Toyota Prius Prototype

Toyota Prius Prototype Review: “I understood the effectiveness of its low balance when I drove it” by Takumi Chiba

It is said that it is a ‘low balance package,’ yet its overall height is just lower by 20mm than the previous model, and its floor height was only reduced by 10mm. Its engine position, which is heavy, was also lowered by 10mm. On the other hand, I’ve heard that the hip point location of the front seats was made lower by 59mm, and the hip point of the back seats was only made lower by 30mm. The passengers are also heavy, so their balance would drop if they sit at a lower distance, but does it have an effect if only the driver is in the car?

That problem completely vanished when I rode the all-new Prius. I still can’t say that it is ‘enjoyable to drive,’ but I can say that my communication with this car has become deeper than that of the existing Prius car. Even when I had a hard time with its low grip when I drove on wet roads, I was able to find out the balance of its handling and degree of acceleration and tracked my target line, and it is totally different from that of the previous model.

It also has many integrated active components such as multi-link rear suspension and the like, but after all, it is necessary to use the ‘low balance package.’ And when I once again gazed at its appearance, its hood was made lower by over 60mm than the previous generation model, and the ground height of its rear spoiler, which reaches the end of the roof line, was made lower by 55mm. Including its low seating position, its entire body has a lower balance, but its ground clearance was lowered by 20mm, just like in the previous-generation model.

In the previous-generation model, in order to provide allowance on the head area of the back seats, the top part of the roof part was moved further back from the B Pillar, but with the all-new Prius, the roof is just above the head of the passenger sitting in the front seat. Its roof line was pulled downwards to the back, thus guaranteeing head clearance in the back seat like that of the previous generation model, and the slope of its roof line was set to provide the best possible aerodynamic performance. If I were to rephrase it, its roof line was moved frontwards; thus, it balances aerodynamics and the comfort of the back seats. For that part, even though its balance was more than a bit higher, it would only have lesser negative effects.

However, one thing I was bothered about was its overhead space more than its wider space in the front seats. I did not have any problem when I embarked in the car, but it somehow looked a bit uncomfortable in a third person perspective. Just like a race car for touring races, the position of the driver’s head is low. It might cause a room for argument of whether it is ‘sporty’ or otherwise.

â–  5 Star Rating
Packaging: ★★★★★
Interior / Comfort: ★★★★
Power Source: ★★★
Footwork: ★★★★
Recommendation: ★★★★

Takumi Chiba | Design Journalist

Born in Tokyo in 1954. Majored in industrial designing at Chiba University. After working as a designer for commercial vehicle makers and working in the editorial department of a car design special magazine, he began working as a freelance design journalist in 1988. He is a member of the Car of The Year (COTY) organizing committee and Auto Color Award judging committee. He also works as a part time lecturer in Tokai University, and a board member of Automobile Journalists Association of Japan (AJAJ).

(Translated by Claire Marie Sausora)