Another green evolution effort by automakers. TOYOTA launched its new Prius at the Detroit show, just as sale of the hybrid have been hit in the US in the face of falling petrol prices. The new model will have to rekindle interest in Toyota's iconic hybrid, sales of which dropped by 48% in November 2008 compared to November '07. Lighter, more powerful and more economical than the current model, it also face competition from the cheaper Honda Insight. This Prius's design is a sharper version of the current model, with a sleeker, more integrated look; it retains the high rear boot line for optimum airflow over the car. The new Prius has a drag coefficient of 0.25, making it one of only two cars (along with the new Mercedes E-Class) to manage such a low figure. It is slightly longer than the current car. Underneath is an all-new platform that will be used by Lexus as the basis for its new HS250 hybrid. The 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine has grown in size to 1.8 litres, but Toyota claiming "significant reduction in weight". The new Hybrid Synergy Drive system, Toyota's name for the electric motor setup, is smaller and lighter than in the current Prius, while the car incorporates aluminum and more high-tensile steel in its construction. Inside, the car keeps the current Prius's layout, with the main instruments contained within a narrow, centrally mounted digital display. A button on the centre console, which is an Auris-style 'floating' unit allows the car to run on electric power only, allowing the driver to isolate the engine from the powertrain. Head room is improved and the Prius gains boot space, thanks to the smaller battery pack, which is mounted under the boot floor. When the car goes on sale in the UK this summer, expect prices to be similar to today's EURO17.777.
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