Those who watched our Toyota Prius video review will know we're not its biggest fans. Sure, we like the idea of its hybrid synergy drive propulsion system, and loved its hands-free reverse parking aid, but that aside, it was a bit meh.
Despite our reservations, we still made a beeline for Toyota's stand at the Geneva International Motor Show. We're glad we did, because the new third-generation Prius is fantastic. The styling's been improved, the power's increased, and it's heaving with funky new gadgets to play with.
Toyota has improved the performance of both the electric motor and the internal combustion engine. The 1.5-litre unit in the current Prius has been replaced with a new 1.8-litre model, which generates 97bhp and 142Nm of torque, while the electric motor gets a 20 per cent power boost to 80bhp (60kW). Together, they help the car accelerate from 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds and deliver 72.4mpg in a combined driving cycle.
Despite the bigger engine, the new Prius has significantly lower CO2 emissions. The vehicle is capable of running in electric-only mode, during which time it emits absolutely zero carbon dioxide. When running in hybrid mode, it spews just 89g/km, which is a vast improvement on the original Prius' 104g/km.
Tech highlights in the new car include a head-up display (HUD), which shows the vehicle's speed projected on to the windscreen directly in the driver's line of sight. Computer-controlled reverse parking is an option, as is a rear-mounted camera for seeing whether you're about to reverse over anybody. The dash-mounted touchscreen control centre gives you access to satellite navigation, MP3 playback via a hard disk or aux jack, DAB and FM radio, and audio CDs.
Pricing for the third-generation Prius has not yet been announced, but we reckon it shouldn't be too far from the current vehicle's price tag of £18,000. If this sounds expensive, remember it's exempt from road tax and, if you can drive it primarily in electric-only mode, it could be exempt from visits to the petrol station, as well.
The rear looks far more attractive than that of the previous model.
The car's combustion engine (left) is now a larger 1.8-litre model. This reduces the revs during high-speed driving to give a 10 per cent gain in long-haul cruising. The 80bhp electric engine (right) plays its part in helping the car achieve 72.4mpg.
The high-output battery allows the car to run on electric power alone up to speeds of 31mph.
The control panel on the dashboard looks as futuristic as ever. The screen displays car settings, sat-nav information and functions as a display for the rear-mounted reverse-parking camera.
Insert the key, hit the power button and you're ready for driving. The HUD button activates the head-up display, while the music buttons to the left of the screen let you cycle through various audio sources, such as DAB radio and a hard disk-based MP3 player.
The voice-command button lets you control various vehicle settings simply by speaking.
The driving mode buttons let you switch between EV (electric-only), Eco (standard driving) and PWR, which modifies throttle response to improve acceleration.
The HUD shows your current speed projected onto the windshield.