Toyota expects to solidify its position as the region's leader in hybrid sales with the new Prius, which the automaker says is greener and more fun to drive than its predecessor.
Compared with the previous model, the fourth-generation Prius uses 23 percent less fuel, 3.0 liters of gasoline per 100 kilometers down from 3.9l/km, and emits 21 percent less CO2 at 70 grams per kilometer down from 89g/km.
Toyota slashed both numbers through an overhaul of the engine that improved its thermal efficiency by 40 percent. The new Prius also has better aerodynamics and a lighter electric motor that is 20 percent more efficient, the automaker said.
"The new model has the same eco-DNA as its predecessors, but it is an even better car," Prius chief engineer Kouji Toyoshima said. To improve performance, Toyoshima said Toyota lowered the hybrid's center of gravity by 25mm, "making sure it provides the waku-doki (Japanese for adrenaline rush) sensation that's an important aspect of modern Toyotas."
Toyota expects the upgrades to help it double the Prius's European sales to 15,000 units this year. Last year Toyota sold 210,000 hybrid cars in Europe also including the Auris and Yaris hybrids, up 17 percent. The company expects to sell 270,000 hybrids this year and aims for an annual volume of 400,000 by 2020, when it expects half of its cars sold in Europe will be hybrids.
In 2015, Toyota and sister brand Lexus had seven cars in Europe’s top 10 ranking of gasoline-electric hybrids. The Toyota Auris was No. 1 in Europe with 74,810 sales followed by the Yaris with 68,902. In the sixth year of its life cycle the previous Prius slid to seventh place in the hybrids ranking with a volume of 6,578 units, according to data from JATO Dynamics.
The fourth-generation Prius is the first vehicle built on the Toyota New Global Architecture, which by 2020 is expected to underpin half of the vehicles made by world’s largest automaker.
Toyota said the new Prius plug-in hybrid variant will go on sale in Europe soon after the full-hybrid's arrival, but the automaker declined to be more specific. The company declined to say whether the Prius Plus, a high-roof variant favored by taxi drivers, will be replaced.
Since the Prius was introduced in 1997 it has become the world’s best-selling hybrid. Over four generation Toyota has cut fuel consumption by 42 percent and CO2 emissions by 42 percent.