What's New for 2016
The Toyota Prius will be redesigned for 2016.
Toyota faces something of a crossroads with the upcoming fourth-generation Prius. The game-changing hybrid's iconic shape represents more than just smart fuel-saving motoring to its loyal owners. For better or worse, the Prius carries social and cultural currency beyond its practical nature, and to reinvent the model is to invite peril. The 2016 Toyota Prius will need to walk a line between loyalists and skeptics.
With the new Prius' unveiling, it appears Toyota has gotten it right, from the exterior at least. The familiar wedge and tapering windows front-to-rear are present and accounted for, but complemented with additional character creases in the front end, door panels and rear flanks, and LED headlights. For the most part, the new Prius looks like a conventional liftback sedan with cues from Toyota's new Mirai fuel-cell model.
What's Underneath the Hood?
Toyota didn't reveal powertrain details at the Prius unveiling, but expect to see the same 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine carry over, paired with smaller but more powerful electric motors. In a unique twist, Toyota may offer the Prius with both a nickel-metal hydride battery pack, as in the current model, and a more expensive lithium-ion pack that delivers longer range. Rumors persist of an electronically controlled motor that also powers the rear wheels, giving buyers in snow- and rainbelt areas the confidence of an all-wheel-drive Prius.
The current Prius offers an EPA-estimated 50 mpg combined. Toyota expects the Prius to continue its trend of 10-percent improved fuel efficiency per generation, which would put the new model up to 55 mpg. The plug-in hybrid model is also expected to carry over, as are offshoot models like the Prius C compact and Prius V wagon, although a Toyota spokesman wouldn't comment on the latter models. Redesigns on those models should follow about a year after the regular Prius goes on sale.
What Special Features Will It Offer?
An important feature of the new Prius that probably won't receive much attention is the new chassis underneath the sheet metal. This same chassis will underpin future Camry, Corolla and RAV4 models, and while that in itself isn't exactly noteworthy, the new chassis offers a lower center of gravity and, along with a revised suspension package, promises better handling. Tepid, uninspired road moves have been a constant criticism of the Prius, so hopefully the new design injects a bit of athleticism into the fuel-sipper.
Inside, materials and design seem fresher and of higher quality than in the present-generation Prius, but the cabin doesn't feel appreciably larger than before, despite an increase of 2.4 inches in length and 0.6 inch in width. There still appears to be a vast, flat expanse of dashboard behind the steering wheel, and now a new, inexplicable white center console trim that Toyota would like you to think of as a fine bone china (optional, apparently).
On the other hand, the Prius does appear to offer an inductive charging pad for mobile devices, which should help minimize power cables and cabin clutter.
The new Prius will offer modern safety technologies like forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with steering assist, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams.
When Is It Available and for How Much?
The 2016 Toyota Prius will arrive in dealerships early next year. Pricing has not been announced, but expect a minor increase compared to the current model to account for new components and technology.
Check back for a full review of the 2016 Toyota Prius, including specs, driving impressions and buying advice as it becomes available.