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Toyota unveils fifth-gen Prius hybrid – but it won’t be sold in Britain

Toyota has this morning unveiled the new Prius in Japan, but its UK business has confirmed that it won’t be sold to customers in Britain due to a lack of demand from our car buyers.

The Prius is considered the original poster-boy for green motoring, with the early 2000s seeing it become the car of choice for eco-conscious A-list celebrities and film stars – Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio famously had one!

But while the latest fifth-generation Prius offers a radical new design, Britons won’t be seeing it in showrooms, with Toyota UK telling This is Money that demand for its long-running saloon model has evaporated with more buyers wanting SUV-type hybrids, with its CH-R outselling the Prius last year by 32 to one.

The new Prius we can’t get: This is the fifth-generation Toyota Prius, which was unveiled overnight in Japan. It has been confirmed that UK customers won’t be able to get their hands on it as – for the first time since 2000 – it won’t be sold here

Toyota removed the previous-generation Prius from sale in Britain earlier this year, and this morning confirmed it won’t be appearing again. 

A Toyota UK spokesperson told us: ‘With our evolving UK product strategy and changing market conditions, we have taken the decision not to introduce the new generation Prius in the UK as the new model represents a very different proposition to its predecessor, alongside a clear shift in UK consumer demand towards more SUV style vehicles. 

‘Since its introduction as our first hybrid model back in 2000, over the years we have launched a much greater selection of self-charging hybrids, covering all the main segments of the market meeting a much wider customer base.

‘This shift in UK market conditions has been reflected in Prius sales figures, there were 563 sales in 2021, in comparison to just under 18,000 hybrid Toyota C-HRs.’ 

While not confirmed, the fifth-generation car will likely be the last Prius. It will almost certainly the final time the nameplate is attached to a hybrid car, with the ban on sales of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars confirmed by a number of the manufacturer’s biggest markets around the world within the next decade and a half.

The news will come as a blow particularly to drivers working for ride-hailing firms like Uber. The Prius is one of the most commonly-used motors in the private hire market in big cities, with the car offering short blasts of electric-only driving when trying to move around heavily-congested roads.

Though Toyota says there is still a car in its UK range for these customers. 

‘Acknowledging its popularity in the private hire market, we are still able to cater for operators who continue to require our reliable hybrid technology, with the UK built Corolla Touring Sports estate,’ the spokesperson went on.

It marks the end of 22 years of the Prius being available in UK showrooms.

Tom Hanks pictured getting into his Toyota Prius in 2007 outside his production office in Santa Monica, California

Tom Hanks pictured getting into his Toyota Prius in 2007 outside his production office in Santa Monica, California

Cameron Diaz is one of the Prius' most famous owners. Here she's seen getting into her hybrid model in California in 2007

Cameron Diaz is one of the Prius’ most famous owners. Here she’s seen getting into her hybrid model in California in 2007

Scottish actor Ewan McGregor pictured in 2004 - again in California - pumping petrol into his Prius hybrid. The Trainspotting star has taken part in plenty of environmental charity work

Scottish actor Ewan McGregor pictured in 2004 – again in California – pumping petrol into his Prius hybrid. The Trainspotting star has taken part in plenty of environmental charity work

Claudia Schiffer with her Toyota Prius hybrid in London in 2008. The model said years ago that seeing Al Gore's film on climate change, An Inconvenient Truth, had made her eager to throw her support behind climate change campaigns - and is also why she bought a Prius

Claudia Schiffer with her Toyota Prius hybrid in London in 2008. The model said years ago that seeing Al Gore’s film on climate change, An Inconvenient Truth, had made her eager to throw her support behind climate change campaigns – and is also why she bought a Prius

When launched here in 2000, it was the car for eco-enthusiasts to be seen in.

It was the first mass-produced, affordable, family-friendly hybrid to be sold on these shores, and demand was boosted by the swathe of celebs pictured driving their super-green Prius around the Hollywood hills.

Stars of the big screen who owned a Prius around the turn of the century include Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Claudia Schiffer, Demi Moore, Ewan McGregor and Julia Roberts – just to name a few.

Rather than flashy Ferraris or huge Bentleys, the Prius was the vehicle to be photographed in if you were an A-lister who wanted to make clear that they are environmentally conscious.

