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Car reviews - Toyota - Prius - i-Tech 5-dr hatch

Overview

Toyota gives its Prius hybrid some extra spark for real drivers

Toyota logo5 Nov 2009

By LUCIANO PAOLINO

DOES it really matter what critics say about the Prius? The old one was a dreary drive, but its rate of adoption put Mia Farrow’s efforts to shame, as people of all walks worldwide tuned in to the hybrid’s obvious green message. So after a million-plus sales, Toyota’s follow-up has to possess more of the same eco cachet, but with much-improved steering, ride and handling characteristics if it is going to win over the harsher critics as well. Has Toyota succeeded? Is the Prius at last the sort of car you could buy with your driver’s heart as well as your environmental head?
Model release date: 1 July 2009 to 1 February 2016

Previous model

20 Series

Released: November 2003
Ended: June 2009
Family Tree: Prius

THE car that changed the automotive world, the second-generation Prius, was a complete and utter departure from the mousey first-generation model that was only really meant for Japan. Eschewing the conservative four-door design for a super-aero five-door hatchback of medium-car proportions, the front-wheel-drive, series-parallel full-hybrid Prius II struck a chord with its bold, look-at-me-I’m-green styling and funky interior, but the dead steering, roly poly handling and hard ride proved that Toyota needed to sort its hybrid’s dreary dynamics fast. Under the bonnet was an electric motor and generator tied to a 57kW/115Nm 1.5-litre Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder petrol unit and CVT continuously variable transmission. Two models were offered – the base and well-specified i-Tech, with the latter including goodies such as a reverse camera and satellite navigation. After around a million sales, the decade’s most unexpected smash hit still lives on in Japan as an entry-level model, but Australians are thankfully spared for the far, far improved 30 Series Prius III.

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