As part of a range of updates for the world’s original self-charging hybrid car, the option of all-wheel drive makes an appearance on the Toyota Prius for the very first time.
Having been on sale since early 2016, the fourth-generation Prius has undergone a host of tweaks and changes. Along with the addition of AWD, styling tweaks, interior upgrades, and enhanced safety technology are all included.
But with the weather outside turning wintery, the potential for all-wheel drive action in the Prius is likely to be the biggest talking point for the 2019 model.
All-wheel drive ability, without compromises
Toyota has badged the new optional drivetrain for the Prius as AWD-i – the ‘i’ stands for intelligent. Engineered specifically for the Prius, there are no mechanical connections between the front and rear axles here.
Instead, the upgrade to AWD is achieved by adding a new magnet-less electric motor to the rear axle. Generating 5.3kW by itself, the rear motor engages automatically to provide extra traction in key circumstances.
AWD-i will automatically kick into action when pulling away from a stationary position, helping smooth out initial acceleration. Between speeds of 6 and 44mph, the rear axle will come into play again, should sensors detect a loss of traction by the front wheels.
Underneath the bonnet is the same 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine as before. Adding the extra motor to the rear axle removes 45 litres of space from the boot, and has a minor impact on CO2 emissions – increasing from 75g/km to 85g/km compared to the front-wheel drive Prius.
Styling updates and interior changes
With the fourth-generation Prius already rather dramatically styled, only minor tweaks have been made to the aerodynamic body. New headlight units are slimmer, and feature bi-LED units, whilst new fog lights feature in a re-profiled front bumper.
The changes are even subtler at the back, with updated tail lights the biggest upgrade. New colours, including the eye-catching Blue Crush metallic are on offer, along with updated wheel designs.
Inside, the 2019 Prius features new piano black trim, covering the centre console, shift lever, and inserts for the steering wheel. Seat designs have also been modernised, along with a host of minor switchgear changes to make life easier for Prius drivers.
Extra technology, more safety equipment
Toyota claims that the updated Touch 2 multimedia system is more intuitive to use, and includes more features than before. The 7-inch touchscreen can now be pinched and swiped like a smartphone, and is also said to benefit from improved voice recognition.
For many, perhaps the most important change will be the new larger Qi wireless charging tray in the centre console. With the continued growth of smartphones, the charger has expanded to accommodate the latest models like the Samsung Galaxy family and Apple iPhone Xs.
Like the new RAV4 SUV, the updated Prius benefits from the second-generation of Toyota’s Safety Sense system. Fitted as standard to all models, the package includes a revised Pre-Collision System, Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beam, and Road Sign Assist.
Also new is Lane Trace Assist, which adds a layer of autonomous driving ability. Monitoring lane markings at speeds above 31mph, the system applies steering inputs to keep the car centred in its lane.
UK sales for the updated Prius will begin in the spring, with prices due to be announced nearer the time.