Toyota has released some tasty new info on the US model of its third-generation Prius, which we'll see on UK shores this summer. Apparently, the new hybrid vehicle is faster, more economical and has more technology than its predecessors.
Although UK test figures are some way off, American stats say the car will return an impressive 50 highway miles per gallon -- up from 46mpg on the previous gen. This is due, in part, to the slightly re-engineered bodywork that reduces the Prius' drag coefficient to just 0.25. If this figure is correct, it means the Prius moves through the air with less resistance than even the fastest of sports cars. The Bugatti Veyron, for reference, has a drag coefficient of 0.36.
Toyota has replaced the 1.5-litre engines from the two previous models with a larger 1.8-litre unit. This, we're told, runs at lower revs and uses less fuel, particularly in cold-start situations and when driving on the motorway. The engine also produces more torque so the car's 0-60mph time is now just 9.8 seconds -- a second quicker than the previous model.
The new car will have three user-selectable driving modes. The first of these, EV-Drive, lets you run on battery power alone for up to a mile if conditions permit. Power Mode increases the sensitivity of the throttle input for a sportier feel, and Eco Mode gives the best mileage possible by intelligently switching between the petrol engine and electric motor.
Tech-wise, the 2009 Prius will include a sliding glass moonroof packaged with solar panels over the rear seating area. These power an electrical fan that runs while the car is switched off, keeping the car cool in hot conditions and reducing the work required from the air-conditioning unit.
Other tech will include the automatic parking system, which we demonstrated in this video, plus a new Touch Tracer system. This incorporates a button cluster on the steering wheel and a visual representation of that cluster on the instrument panel, which lights up in segments depending on whichever button your finger is hovering over.
Expect the UK version of the Prius to launch at the Geneva motor show later this year.
Update: We have now published New 2010 Toyota Prius road test on the site, and you can watch our video review below.