As Toyota plans to introduce full hybrid technology across its core model ranges, it has refined the world's best-selling hybrid - the Prius.
In 2012 guise, the third-generation Prius is now an even an even stronger proposition thanks to a rationalisation of the range.
The appeal of Prius is underpinned by its outstanding efficiency: it continues to deliver 89g/km CO2 emissions - the lowest level in its class - and a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of just 3.9 litres per 100km. Thanks to hybrid technology, the Prius is just as miserly on fuel when travelling around town - you're looking at consumptions of 3.9 litres per 100km in the urban cycle and 3.7 litres per 100km in the extra-urban cycle.
The 2012 Prius features a stronger focus on the lower part of the car's front end. The new styling brings a new bumper and a larger lower grille that gives the vehicle a low and wide look.
There are new LED headlamps with integrated washer system, too, and the LED daytime running lights have been relocated in the bumper beneath the indicators, while the foglights move to within the lower grille.
At the rear, the combination lamps have a new look, and there are new-design aero wheelcaps for the 15-inch wheels. These styling tweaks add an extra 20mm to the car's length, but its wheelbase and its highly efficient aerodynamic performance (Cd 0.25) are unchanged.
Detail touches in the 2012 Prius combine to raise the perception of quality in the look and feel of the trim, surfaces and upholstery. New, darker materials are used for the dashboard and silver inserts have been added to the centre console and air vents and the hybrid system start button gains blue illumination.
The front seats are new and offer wider adjustment, both fore and aft and in height range, making it easier for the most comfortable driving position to be achieved. The drivers seat features partial electric adjustment. Front seat warmers are standard.
The centre console box now has a built-in cupholder that can be used without having to open the box lid. The 12V power socket, USB port and AUX audio input terminal have been moved to the front of the box for easier use.
A solar panel roof (with standard electric sunroof) keeps the car cool when parked in the sun by activating the climate control system and forcing fresh air into the cabin.
The new Prius also comes with keyless entry (incorporating remote aircon activation), full leather upholstery, multi-function steering wheel with several menu options, and an automatic climate control system incorporating a pollen-cleansing function.
The body of the Prius has been made stiffer by increasing the number of welding spots and re-inforcements. This increased rigidity allows for softer suspension tuning, which improves ride comfort without diminishing the car's dynamic abilities.
Redesign of the bracing has also made the steering column more rigid, which has the effect of giving the driver better steering feel. Additional soundproofing materials have improved noise and vibration levels in the cabin even further.
For the rest, performance is still impressive with a total system combined power output (1.8-litre VVT-i Atkinson cycle petrol engine and electric motor) capped at 100kW. Performance matches a conventional 2.0-litre family car, with seamless acceleration thanks to the CVT transmission, from zero to 100km/h in 10.4 seconds.
Prius 1.8 CVT Exclusive: R370 000 (including VAT)
The new Prius 1.8 CVT Exclusive comes with a five-year/90 000 km Service Plan included in the purchase price (service intervals are every 15 000 km), along with Toyota's comprehensive three-year/100 000 km warranty. (Please note that the major hybrid power components on all of Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive models are covered by an eight-year warranty.)