1 Jul 2009
BASED for the first time on the same basic chassis as the Corolla and RAV4, the MkIII Prius was 15mm longer and 20mm wider than the previous model. Overall height was unchanged at 1490mm.
Designed by ED2 in Europe, the freshened bodyshell’s more pronounced wedge shape underwent more wind tunnel testing than any other Toyota model and had an improved drag coefficient of 0.25Cd (down from 0.26Cd), which Toyota claimed to make it the world’s most aerodynamically efficient production car at the time.
By moving the roof’s highest section rearwards, rear headroom increased by 15mm, while a new ‘flying buttress’ centre console design was complimented by extra storage space under the drive-by-wire gearshifter, a wider and more liberally-padded driver’s seat base and 30mm-thinner contoured front seatbacks designed to improve rear legroom. Front seat height and fore-aft adjustment also increases.
Toyota’s upgraded petrol-electric Hybrid Synergy Drive system, was claimed to be 90 per cent new and comprised a larger 1.8-litre, 73kW petrol engine assisted by an upgraded 60kW/207Nm electric motor via an electronic constantly variable transmission (CVT).
Average fuel economy of 3.9L/100km was down from 4.4L/100km for the MkII Prius and it became the first vehicle to produce less than 100g/km of CO2.
Standard equipment across the range included 15-inch alloy wheels with low-rolling resistance tyres, seven airbags (two front, two front-side, two full-length curtains and a driver’s knee airbag), active front head restraints, electronic traction and stability control, keyless entry and starting, power windows, power driver’s seat lumbar adjustment, remote steering wheel air-conditioning, audio and telephone controls, a head-up display, multi-information display and an eight-speaker sound system.
An optional ‘Navigation’ pack for the base model comprised a seven-inch Audio Visual Navigation (AVN) screen, a DVD-based satellite-navigation system and an Intelligent Park Assist (IPA) self-parking system.
The MkIII Prius was also claimed to feature the world’s first automotive application of injection-moulded material derived from plants, employed in areas such as the driver’s seat cushion.
Another Toyota first was the belt-free petrol engine, which incorporated electrically operated power steering and water pumps to lower fuel consumption, while a new exhaust gas recirculation system resulted in quicker engine and cabin heater warm-up.
The premium i-Tech variant also featured a pre-crash system that used millimetre wave radar to alert the driver, provide additional braking assistance and activate the seatbelt pre-tensioners when detecting a high possibility of a collision, while ‘Dynamic Radar Cruise Control’ governed speed to maintain a pre-selected distance from the vehicle in front.
Standard on the i-Tech and optional on the entry-level Prius was a rear-view camera in conjunction with the AVN satellite-navigation system, as well as a park assist system, which helped Prius drivers in both parallel and 90-degree reverse parking situations.
The Road to Recovery podcast series
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When it was new