The urgent search for environmentally responsible cars and the economics of fuel efficiency are between them the harbingers of a real automotive revolution. In addition to questioning the very nature of a car and what makes it work, it’s essential for drivers to become accustomed to new mechanics of driving.
The Toyota Prius NHW20 is a landmark development in both subjects. Its very name is Latin for ‘before’ with all the implications of the way forward’, and it’s an attitude that has been gratefully seized on and shared by roughly a million people worldwide who have bought a Prius.
Ten years of research produced the Prius NHW20 in 2004, a midsized five-door hatchback with its mechanicals reconfigured to give rear passengers significantly more room than in much bigger cars. Take the all-round increase in luxury passenger comforts as read, and ponder how Toyota did it.
The NHW20 operates on Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, an advanced version of the electric motor and petrol engine combination tested in earlier models. Its statistics are mind-boggling (90% fewer smog-contributory emissions than a conventional internal combustion engine!) and lengthy. For a single example, it is the first car to offer (as standard) air-conditioning that operates independently of the engine, guaranteeing comfort even when the car is running on its electric motor.
Every one of its extraordinary range of systems is both improved, and self-adjusting to work in non-competitive harmony with, or actually to assist, the others.
The Prius changes the business of driving. Whatever your driving priority, it either anticipates or makes easier. Drivers are consistently freed to concentrate on the road with ergonomically brilliant push-button, computerized controls. You feel you’re sitting in a cockpit — and with the traditional gear stick lever replaced by a small, dashboard-mounted joystick, you feel the car might even sprout wings. One day it will.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
2004 (until 2009)
THS (Toyota Hybrid System) II Petrol: 1.5 l DOHC Straight Four; Electric: 500 V AT-PZEV)
Top speed of 105 mph (169 km/h) (combined electric/petrol motors), and 42 mph (68 km/h) (electric motor only); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 10.1 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Toyota Prius NHW20 has received many plaudits, including ‘Car of the Year’ (Motor Trend), ‘Ten Best Cars’ (Car & Driver), and ‘Ten Best Engines’ (Ward’s Auto World).