2016 Toyota Prius still defines fuel efficient driving

2016 Toyota Prius (Aaron)

Now in its sixteenth year as a model, the Toyota Prius is still the definition of hybrid car efficiency. For the 2016 model year, Toyota took the car that is a household name for “hybrid” and redesigned it to refine its consumer appeal beyond just fuel economy.

The manufacturer says

This beauty is more than skin deep. The striking look of the Prius has been engineered to help it easily slip through the wind. Its sleek lines, active grille shutter, aero stabilizing fins and underbody panels all work together to smooth airflow, which in turn helps maximize fuel efficiency.

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Toyota
  • Year, Model: 2016 Prius Hatchback
  • Class, Type: Five-door compact
  • Propulsion system: Gasoline-electric hybrid
  • Base Price: $24,200
  • MSRP as tested: $25,535 and $32,935
  • Availability: Now

Overview

The main appeal of the Toyota Prius has always been fuel economy, which remains its primary appeal for 2016. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t significant changes to the car for the new model year. The exterior has seen a thorough revamp and the interior sees some changes because of that.

The Prius is a polarizing vehicle that is as much political as it is economical. Because it defines efficiency, it’s also become a sort of personality in popular culture. Going with this, Toyota’s designers changes the exterior of the 2016 Prius to make it more appealing while retaining the unique look that can induce eyebrow raises or grimaces, depending on the viewer. The new look of the Prius retains the twin-window rear section, but adds emphasis to the hatch’s integrated tailfin and accentuates the large, thin, boomerang lighting. The low, short hood is still leading the vehicle and the thin grille of the Prius remains the norm. But the windscreen is even more slanted than before, thanks to slight changes in the pillar design to create the impression of a deeper angle. Other changes include more emphasized body lines and a deleted rear pillar.

There is no argument that the other significant change, a boost in fuel economy, is welcome to Prius buyers. The same 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine still powers the hbyrid through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with two integrated electric motors. The EPA gives this powertrain a fuel economy estimate of 52 mpg combined, with 54 mpg in the city and 50 mpg on the highway. In real-world driving in both a Prius Two and a Prius Four model, we found these numbers very easy to match and the highway number, in particular, to be very conservative for the car. A new Prius Two Eco model is rated at 56 mpg combined. This added efficiency comes from several package changes such as ultra-low rolling resistance tires, a lighter battery (lithium-ion vs the standard nickel-metal hydride), and other lightweighting.

Inside, the 2016 Toyota Prius sees several changes that mark its interior are more conventional. Some are more well done than others, though. A traditional center console now has cupholders and a small storage bin meant for a phone. A rubberized wireless charging pad is housed in that bin. The instrument cluster is still located front-and-center on the dash rather than ahead of the driver, making some things a little oddball for traditional drivers, but is high enough not to be overly distracting during operation. A new heads-up display option can fix this problem. The center infotainment stack has been enlarged to accommodate more screen and the passenger’s side dashboard sees a bit of a lift and tuck, giving more legroom there.

Seating is still comfortable in the Prius, likely very more so than it was in the previous generation. For the driver, this comes primarily thanks to the lower seating position with a more defined rearward tilt, creating a more sports-like feel. This helps accommodate the lower roofline in the new-generation Prius, which dropped almost a full inch. The popular two-tone housed in three colors that was a popular option in the previous-generation is now standard in the 2016 Prius. Negatives, though, include less legroom in the back seats. This had the benefit of adding a bit more cargo room, but comes at the expense of rear seat passenger comfort and that may be a deal breaker for many buyers.

The driving experience in the 2016 Toyota Prius is a bit better than the previous generation as well, though not much more so. In essence, the Prius is still a brick with four wheels, but now has a little more pep and a lot more comfort than was had before. Road noise and powertrain intrusion into the cabin are much better in this new-generation Prius Hatchback.

What we like

Much better cabin experience overall.

Higher MPG returns.

What we don't

Cramped rear seating.

Boring driving experience.

Conclusions

The 2016 Toyota Prius is a far better vehicle than its predecessors in terms of comfort and driving experience. Although it’s still not an Autobahn car, the Prius is definitely more refined and driver-friendly than it was before. Some buyers will find the more cramped rear seating to be a big negative, but improved fuel economy numbers are still the main selling point for this 2016 Prius.

Test Period Length and Limitations
Both a Prius Two and a Prius Four model were given as manufacturer’s press loans for about a week each. During that time, more than five hundred miles were put on the cars in total.

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