Sadly, I can’t bash the Prius anymore. The all-new 2016 Toyota Prius trumps the previous models in every way and sets the bar even higher for every hybrid in its class. After living with the fourth-gen Prius for a week, I’m about to put our family’s 2012 Prius up for adoption and replace it the new kid on the block.
This will be the 16th year that the Toyota Prius has been sold in the U.S. and almost two decades since the hybrid car was introduced in 1997 to the Japanese market. Since its humble beginnings, the Prius’ core competency has been fuel efficiency. The redesigned 2016 Prius bolsters its strength even more and adds in some cornering agility as far its eco-tires will allow.
Fuel economy estimates put the new Prius Two Eco at 58 mpg in the city and 53 mpg on the highway. My week of driving Toyota’s mileage king netted 60 mpg overall after driving 400-plus miles in San Francisco Bay Area traffic – and leaving another 200 miles of cruising range before running the tank empty according to the hybrid’s trip computer.
Partially responsible for the better fuel efficiency is a reworked Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) that combines the output of a 4-cylinder engine and two motor/generators through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Under the hood is a new 1.8-liter engine that has been reworked for peak efficiency down to the smallest detail. 40 percent better thermal efficiency, a new Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) system that helps get to peak operating temperature quicker, a cylinder head made of resin sheds some pounds, and the engine itself is positioned lower enabling a lower hood profile and center of gravity.
Not only is the new HSD lighter and more fuel efficient, it is also quieter. Under load, there is less moaning and groaning. The fourth-gen Prius isn’t any faster than the third-generation model, but there is less of a drone coming from the hybrid system. Drivers with heavy feet may be asking a lot from the powertrain, but now there is less complaining.
I also found the brakes to be smoother, and easier to modulate than the outgoing model. I hate the brakes on our family 2012 Prius because the brakes are too grabby and difficult bring it to a smooth stop.
For 2016, the Toyota Prius is available in six trims: Two, Two Eco, Three, Three Touring, Four, and Four Touring. Prices range from $24,200 to $30,000. Powertrains are identical in all the trims except the base non-Eco Two, which has a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. All trims, except the Eco, are estimated at 54/50/52 mpg for city/hwy/combined.
My loaner for the week was a Prius Two Eco that is essentially a Prius Two on a weight loss diet. The spare tire was removed for a saving of approximately 60 pounds. It has an advanced lithium-ion battery pack, which is 30 pounds lighter and smaller than the NiMH batteries. Other weight savings was achieved by having manual seats in place of power seats, omitting the seat heaters and sunroof, replacing the retractable rear cargo hatch cover with a lightweight fabric screen, and having less electronic equipment onboard. Other touches that help conserve power are OEM-spec tires with a lower rolling resistance and a windshield that transmits less heat and cold into the cabin, which means running the air conditioning or heater a little bit less.
The 2016 Prius feels faster despite have less net horsepower
Compared to the previous generation, the new Prius manages to squeeze more miles per gallon of gasoline and make the drive more enjoyable behind the wheel. Attributing to better overall handling is a more rigid body structure, a double wishbone rear suspension, and lowered center of gravity. Turn-in response is immensely improved, cornering is flatter, and the ride feels stable at above-legal highway speeds. Better, but it still doesn’t possess the driving characteristics and agility of the new Chevy Volt.
Road noise isolation surpasses the outgoing Prius, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.
The new look evolves the wedge design into a shape that is edgier and incorporates more sharp angles. Like it or despise it, the exterior design has garnered both flattering and unflattering comments. Inside there are a few notable changes. The toy shifter is no longer placed high on its own center console bridge but moved to a lower position on the forward console. The dashboard design has a graceful curvature and houses multiple color displays with higher resolution. Seating position is a tad lower for to allow for more headroom, but the Toyota engineers actually set up the driver’s seat to give the driver a good overview of the road ahead — a feature they magically engineered with the outgoing Venza.
Safety is always at the top of the list for any car design and the 2016 Toyota Prius is right up there with the best. Recently the 2016 Prius earned Top Safety Pick+ award in the latest crash test by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety [IIHS]. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not rated the 2016 Prius, yet.
- On the TFLcar scale of:
- Buy it!
- Lease it!
- Rent it!
- … or Forget it!
The 2016 Toyota Prius earns a ‘Buy It!‘ rating.
I have to admit this is the best Prius to come along in its nearly two-decade history. It may have lost its cache as a green-car icon due to the competition from the growing number of available hybrids that may have more appeal, better performance, or are more affordable, but it’s still the dependable and most recognizable hybrid on the road.