Today and tomorrow, Crave is in Sweden for the UK launch of a Japanese car designed to save the world. Yup, we get to do some pretty bonkers things, but this has to be up there with them.
The car in question is the -- a car whose predecessors have become a byword for environmentally friendly motoring. This time round, they say it's faster, significantly more economical, and more desirable, which addresses pretty much all the problems we had with the seminal .
Looking at this new model in Stockholm, we can see the key improvements for ourselves. It's actually rather good looking, for a start. The peak roof height has been shifted back several inches, accentuating the car's wedge shape. It has new, almost lightning-shaped headlights, and sharper edges that give it a more modern, contemporary look.
It gets a shedload of new gadgets, too. There's a head-up display that beams your current speed and sat-nav data directly on to the windscreen so you needn't take your eyes off the road, plus automatic, hands-free, computer-controlled parallel parking, dash-mounted touchscreen controls, and a hard drive to store your MP3 files.
The most significant improvements have been to the car's fuel efficiency. Firstly, its hybrid propulsion system (one engine, one electric motors and one battery) allow it to emit just 89g/km of carbon dioxide, which is very little. As it's under the magic 100g/km mark, the Prius is now exempt from London's congestion charge toll. Oh, and did we mention it can be driven in electric-only mode? No? Well it can, for relatively short distances, meaning trips to the shop shouldn't pollute the environment one bit. Yup, it's finally time to throw away your bicycle.
All this comes despite the Prius using a 1.8-litre engine, which is larger than the 1.5-litre unit on the old model. Instead of spitting out more poisonous fumes, the bigger engine generates more power (97bhp) and more torque (142nm), meaning it doesn't have to work as hard as its predecessor. The engine also works slightly differently to most. It uses something called the Atkinson cycle -- a style of internal combustion that's designed to improve efficiency at the expense of power.
So, the magic number you've been waiting for. The new Prius gets a whopping 71mpg. Take a minute to absorb that. Impressed? We certainly are.
That's probably enough waffling. There's a shiny new Prius sitting here with our name on it, so we're going to log off, take it for a spin through the suburbs and highways of Stockholm, and assess whether it really is as good as Toyota is making out.
We'll have a full hands-on report in the coming days, plus another episode of the