Actor Lucy Liu pictured in West Hollywood in 2006 with her Prius hybrid, which at the time was the eco-car to be seen in if you were an A-list celeb

Actor Lucy Liu pictured in West Hollywood in 2006 with her Prius hybrid, which at the time was the eco-car to be seen in if you were an A-list celeb

Renee Zellweger is pictured here in 2010 having been 'caught in a little fender bender with another woman who bumps into the actress' driver-side door on her Toyota Prius'. Renee stays cheerful as they exchange information and take photos until then-boyfriend Bradley Cooper arrived to pick her up

Renee Zellweger is pictured here in 2010 having been ‘caught in a little fender bender with another woman who bumps into the actress’ driver-side door on her Toyota Prius’. Renee stays cheerful as they exchange information and take photos until then-boyfriend Bradley Cooper arrived to pick her up

Sarah Michelle Gellar is pictured here in 2009 pumping petrol into her Prius hybrid

Sarah Michelle Gellar is pictured here in 2009 pumping petrol into her Prius hybrid

Former Manchester United footballer and now commentator Gary Neville pictured in 2011 arriving at the Carrington training ground. As you can see, his grey Toyota Prius hybrid had been involved in a minor shunt with damage to the front bumper

Former Manchester United footballer and now commentator Gary Neville pictured in 2011 arriving at the Carrington training ground. As you can see, his grey Toyota Prius hybrid had been involved in a minor shunt with damage to the front bumper

Jeff Goldblum is pictured with his Prius in 2017 during a shopping trip in New York

Jeff Goldblum is pictured with his Prius in 2017 during a shopping trip in New York

Another star of the big screen to own a Prius is Kirsten Dunst, pictured getting into the hybrid Toyota in California in 2006

Another star of the big screen to own a Prius is Kirsten Dunst, pictured getting into the hybrid Toyota in California in 2006

When the first-generation car arrived in 2000, Toyota sold it with a five-year warranty in a bid to diffuse concerns about the lifespan of the battery.

Yet it failed to prove popular in the UK, despite a huge push in the capital where the Prius was heavily advertised as being exempt from London’s Congestion Charge, which was due to be introduced in 2003. 

The first-generation Prius arrived in the UK in 2000. It had been launched in Japan three years earlier, and the British market wasn't quite ready for what it had to offer...

The first-generation Prius arrived in the UK in 2000. It had been launched in Japan three years earlier, and the British market wasn’t quite ready for what it had to offer…

When the first-generation car arrived at the turn of the century, Toyota sold it with a five-year warranty in a bid to diffuse concerns about the lifespan of the battery

When the first-generation car arrived at the turn of the century, Toyota sold it with a five-year warranty in a bid to diffuse concerns about the lifespan of the battery

Toyota's marketing department went into overdrive in 2003, heavily advertising the Prius as being exempt from London's Congestion Charge, which was introduced the same year

Toyota’s marketing department went into overdrive in 2003, heavily advertising the Prius as being exempt from London’s Congestion Charge, which was introduced the same year

Prius sales only started to really take off when the second-generation Prius arrived in January 2004. 

It even won the European Car of the Year title in 2005, becoming only the second Japanese model to lift the award (after the Toyota Yaris in 2000) that dates back to 1964. 

Toyota Prius sales only started to really take off when the second-generation Prius arrived in January 2004

Toyota Prius sales only started to really take off when the second-generation Prius arrived in January 2004

The second-iteration of the Prius won the European Car of the Year title in 2005, becoming only the second Japanese model to lift the award (after the Toyota Yaris in 2000) that dates back to 1964

The second-iteration of the Prius won the European Car of the Year title in 2005, becoming only the second Japanese model to lift the award (after the Toyota Yaris in 2000) that dates back to 1964

It was replaced with the third-gen Prius in August 2009, which is still a popular sight on UK roads today. 

The Mk3 Prius was also the first to be available as a conventional ‘self-charging’ hybrid or a PHEV, meaning customers could plug it into the mains the charge the battery and benefit from a longer electric-only driving range.

Toyota also introduced the Prius+ MPV around the same time, though the dwindling demand for this vehicle type means it never took off, with the market instead shifting towards SUVs. 

The fourth-generation model succeeded it in March 2016, but the arrival of fully-electric cars and longer-range hybrids saw its popularity shrink dramatically in recent years. 

