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 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.
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 0-100 kmh in about 10 seconds, which Toyota says is comparable to a four-cylinder mid-sized car.
Outside, the 2006 Prius features restyled headlights and taillight clusters. Inside, new darker seat fabric and a textured instrument panel center accent the high-tech interior styling. Prius offers enhanced comfort with the new option of leather seating (choice of two colors) and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Customers can also order a new audio system upgrade that features MP3-media capability and a mini-jack port located in the center console. The mini-jack port allows connectivity to most portable music players and allows users to listen to their portable music collection through the JBL audio system.
"With the tremendous success of the Prius, the introduction of the Highlander Hybrid and more hybrid models to come, Toyota has become the clear leader in this fuel-conserving technology," said Jim Lentz, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager. "Toyota hybrid vehicles deliver outstanding fuel efficiency without sacrificing the performance, comfort and features that customers expect."
The second generation Prius was the first Toyota product to employ Hybrid Synergy Drive?, the company’s third-generation gas-electric hybrid powertrain technology. This system gives the Prius acceleration comparable to a four-cylinder, automatic transmission midsize car, with zero-to-60 mph acceleration in about 10 seconds.
Prius not only provides the best fuel efficiency ratings of any midsize vehicle sold in America, but returns an even higher combined mileage rating than any compact sedan sold in America. Hybrid Synergy Drive yields exceptional fuel efficiency in the Prius, with estimated EPA ratings of 60 mpg in city driving, 51 mpg on the highway and 55 mpg in combined driving. The seemingly "reversed" city/highway figures reflect the unique powertrain that’s optimized for maximum efficiency in the kind of slow-and-go driving that most urban commuters experience.
The Prius (the name comes from the Latin "to go before") was named "North American Car of The Year" for 2004 and claimed the top honors in the "2004 International Engine of the Year" competition. Dramatic Design with Outstanding Utility The Prius rides on a midsize platform, with a 106.3-inch wheelbase that allows generous interior room and a smooth ride. The five-door liftback design not only looks like nothing else on the road, it is also one of the most aerodynamic production vehicles in America. Its super-low 0.26 coefficient of drag (Cd) helps to minimize interior noise and enhance fuel mileage.
With its striking "monoform" design, the boldly styled Prius provides enough passenger and cargo space to be classified as a midsize car: 96.2 cubic feet of passenger room compared to 101.7 cubic feet for the Toyota Camry. The rear seat in Prius provides a generous 38.6 inches of legroom.
Rear cargo room measures 16.1 cubic feet, nearly as much as the Camry trunk capacity. The liftback design, combined with the standard 60/40 split fold-down rear seatbacks, gives the Prius outstanding cargo capacity and flexibility.
Hybrid Synergy Drive is defined as a "full hybrid system," which means it is capable of operating in gas or electric modes, as well as a mode that combines the power of the gas engine and electric motor.
Hybrid Synergy Drive combines a 1.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle gasoline engine and an electric drive motor. The gasoline engine produces 76 horsepower and 82 lb.-ft. of torque. As on all other Toyota passenger car engines, Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) helps to optimize power delivery across the engine speed range.
The permanent-magnet electric drive motor produces its maximum power of 50 kW (67 horsepower) from 1,200 1,540 RPM, and peak torque of 295 lb.-ft. from 0 1,200 RPM (compared to 33 kW / 44 hp and 258 lb.-ft. for the previous model). The Prius produces 110 horsepower combined with its gas engine and electric motor.
The electronic planetary gear-type continuously variable transmission does not have fixed gear ratios, but rather provides infinitely variable ratios in response to driving conditions. A regenerative braking system further boosts system efficiency. When the Prius is coasting or the brakes are applied, the electric motor functions as a generator, capturing kinetic energy that would normally be lost as heat through the brakes and transforming it into useable electricity to recharge the batteries.
One of the most remarkable features of the Toyota Prius is what the driver does not feel. The computer-controlled powertrain seamlessly blends power from the gasoline engine, the electric drive motor and the generator. The driver typically does not feel the vehicle changing operational modes.
The Prius uses an electronically controlled by-wire throttle, which provides greater precision than a conventional cable-type throttle set-up. A by-wire shift control replaces the traditional gearshift lever and allows tap-of-the-finger shifting using a small joystick mounted on the dash.
The driver can monitor electric-gas power distribution through the Hybrid Synergy Drive system on the standard seven-inch touch-panel display monitor. This screen also displays navigation information on vehicles equipped with the optional navigation system.
The Most Stringent Emissions Certification
Hybrid Synergy Drive reduces the already scant emissions over the previous-generation Prius by an additional 30 percent. That equates to producing nearly 90 percent fewer smog forming emissions than a conventional internal combustion engine vehicle. The Prius has been certified as a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) in California and those states adopting California standards. In the rest of the country, Prius is certified as Tier 2, Bin 3.
In addition, in California and states adopting the California rules, Prius is certified as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV). The AT-PZEV certification requires the SULEV exhaust standard linked with the ability to meet a zero-fuel-evaporative standard, a 150,000-mile durability demonstration, extended emissions system warranty, and technology deemed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to advance future fuel cell vehicles.
Designed to easily accommodate a family of five, Prius is also engineered to provide the level of safety a family car buyer demands. Passive safety features include front seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters, three-point seatbelts for all rear seating positions and advanced dual front airbags. Driver and passenger side and side curtain airbags are available as an option.
The driver and passenger advanced dual-stage front airbags inflate according to collision severity. A front seat passenger sensor is designed to determine if there is a person in the seat and is also equipped with an occupant classification system to verify the front passengers’ weight category to determine whether the airbag should inflate.
Prius also features a high level of dynamic driving control. The standard anti-lock brake system (ABS) integrates Brake Assist and Electronic Brake-force Distribution, which can help apply maximum braking pressure in an emergency stop.
Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) is available as an option. VSC helps keep the vehicle going on its intended course by detecting front-wheel slide and rear-wheel slide during cornering and attempting to control either condition with torque intervention and/or by braking individual wheels.
The Prius offers the amenities expected in the midsize class, plus some available options more commonly found in luxury models. The standard automatic air conditioning system uses an electric-powered air compressor. Not only does this improve fuel efficiency, it ensures passenger comfort even when the car is running only on the electric motor.
The steering wheel features fingertip controls for both the air conditioning and the AM/FM/CD audio system with six speakers, so that the driver does not have to divert attention from the road to change settings for these systems. Rear intermittent wiper, cabin air filtration, cruise control, heated side mirrors, power windows and door locks and remote keyless entry are all standard on the Prius, making it an outstanding value in comparison to any car in its price segment.
The high efficiency of the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive enables Prius to offer a wide array of comfort and convenience options. Available options include an auto-dimming rear view mirror, anti-theft system, fog lights, garage door opener, high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights, navigation system and a JBL Premium AM/FM/CD audio system with nine speakers.
The optional JBL audio system integrates Bluetooth® technology, which provides a hands-free communication system. Cellular phones with built-in Bluetooth® compatibility allow the driver and passengers to make and receive hands-free calls. A call can be dialed by using the multi-information display screen’s keypad, and incoming calls can be answered and ended by pushing a button located on the steering wheel. When a call comes in, the audio system is automatically muted, so the driver or passenger does not have to fumble with radio controls. The Prius stereo speakers act as the phone receiver and transmitter.
With the optional Smart Key, the driver carries a light, compact key fob. When the driver pulls the door handle, an on-board sensor recognizes the signal from a key in his pocket and automatically unlocks the doors. Having been security-cleared, the driver merely pushes a "power" button located on the dash, taps the gear-selector and drives away.