It’s been nearly a year since the plug-in hybrid version of the fourth-generation Toyota Prius was unveiled, and the car has finally gone on sale in its home market of Japan, badged as the Toyota Prius PHV.

As we’ve seen before, the PHV features completely redesigned front and rear ends compared to the standard Prius, with the latter’s boomerang-shaped headlights having been replaced by conventional horizontal units with four LED modules on each side. These feature an Adaptive High-beam System which individually control the 16 high beam LEDs to avoid blinding oncoming traffic.

Visually connecting the headlights is the full-length black front graphic that appears to be inspired by the grille on the Japanese-market Crown Athlete, giving the car a more cohesive look compared to the rather polarising standard car – even though the actual grille remains at the same low-set position. Vertical LED daytime running lights and indicators sit on either side of the bumper, recalling the Mirai fuel-cell vehicle.

At the rear, there are C-shaped LED tail lights joined together by a horizontal light bar containing the third brake light – these differ from the regular Prius’ vertical tail lights. Lower down, there are triangular modules containing the indicators, reverse lights and reflectors, also reminiscent of the Mirai. A total of nine exterior colours are available, including the new Spirited Aqua Metallic.

To save weight, there’s a carbon fibre tailgate (a first for a production car), along with extensive use of high-tensile steel in the bodyshell and an aluminium bonnet. Like the standard Prius, the Prime has a extremely low drag coefficient figure of just 0.24 Cd – expected to be the lowest among production cars – aided by features such as an automatic grille shutter and a double bubble rear windscreen unique to the Prime.

More changes inside, including a massive Tesla-style 11.6-inch portrait-format touchscreen. This is connected to a T-Connect SD navigation system and a dedicated communication module (DCM) – standard on all but the base S model – which provides complimentary connected vehicle services for the first three years.

The system also includes e-Care to provide advice in the event a warning light comes on, as well as a Pocket PHV smartphone app that allows users to check and control vehicle charging and air-conditioning operation, as well as to look for the nearest charging station.

Other unique features include a four-seat interior with front and rear consoles with twin cupholders, along with the world’s first heat pump with gas injection for the automatic climate control that enables the car to heat and cool the cabin in electric-only mode, without the engine running. All models come standard with Toyota Safety Sense P driver assists, including Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert and Radar Cruise Control.

Under the bonnet sits the regular Prius’ 1.8 litre Atkinson-cycle VVT-i engine, delivering 98 PS at 5,200 rpm and 142 Nm of torque at 3,600 rpm. As with the standard car, the petrol mill has a maximum thermal efficiency figure of 40%, claimed to be the highest in the world.

Mated to it are two electric motors, one producing 72 PS and 163 Nm and the other churning out 31 PS and 40 Nm. Together with the petrol engine and an 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery, they result in a total system output of 122 PS, a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 11.1 seconds and a top speed of 162 km/h.

All-electric range has more than doubled from 26.4 km to 68.2 km, and even with the battery depleted the car can still achieves a fuel economy figure of 37.2 km per litre on the Japanese JC08 cycle, up from 31.6 km per litre on the outgoing model.

Charging the battery takes around 2 hours 20 minutes using a 200 V outlet and 14 hours through a 100 V socket. There’s also a solar panel on the roof that can increase the electric-only range by as much as 6.1 km when parked under the sun the whole day, or around 2.9 km per day on average. The panel also recharges the auxiliary battery when the car is being driven, reducing fuel consumption.

An external electrical power supply has been added to provide household electricity in emergency situations such as natural disasters. In EV mode, the Prius PHV can provide power without the engine switched on; in hybrid mode, the car can supply up to two days worth of electricity at a maximum output of 1,500 W with the engine started and the fuel tank full. Toyota says the car therefore can support its disaster relief activities, envisioning vehicles that are introduced into company fleets and loaned out during disasters.

Prices for the Prius PHV start at 3,261,600 yen (RM128,300) for the base S, jumping to 3,666,600 yen (RM144,200) with the Navi Package specified. The A grade, meanwhile, retails at 3,807,000 yen (RM149,700), while the Leather Package pushes the price up to 4,066,200 yen (RM159,900). The range-topping A Premium goes for 4,222,800 yen (RM166,100).