The Toyota Prius was the world’s first mass-produced full hybrid car when it made its debut in 1997. In the 17 years since, the Prius has become the world’s best-selling hybrid car, with over three million finding homes. But how is the car still blazing a trail in technology terms? We’ve picked out 10 of the most ingenious and innovative features of the current model, which show that tomorrow’s world, is here today.
1. Solar-powered climate control*
The Prius is the first car in the world which features a cabin cooled by solar panels. The panels are available as a £1,550* option and are integrated into a sliding glass sunroof.
2. A slippery body that makes it the world’s most aerodynamic hatchback
The distinctive wedge shape and homogeneous profile of the Prius combine to make it the world’s most aerodynamic hatchback – it has a coefficient drag of just 0.25.
3. Air conditioning that can be controlled from the key fob
A Prius’ air conditioning can be activated via the car’s key fob which allows the car to reach the ideal temperature before a trip, without switching the engine on. This is possible because the compressor that powers the air conditioning is connected to the high voltage battery, as opposed to the combustion engine. The Prius was the first car in the world to display this function.
4. A unique powertrain that dispenses with drive belts
Contrary to popular belief, the full hybrid system underpinning the Prius is uncomplicated. The powertrain does without a conventional starter motor or alternator and the engine uses a maintenance-free timing chain. In a world first, the car has no drive belts, providing excellent reliability and bringing sizeable savings on maintenance.
5. World-first ‘Ecological plastic’ in the cabin
The Prius’ cabin features the world’s first injection moulded material to be derived from plants. Called ‘Ecological Plastic’, the material has been used for the scuff plates, deck trim and seat cushions.
6. Water-repellent glass
The front side windows of a Prius benefit from a titanium-silica coating on the glass that helps make water bead up and run off. This makes it easier to see through the window and to use the rear-view mirrors when it’s raining.
7. More environmenally-friendly speakers
Every component of the Prius has been developed with the environment in mind – even the speakers. T4 models and above feature GreenEdge speaker technology, which emit virtually no heat waste, effectively eliminating the need for traditional cooling systems.
8. Intelligent Park Assist
Included in a £1,750.** Technology Pack – which is available as an option of T Spirit models – is Intelligent Park Assist.
The system mates a rear-view camera to ultrasonic sensors on the front side-bumper to identify viable parking spaces. It will then automatically apply the correct steering angle for the parking manoeuvre into the target space; all the driver has to do is control the vehicle’s speed.
9. A pre-Crash Safety System
An advanced Pre-Crash Safety system (PCS) is offered as part of the technology pack on T Spirit models. It uses a millimetre-wave system and lane detection cameras to monitor the road ahead and detect the risk of a collision. If it senses the possibility of a crash, the system first alerts the driver with a buzzer and warning light on the dashboard and if the driver does not respond, PCS then activates the front seatbelt pretensioners and initiates emergency braking.
10. Adaptive Cruise Control
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) uses radar technology to automatically adjust vehicle speed to keep a set, safe distance from the vehicle ahead. When a slower vehicle is detected ahead, ACC slows the car by reducing engine power and, if required braking. If it cannot slow the vehicle sufficiently, an alarm is sounded to alert the driver. Once the road ahead is clear, ACC automatically returns the car to its pre-selected cruising speed. It’s available alongside the advanced Pre-Crash Safety System as part of the Technology Pack.
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Further information about the Toyota Prius range is available on the designated section of the Toyota UK website. If you would like to arrange a test drive, leave a comment below and we’ll be in touch shortly.
*Available on selected models only
**Price correct at time of writing