2016 marks the launch of the fourth-generation Prius, and it’s exactly what you’d expect from a new edition of Toyota’s massively successful gas-electric hybrid sedan: improved fuel economy and handling, new technology in the dash and updated but still-distinctive styling.
The base Prius One will be joined by Two, Two Eco, Three and Four trims. The Two Eco will use a lighter, lithium-ion battery pack and eliminate the rear wiper and spare tire. That will help the Eco shed 65 pounds and deliver a factory-estimated 58 miles per gallon (mpg) on the highway and 53 mpg in city driving.
The rest of the lineup will utilize a traditional nickel-metal hydride pack. It’s expected to get 54 mpg on the highway and 50 mpg in the city, falling just shy of Toyota’s goal of a 10% improvement over the outgoing model.
Toyota spared no effort to improve the Prius’ much-maligned drivability. The 2016 will be built upon the OEM’s New Global Architecture, a venture that was designed to improve cross-development efficiencies and will soon spread to the Camry, Corolla and RAV4. (Next-generation Prius C, V and plug-in models are due in 2017-MY.)
The new chassis will bring 60% more rigidity and a more responsive rear suspension; early road testers reported significantly better handling through corners. It also bears a wider, lower stance that — in combination with more dynamic sheet metal — lends the new sedan a distinctly puckish appeal. The show falls apart in the third act, however, with what one hopes will be the final tour of the Prius’ iconic but unattractive split rear windshield.
In the cabin, the cloth dashboard cover is the only remnant of an overhauled cockpit that will feature a refreshing new design, full-color LED displays and an inductive mobile device charger.
Safety will be enhanced with the addition of Toyota Safety Sense, which includes forward-collision and lane-departure safeguards. TSS is standard on touring models and available on the Three and Four. Toyota is expected to offer a variety of safety and comfort packages and stand-alone options that will make fourth-generation Prius the most customizable yet.
The 2016 Toyota Prius is due in showrooms by mid-January. The starting MSRP will remain at $24,200 but escalate quickly, topping out at $30,000-plus for the Prius Four.