Consumer Reports announces a new fuel efficiency champion.
When it comes to fuel efficiency, no gasoline or diesel model ever built outperforms the all-new 2016 Toyota Prius. Such were the findings of Consumer Reports following the non-profit organization’s internal testing of the hybrid, which achieved 52 mpg overall, besting the previous record-holding 2000 Honda Insight by 1 mpg.
The results are even more noteworthy when you consider the Prius seats five and is some 1,200 pounds heavier than the two-passenger Insight. You can credit constant improvements in Toyota engineering and technology for giving us the most efficient and safest Prius yet.
Consumer Reports: Internal, Independent Testing
Consumer Reports routinely tests new cars by using a fuel meter to measure every drop of fuel consumed. Each vehicle is put through the same paces on a private track located within the organization’s 327-acre Auto Test Center compound located in rural Connecticut. Cars are also tested on nearby roads, gauging both city and highway fuel economy.
On Consumer Reports’ city course, the 2016 Prius achieved 43 mpg for a whopping 11 mpg improvement over the previous-generation model. On the highway and at cruising speeds of 65 mph, researchers measured 59 mpg.
The organization’s measuring criteria is far different from how the EPA measures fuel economy. Per EPA guidelines, car manufacturers test their own vehicles under controlled conditions in a laboratory, following prescribed federal procedures. The EPA also tests a small number of vehicles annually — some 10 to 15 percent of new models — to review and confirm results.
Federal mpg procedures have routinely been criticized as being unrealistic, or even inaccurate. Some manufacturers such as Ford, Hyundai and General Motors have had to recalculate their numbers and pay fines, reimburse consumers or both.
Meanwhile, Consumer Reports continues to test vehicles independent of manufacturer influence or government oversight, by purchasing vehicles from dealers in the same way consumers do and putting them through a battery of tests covering thousands of miles.
Consumer Reports’ results compare to the 54 mpg in the city and 50 mpg on the highway EPA-rated numbers. Notably, both tests show a combined 52 mpg for the 2016 Prius, but that’s where the similarities end.
Fourth-Generation Toyota Prius
As for the 2016 Prius, the standard model is now in its fourth generation. This front-wheel drive hatchback is categorized as a midsize vehicle, owing to its roomy cabin. Three other models are available as well, including the tiny Prius c, a Prius v wagon, and a plug-in version. The latter model will soon be renamed, debuting as the Toyota Prius Prime this fall.
Prius Hybrid: Old Versus New
At first glance, the most significant change between the old and new Prius is the body. Indeed, the new model adopts the appearance of the Toyota Mirai, a hydrogen fuel cell model. Thus, the 2016 Prius is more aerodynamic than ever, boasting a 0.24 coefficient of drag (Cd), which is among the lowest of current production passenger cars.
Other changes of note include:
1. Larger overall size. As before, the 2016 Prius sits on a 106.3-inch wheelbase. But it is also 2.4 inches longer, 0.6 inches wider and sits 0.9 inches lower than the 2015 Prius. One of the more significant changes can be found in the cargo area, with gains of 3 or 6 cubic feet, depending on the model.
2. New models offered. There are now six Prius models to choose from, up from the most recent four and not including a special, limited-edition Persona trim. Consumers can now choose Two, Two Eco, Three, Three Touring, Four and Four Touring models. Both Touring models bring in improved handling thanks to new 17-inch wheels and a specially tuned suspension.
3. Retuned engine with greater efficiency. The previous 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine returns, but not without significant changes. Toyota claims a 40 percent boost in thermal efficiency due to improved combustion and new parts. Without sacrificing performance, the retuned engine is the Prius’ most efficient one yet.
4. Newly available lithium-ion battery. The basic Prius Two model still utilizes a nickel-metal hydride battery arrangement, which has been used since the Prius was introduced. But for Prius Three models and above, a more efficient lithium-ion battery is found. With its smaller size and flatter shape, the lithium-ion battery can be placed underneath the rear seat to conserve storage space. A Prius Three model was used by Consumer Reports for its testing.
5. Additional safety features. Manufacturers continue to outdo one another in delivering innovative safety features. Available for 2016 is Toyota Safety Sense P, or TSS (P), which brings in automatic collision braking. The bundled package also includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams.
2016 Toyota Prius
Consumer Reports also pointed out that the redesigned Prius offers “sharper handling, a more cushioned ride, less grabby brakes, and nicer interior materials.” Two demerits noted by Consumer Reports researchers include front-seat back support and restricted outward visibility through “squinty” rear windows. At the same time, the consumer organization praised the model for its large interior and superior crash test results.