cited as the biggest enemy against efficiency, it does beg the question as to how long the sizeable chunk over the front axle will stick around for – in the Prius family at least…

 

24 May 2017

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