March 25th, 2009
12:38 PM GMT
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Toyota has unveiled the much-anticipated third generation of it's best-selling Prius hybrid car, promising greener credentials, better performance and a smoother ride - but with cheaper rides competing for its slice of the dwindling car market, can it deliver?

Similar in appearance to the previous two generations, the Prius 2010 stands out, say engineers, when you drive it.

"This time, we have both engine and motor strength. A balance between performance and fuel efficiency," says the Prius' chief engineer, Akihiko Otsuka.

The new version of the Prius, the world's best-selling hybrid vehicle, boasts 10 percent increased fuel efficiency, its makers say. Engineers claim their success with this version comes with increasing performance,  jumping engine size from 1.5 liters to 1.8 liters and boosting horsepower from 110 to 160. Engineers say the increased performance was met by keeping the weight of the car down and improving aerodynamics.

CNN was invited to test drive the prototype, due to release worldwide this year. The new Prius has three driving modes to give the driver options to increase fuel efficiency, from an "eco" to "EV" to "power" mode. The power mode focuses on performance, so the vehicle drives like a sporty sedan. The EV and eco mode will remind Prius fans of the first and second generation models.

Driving it on the Fuji Speedway, it seemed to deliver on the engineers' promise of performance, hitting 70 kilometers per hour in seconds. But that was in power mode. In eco-mode, the Prius matched the familiar, quiet (and much slower) pick up of the second generation. The engineers say to get the 10 percent fuel efficiency improvement, you can't exactly drive that sporty power mode all the time.

The Prius also continues to forge ahead with eco-friendly touches, like a new solar panel on the roof that runs vents in the summer to keep the car cooler when idle.

Toyota is banking on the popularity of the hybrid as a bright spot in what's been a sagging portfolio since the credit crisis began. But analysts say that expected profit could be smaller, thanks to a challenge from Honda.

Honda re-introduced its Insight, an updated model of Honda's first stab at the hybrid race. The Insight is priced lower than the Prius, approximately US $3,000 less. Toyota says despite media speculation that it would lower the price of its 2010 Prius, the current price won't waver. Analysts say the success of the new Prius depends on what the car buyer is willing to pay for in this recession.

"No doubt the Insight is a lot cheaper than the Prius," says Credit Suisse auto analyst Koji Endo. "But at the same time, the Prius is supposed to be a little higher quality and little bit more luxury segment. The Prius should have low emission, better fuel mileage and higher quality standards. So the question is, are you going to pay for price or are you chasing the performance?"

The Prius goes on sale in the US in late spring, mid-May in Japan, and early summer in Europe.

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Filed under: AsiaRetail

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Franky

    Is it me or should they make these cars a little more attracted?? I just don't like how they look, maybe some may look nice than others but I don't know. Do you think that's the problem?? Well, one problem?? I think it is, I don't think no one wants to drive a car that doesn't look pretty, let alone you're not used to the baby you use at home...I guess you could say, we men like our things flexible and sensible, get it? get it? Haaa, you get it...

    It just needs to look good, that's all. I mean, come on guys, let alone we praise and give props to people who have nice cars, you think they wanna go to Paris Hilton?? Well, maybe but I doubt it, LOL!! Don't get me wrong, it sounds "unique"(like Paris) but it looks alright(like Paris again) and you have options, (like Paris, LOL!). I guess what I'm saying is we want it plain and simple, not complicated and flexible...and yes, looks do matter, LOL!!

    But Eco-Mode does sound cool, even Power Mode. Maybe a little more and Transformers mode can bust out...

    I think that's it, look good and we'll chase you just like we chase the ladies...and come on, you know that's true, LOL!!

    March 26, 2009 at 9:36 pm |
  2. Dr. Virginia Lubell

    Kudos to Toyota! However, there really needs to be a global discussion as to what will be the best fuel of the future. What has made gas/petrol so successful is that it exists everywhere.

    It's about time all auto makers move forward on low emission, high performance and easy to maintain vehicles.

    Our next global move must be to replace all plastic packaging with bio-materials. We don't often lack the technical any more, just the regulations and the will to change quickly.

    Never forget ... the glaciers are not coming back in our lifetime, or our children's or our children's children. We have moved past 'sustainable' and now must be into Eco-Recovery.

    March 29, 2009 at 4:01 am |
  3. Joseph

    we'll, when we really look at it, just about everyone is driving a car made in China. I feel if their is a need or demand, sell it. Anyway, I ahve a website at Yahoo- this web sight is a new STIMULUS plan to help the economy. Their are great discounts for the entire family. This sight is a real budget saver. But, don't take my word for it, come and check this money saving sight out.
    You won't be sorry you did.

    March 30, 2009 at 5:30 pm |
  4. Yvonne C.

    Fuel efficiency and global warming plus Prius for the choice of control of security. A real consumer and especially eco-friendly consumer are still waiting for their answer. Consumption of gasoline is steadily progressive, whereas alternative of new fuel is so secret, you can see so many patrolling security and full bonuses paid for working overtime. First fruits of prolonged investment in sight; no wait! Few years more and you double it.

    March 30, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  5. Linda Lawrence

    Who do you expect to buy them, since many do not have jobs here?????

    All of this stimulus money that Obama is giving out; how much is being used to build large building and hiring Smart people to run them for hiring people and making whatever we need here in the USA?????????

    I would guess, None?????????

    March 30, 2009 at 7:35 pm |
  6. Christina Viering

    Nice car.

    April 3, 2009 at 6:00 am |
  7. Manuel Vilhena

    Early adopters have already bought their Prius.

    I believe that Toyota Prius will definitely enter in the growth of its life cycle. Great.

    Japan once again ahead of the game.

    Coventry, UK

    April 3, 2009 at 10:06 pm |
  8. Double07

    I would like to know why the media consistanly ignores the products that the AMERICAN car companies make. For Example, Ford has the 2010 Hybrid Fusion, which is a MID SIZE car, that easily achieves 41mpg. You can actually hold more tha 2 people and carry your groceries. They also have the most fuel efficient SUV with the Ford Escape hybrid. Until the media decide to quit being biased towards American companies Our Economy will never recover.

    April 26, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  9. icons download

    And it can be paraphrased?

    October 9, 2012 at 6:46 pm |

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