The Toyota Prius is a hugely important car for Toyota. Not in the sense that it makes a huge profit (it doesn’t), but in the sense that it puts Toyota at the forefront of consumers minds as ‘Green’. And that is worth a lot in these strange times.
So Toyota has been very keen to build up the next generation of the Prius. They’ve used ‘leaks’ and produced viral campaigns. There was even a little blue man Toyota Prius video a few weeks ago to stir up some interest.
And, finally, the next generation Toyota Prius has now been unveiled in Detroit. But it is quite hard to get excited. It’s new, but it’s the same. It has a bigger engine (1.8 litre) and it is more economical (10%). It has three alternative driving modes. EV-Drive Mode allows driving on battery power alone at low speeds for about a mile, if conditions permit. There is also a Power Mode, which increases sensitivity to throttle input for a sportier feel, and an Eco Mode, which helps the driver achieve their best mileage.
Lots of tweaking and weight reduction, which is all very clever. But where’s the real innovation? This is over 10 years old. It is still not as economical as a decent diesel. It is still slow. It is still not the best looking kid on the block.
I want to like the Prius. It started out before the world went mad for all things ‘Green’, but it doesn’t feel like it’s gone anywhere much in more than a decade. Sales for the Prius have been in freefall (not credit crunch related) and Toyota hope this new Toyota Prius will halt the slide. It seems unlikely.