2016 Toyota Prius: No Longer Needs a Pass
by Dan Frio, Automotive Editor on April 13, 2016
With both the 2016 Chevy Volt and 2016 Toyota Prius in our long-term fleet, it should be a revealing year for the two hybrids. Sure the Volt is a plug-in and changes how we compare efficiency, but the more telling observations will come from the usual areas: ride quality, cabin comfort, utility.
I wasn't expecting much from my first time behind the new Prius's wheel. Of course it's a redesign, but Toyota's a conservative company and the Prius is a bread-and-butter car. How far would they take it?
Far enough and then some, actually.
I never understood why Toyota got a pass on the previous Prius's low-rent interior. There was an implicit understanding that they could get by on MPGs and Earth-saving cultural cachet and the thing would sell itself. And it did, obviously.
But someone took notice and decided to give the car a deserving interior. Except for the ridiculous, inexplicable plastic white trim, the instrument panel finally feels like it belongs in a 21st century car. The upgraded tablet-like touchscreen interface helps, as does the steering wheel.
The steering wheel! Except for the lame white plastic bottom "spoke," this wheel feels great, to me anyway. It's the perfect diameter and thickness, feels like it belongs in a faster, high performance-oriented car, and communicates more "sport" than this car can reasonably live up to. There's a little more steering feel than before, a little more weight, and the wheel shape and feel definitely give the Prius a little more driving personality than before.
Combine that with quiet, seamless standstill or low-speed acceleration and you find yourself stepping into the pedal a little more as if it were a turbo four-cylinder. A winding and buzzy CVT, however, quickly urges you to back off.
Overall, pleasant surprise for my first miles in the Prius. Nice to have two hybrids in the fleet that people will actually want to drive.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor @ 1,135 miles