2016 Toyota Prius: Surprisingly Lively in any Mode
by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on June 27, 2016
This is what the instrument panel of our 2016 Toyota Prius looks like when you select "Power mode." Inspiring, right? There's a mode-selector button down by the shifter that cycles through Eco, Normal and Power, with the implication that you get more performance with each press ("enhanced accelerator response," says the manual on page 321).
The seat of my pants cannot confirm that. I tried all of the modes back-to-back, and yeah, maybe the throttle in Eco feels less energetic. But maybe I just thought so because I saw the "Eco mode" graphic on the dash. All I can say for certain is that there's not a dramatic difference from mode to mode.
Here's my point, though: no matter which mode you're in, the new Prius actually feels lively when you're zipping around town. And in Prius Land, that counts as real and surprising progress.
For 2009 — the final year of the second-generation Prius — I reported that the car accelerated without "the slightest bit of enthusiasm." Things didn't improve much with the third-generation car, which we deemed "far from sprightly."
But even though the new fourth-gen car only shaves about half a second off the 0-60 time (improving from 10.2 seconds to 9.8 in our testing) there's a "wheee!" factor at low speeds that just wasn't there before. The electric motor feels eager to help, and in general there's a sense that you're scooting along with minimal effort. This is not a feeling that past Priuses were known to provide.
To be honest, I've liked the Prius ever since it became a hatchback for the second generation. It's spacious and practical, and I can't help but admire the fuel economy. But I never liked the way it picked up speed. Until now.
Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor @ 2,520 miles