Toyota’s ground-breaking Prius hybrid-powered vehicle has been voted the 2005 European Car of Year.

Toyota’s ground-breaking Prius hybrid-powered vehicle has been voted the 2005 European Car of Year.

Finalists for the award included the Citroën C4, Ford Focus, Opel Astra, Renault Modus, Peugeot 407 and BMW 1 Series.

Tadashi Arashima, president and chief executive of Toyota Motor Marketing Europe said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive the award for Prius. We believe that hybrid technology, in particular as implemented in the Prius with our Hybrid Synergy Drive system, represents a big step forward in reducing the environmental impact of automobiles, while at the same time enhancing driving performance.

“This is a major milestone in the acceptance of the hybrid powertrain and the recognition of its potential to become a mainstream technology. It is also a great encouragement to us in our work on developing more environmentally friendly vehicles.”

The first mass-produced hybrid vehicle combines a 1,5-litre petrol engine with a powerful electric motor, and produces emissions of just 104 g/km.

At speeds of up to 50 km/h, the car runs on its electric motor alone. At higher speeds, the petrol engine is enlisted to work alongside the electric motor.

During deceleration and braking, the electric motor acts as a generator, recovering energy that would otherwise be wasted.

According to Toyota SA general manager Dr Johan van Zyl, the award-winning car is on its way to South Africa, with deliveries expected from January 2005.