The Mk3 Prius arrived in the UK in 2009 and proved relatively popular. This was also the first Prius available as either a conventional 'self-charging' hybrid or a PHEV

The Mk3 Prius arrived in the UK in 2009 and proved relatively popular. This was also the first Prius available as either a conventional ‘self-charging’ hybrid or a PHEV

The fourth-generation model hit the UK market in March 2016, but has recently been removed from showrooms

The arrival of fully-electric cars and longer-range hybrids saw its popularity shrink dramatically in recent years

The fourth-generation model succeeded it in March 2016, but the arrival of fully-electric cars and longer-range hybrids saw its popularity shrink dramatically in recent years

Toyota UK confirmed that while the Prius will no longer appear in UK dealerships, it will continue to be sold in other European markets, though it will only be available as a plug-in hybrid and not a self-charging hybrid.

As the famous Jim Bowen catchphrase from the eighties and nineties TV gameshow went: ‘Here’s what you could have won!’

The fifth-generation Prius revealed overnight in Japan has received a dramatic style overhaul, including a slick roofline and chiseled profile.

The sharper looks are completed with a pair of new angular headlights and a single-beam brake-light bar running across the boot lid.

The fifth-generation Prius will be sold in other European markets where saloon-car demand is still high. It looks far more stylish than before, with a svelte roofline and chiseled profile

The fifth-generation Prius will be sold in other European markets where saloon-car demand is still high. It looks far more stylish than before, with a svelte roofline and chiseled profile

The sharper looks are completed with a pair of new angular headlights and this single-beam brake-light bar running across the boot lid

The sharper looks are completed with a pair of new angular headlights and this single-beam brake-light bar running across the boot lid

Toyota UK says the Prius has been killed off due to the 'shift in UK market conditions' towards SUVs

A spokesperson said just 563 Prius were sold in 2021, in comparison to just under 18,000 hybrid Toyota C-HRs

Toyota UK says the Prius has been killed off due to the ‘shift in UK market conditions’ towards SUVs. A spokesperson said just 563 Prius were sold in 2021, in comparison to just under 18,000 hybrid Toyota C-HRs (pictured)

The cabin has also been brought up to date with a floating seven-inch TFT digital driver’s instrument cluster and a massive landscape infotainment screen in the middle of the dashboard.

In terms of performance, it features an upgraded version of plug-in hybrid system from the outgoing model, combining a 147bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a higher-capacity 13.6kW battery sending power to a 158bhp electric motor on the front axle.

The two power sources generate a total maximum output of 221bhp, which is a huge 100bhp improvement on the old Prius.

The cabin has also been brought up to date with a floating seven-inch TFT digital driver's instrument cluster and a massive landscape infotainment screen in the middle of the dashboard

The cabin has also been brought up to date with a floating seven-inch TFT digital driver’s instrument cluster and a massive landscape infotainment screen in the middle of the dashboard

The hybrid system combines a 147bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a 13.6kW battery and 158bhp electric motor. The two power sources generate 221bhp, which is 100bhp more than before. Customers in Europe can even spec their cars to have solar panels on the roof to create extra energy for the battery pack

The hybrid system combines a 147bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a 13.6kW battery and 158bhp electric motor. The two power sources generate 221bhp, which is 100bhp more than before. Customers in Europe can even spec their cars to have solar panels on the roof to create extra energy for the battery pack

For an added boost of green energy, buyers can spec their Prius with solar cells on the roof that become a secondary source for the battery. 

Toyota bosses said the electric-only range is now more than 50 per cent longer than the predecessor (34 miles). 

This means it should be able to cover over 50 miles without the petrol engine needing to start up, granted the owner has fully-charged the battery.

Official figures confirmed this morning say the new model will accelerate from 0-to-62mph in a pretty-impressive 6.7 seconds, which is far quicker than any Prius we’ve seen before.

You just won’t be seeing one silently sprinting away from the traffic lights anywhere in the UK. 

The news comes just weeks after Ford confirmed it will stop making the immensely-popular Fiesta supermini next year.

Bosses confirmed a 47-year production run will come to a close in June 2023, dropping the curtain on Britain’s best-selling car of all time. 

CARS & MOTORING: ON TEST

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