For many the word “Prius” is synonymous with hybrid. Toyota’s best-selling hatchback brought hybrid cars to the masses, just when the world needed an affordable fuel-sipper. The all-new 2016 Toyota Prius takes the formula to the next level, offering improved driving dynamics, more utility and better fuel economy than ever before.
The redesigned 2016 Toyota Prius is a reimagined green machine with an eye toward driving dynamics and even more real-world miles per gallon.
The Prius is built on a new platform that introduces a new high-strength body structure, a new rear suspension system and a lower center of gravity. When combined, the result is a competent hatchback that is longer, lower and wider than the outgoing model. The result is a Prius that feels far more planted on the road and roomier on the inside.
The front-wheel drive 2016 Prius is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and two electric motors, which are paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Toyota’s Prius hatchback is available in six trim levels: Two, Two Eco, Three, Three Touring, Four and Four Touring.
The 2016 Prius is noticeably larger than the outgoing 2015 model, but the new aggressive lines give the exterior a sportier more athletic appearance. The Prius’ familiar wedge shape is still in full effect, but the new lines allow the aerodynamic exterior to match the future-focused power plant better than ever.
The angular grille is bookended with new headlights that stretch far into the car’s hood. The bolder V-shaped design is echoed throughout the 2016 model. If the outgoing Prius looked like it flowed through the air, the 2016 model slices its way down the road.
As bold as the new styling is, Toyota’s design decisions help the 2016 Prius to blend into the automotive landscape a little more gently than its predecessor. For those who have remained reluctant to even investigate Toyota’s benchmark hybrid because of its polarizing looks, the 2016 Prius’ update marks a departure from the arguably dull curb appeal of earlier models.
The interior of the outgoing Prius is famously simple. There isn’t even a gauge cluster. Instead, you look to the center of the dash to see how fast you’re going, or more importantly, how patiently you are driving in an effort to maximize fuel economy.
The all-new Prius keeps the center console cluster design, but adds a healthy splash of color and information. The enhanced, dare I say, “driver-centric” cockpit almost makes you forget that you are driving a car that is designed for the performance you measure at the gas pump, not with a stopwatch.
The seats are comfortable and the open and airy feeling of the entire hatchback works really well.
Thanks to a lower cowl and bigger windows, visibility is excellent. Rear-seat passengers, especially if there are only two of them, will enjoy an ample amount of space. The Prius design includes a nifty glass panel beneath the rear spoiler that provides better rear visibility while simultaneously bringing in more sunshine. My time sitting in the back made me wonder if the 2016 Prius would quickly become the vehicle of choice for Uber drivers. Considering the incredible gas mileage, comfortable backseat and the 27.4 cubic feet of cargo space, the all-new 2016 Prius might be the perfect taxi alternative.
The center console is completely revised with a design that is at once more contemporary and familiar than the outgoing floating deck setup. The hard glossy plastic design will not be for everyone, but the look is youthful and fun.
A high priority in the Prius reboot was a quieter interior and while I never really found the outgoing Prius noisy, the new model is truly quiet. Eerily quiet when the electric motors are at work and the gas engine quits pumping out its nominal horsepower.
While any discussion of a new fuel-efficient hybrid should start with EPA estimates, the 2016 Prius also excels at offering enhanced driving dynamics that I never expected with this model.
The new suspension enhances ride control, handling and comfort. I was able to spend some time driving the new Prius on an autocross course back-to-back with the outgoing 2015 model. I’m not going to make an argument that the 2016 Prius is “track-ready,” but I will say that the new model is better in every single category that we typically consider when talking about performance.
Powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a pair of electric motors, the 2016 Prius generates 121 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque. With a loss of 13 horsepower when compared with the 2015 Prius, the new model appears to be slipping even further into the performance doldrums. However, the new chassis and increased aerodynamics make the 2016 Prius far more fun to drive and in my non-official tests, faster.
Fuel economy for the Prius is rated at 54 mpg city and 50 mpg highway. The new Eco grade is rated at an impressive 58 mpg city and 53 mpg highway. For the record, I casually drove the new Prius Two about 20 miles down the California interstate at highway speeds and averaged a little over 60 mpg, which is significantly better than Toyota is advertising. If fuel economy is your top priority and you need a vehicle that drives well and seats five, I really can’t think of too many vehicles that beat the all-new Prius.
While economy-minded, the 2016 Prius is far from a no-frills econobox. Standard features include a backup camera, proximity key with push-button start and Toyota’s Entune audio system, which combines a 6.1-inch touch-screen display, six speakers, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB port. The system also includes voice recognition, Bluetooth and Siri Eyes Free.
The Prius Three, Three Touring, Four and Four Touring add navigation, a larger 7-inch touch screen and an upgraded audio system with satellite radio and HD Radio.
I was able to experience the optional JBL audio system which is available on the Prius Four. The 10-speaker system sounds great, filling the hatchback with theater-quality sound. I am continually impressed with the optional sound systems that the manufacturers are making available and the JBL system is one of the best. While most shoppers will probably be content with the base Entune system, discerning listeners will find the upgrade worth the extra money.
Toyota has gone to lengths to ensure that the 2016 model is the safest Prius to date. High strength cabin construction works to keep occupants protected in a collision.
The Prius includes an air bag system with driver and front-passenger front air bags; driver and front passenger side air bags; full-length curtain air bags; a driver’s knee air bag and a front passenger seat cushion air bag. Stability control, anti-lock brakes and a rearview camera are also included on all models.
The 2016 Prius is one of the first vehicles to offer Toyota Safety Sense-P. This optional safety package includes a forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with steering assist, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control. Prius Four and Four Touring models also include a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert.
The base 2016 Prius Two starts at $24,200, while the Two Eco starts at $24,700. The top Prius Four Touring starts at $30,000. Prices do not include an $835 delivery charge. Very few vehicles compete directly with the base Prius.
The closest non-Toyota product would be the Ford C-Max, which is priced almost identically. The exclusivity and lack of direct competition only add to the Prius’ appeal, and with the refreshed exterior and improved driving dynamics, Prius Two and Two Eco models make for very attractive purchases if fuel efficiency is paramount.
Investing in the top Prius Four or Four Touring models will demand a little more pause. While both are certainly more luxurious, the leatherette (Softex) upholstery and restrained plushness are not quite up to Lexus levels of comfort. That said, the added technology features and additional equipment are nice extras, not only adding convenience, but safety.
My suggestion is to make a list of the “must haves” in a new Prius and visit the dealer. Sit in each model and see which trim level meets your needs.
If you like the 2015 Prius, you are going to love the 2016 model. Even if you favor the outgoing Prius’ unique styling, the new Prius is similar enough that you won’t go through withdrawal. If you found the outgoing model’s personality a little too cute, the 2016’s sharper lines may be just what the doctor ordered. Either way, you can’t argue with the improved driving dynamics and performance.
The Toyota Prius has been the best-selling hybrid car in the U.S. for a long time. Based on my impressions of the all-new 2016 model, it won’t be losing that crown any time soon.