Even a car as trendy as the Toyota Prius needs an upgrade to keep buyer interest, and it also gives the Canadian arm of the Japanese firm a chance to raise the hybrid’s prices a little and send more money to Tokyo.
The new base price for a mid-sized Prius for 2006 is $31,280, which is up from $30,530 from 2005. A Prius equipped with the B package of options is priced at $35,360 (up from $34,595), while the C package has an MSRP of $38,710 (up from $37,945).
Improved occupant comfort should be the result of the redesigned seats, but especially in the back, where the seat width grows by 55 mm and the hip point is lowered six mm.
The optional navigation system gets an "enhanced" display screen and new functions including ETA (estimated time of arrival), route tracer, and voice search of street addresses. There’s also a new backup camera for more money, which helps drivers see rear obstacles on the vehicle’s multi-information display screen.
Toyota Canada says the 2006 Toyota Prius is "extremely well-equipped" with standard equipment, including steering wheel controls for the air conditioning and audio systems, cabin air filtration, cruise control, heated side mirrors, power windows and door locks, and remote keyless entry.
As always, the big question about the Prius (as it is with all hybrids) involves the kind of fuel economy levels the driver can expect. Official Canadian tests put the gas/electric hybrid vehicle at the top of its comparison chart for mid-size vehicles, but pretty much no one actually achieves the fuel economy levels the government lists.
Hybrid Synergy Drive
Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) is defined as a "full hybrid system," which is capable of operating in gas or electric modes, or with gas and electric power together.
HSD combines a 1.5-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine producing 76 hp and 82 lb-ft of torque with an electric motor producing its maximum power of 67 hp from 1,200 to 1,540 rpm, and peak torque of 295 lb-ft from 0 to 1,200 rpm.
The electronic continuously variable transmission does not have fixed gear ratios, but instead provides infinitely variable ratios within a range, which is supposed to allow it to determine the correct gear for every driving condition.
When the brakes are applied, the electric motor functions as a generator, capturing kinetic energy that would normally be lost as heat through the brakes, transforming it into useable electricity to recharge the batteries. This is called "regenerative braking."
Toyota’s gas/electric hybrid powertrain technology produces enough power from both the gasoline engine and the electric motor, to enable the Prius to go from 0-60 mph in about 10 seconds, which Toyota says is comparable to a four-cylinder mid-sized car.