THE world's most successful self-charging hybrid car is being given a thorough make-over which should keep it on top of the pile when it is launched next year.
The new 2019 Toyota Prius made its public debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show and comes with new technical features as well as fresh styling and interior improvements.
At the heart of the new model is a brand new intelligent, electric all-wheel drive system. Called Hybrid AWD-i, the smart system uses an additional high-torque electric motor to provide extra drive through the rear axle when required. It is engineered to engage automatically when pulling away, at speeds up to 7mph, and when sensors detect low-grip conditions, such is in snow or on wet and slippery road surfaces, at speeds between 7 and 44mph.
The unit is compact and lightweight, with no centre differential or front-to-rear driveshaft, so there is minimal intrusion in boot space and, says the company, little compromise in fuel economy and emissions.
Styling of the new model is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. The familiar fastback design has been enhanced with slim new LED headlight units and a new front bumper at the front and new combination lamps and a redesigned tailgate at the rear.
In the cabin there are changes to the centre console arrangement and some of the controls on the instrument panel. Changes to the equipment specifications include an increase in size for the wireless charging tray to accommodate larger smartphones; turn-by-turn navigation directions have been added to the head-up display functionality and a multimedia touchscreen that offers faster response and can be operated using "pinch and flick" gestures familiar from smartphone use.
European versions of the new Prius - the fourth generation of the hybrid, which is celebrating its 21 birthday this year - will be unveiled at the Brussels Motor Show in January.