The next-generation Toyota Prius will arrive in dealerships in Spring of 2015 and will attain at least 60 combined mpg on the EPA cycle, an insider at Toyota said to Motor Trend in a new tell-all interview. In creating the new fourth-generation model, Toyota seeks to distance itself from other fine hybrids like the Ford C-MAX with a brand-new Hybrid Synergy Drive system and a sleeker, forward-thinking design the company hopes will appeal to the same tech lovers and creative types that have made the lineup such a success.
Here’s what we know so far:
Design: While the new car will still be instantly recognizable as a Prius, Toyota has lowered the hood line by 3.5 inches. The A-pillar will be moved rearward while the roofline will be pushed forward. Wheelbase, and proportions toward the rear of the car, will stay about the same, but the overall look will be sleeker and less wedge-shaped.
Hybrid Synergy Drive: The Prius will debut Toyota’s next-generation hybrid system, a smaller and lighter unit that will help cut overall weight by around 150 lbs. Since a number of Toyota hybrid patents expire in 2013, the company plans to raise the bar once again just as the rest of the industry catches up. With a modified Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder, probably still displacing 1.8-liters, the new standard Prius model will stay with nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries. Efficiency will improve by around 20%. A plug-in version with around 22 miles of electric-only range will debut with the standard hybrid model.
Drivetrain and Performance: The new car should be a lot more fun to drive, gaining a double-wishbone independent rear suspension and a new electric-augmented AWD system providing torque to the rear wheels at low speeds. With more luggage space, and a lower center of gravity thanks to the smaller, lighter hybrid system, Toyota’s newest promises less compromise to go with the outstanding mpg savings.
Hybrid cars no longer have the novelty value they enjoyed a few years ago, so Toyota hopes to place the advanced new Prius as a technology showcase and green halo model for the brand. Though there are many fine new hybrids on the market, none have been able to unseat the Prius in the all-important mpg race. Looks like Toyota won’t be letting that happen any time soon.