A Closer Look at the Eco Movement’s Automotive Poster Child
When someone mentions the Toyota Prius, most automotive enthusiasts frown at its focus on fuel efficiency and the sacrifices it makes everywhere else. No other car in the North American market defines commuter car like the Prius, and for that reason, it’s one of the most unenthusiastic vehicles available. However, this doesn’t mean it lacks noteworthy tech or surprising features. The fourth-generation 2016 Prius offers an extensive array of new features and key upgrades to make it more fuel efficient, more comfortable, and more technologically advanced.
Rides on a New Platform
The 2016 Prius is the first vehicle to ride on Toyota‘s New Generation Architecture (TNGA). Featuring a highly rigid body, a lower center of gravity, and a fully independent suspension setup, the TNGA platform should ensure future Toyota vehicles are more comfortable and have a better ride and improved driving dynamics.
Unequal-Length Control Arm Rear Suspension
For 2016, the fourth-generation Prius ditches the torsion beam rear suspension of the third generation for an unequal-length control arm setup. This gives the fourth-generation model independent suspension all around, which should make it better to drive than its predecessor, as well as more comfortable and buttoned-down on the road.
Touring Models Get a Unique Suspension Setup
When you opt for the Prius Three or Four trim levels, you can select the Touring version, which comes with a unique suspension setup that improves the car’s handling. Touring models come with 17-inch alloy wheels that are 1.5 pounds (680 g) lighter than the ones found in the outgoing model and have tires that offer better grip for improved agility.
Extensively Revised Hybrid Powertrain
Although the 1.8-liter I-4, CVT, and two electric motors remain, the entire system has been revised for better efficiency. Improvements made to the 1.8-liter I-4 enable an increase in thermal efficiency of 2 percent to 40 percent, due to reduced friction of internal parts and rotation assemblies and improved combustion. Exhaust gas recirculation has also been added for better air-to-fuel ratio across the powerband. An exhaust heat recirculation system lets the engine coolant warm up quicker than before and allows it to stop more often when it isn’t needed.
On all but the base Two trim level, the 2016 Prius gains a lithium-ion battery pack that is lighter and smaller to give the car more interior space. The batteries have also been moved from their previous location—underneath the cargo area—to below the second row, right next to the gas tank. The smaller battery size also allows the new rear suspension to fit.
Now Available In Super-Frugal Trim
The 2016 Toyota Prius comes in an Eco variant that should be the most efficient model of the range for those who want nothing but the best fuel economy. With the addition of a lithium-ion battery from the Two Eco trim and higher, the 2016 Prius is estimated to achieve 58/53 mpg (4.1/4.4 L/100km) city/highway in its most fuel-efficient form. It’s the lightest and most aerodynamic member of the lineup.
EV, Eco, Power, and Normal Modes
The 2016 Prius offers four driving modes: Normal Eco, EV, and Power. Normal mode balances fuel economy and acceleration, and Power mode prioritizes acceleration over fuel economy. If you want to get the best fuel economy, put the car in Eco mode, so you can hypermile the car on your daily commute. Should you want to use the electric motor when you’re cruising around town, the EV option remains, but keep in mind that unlike a plug-in hybrid, the Prius’ EV range is extremely limited.
Expanded Eco Menu
Like nearly every vehicle marketed as environmentally friendly, the 2016 Prius comes with an Eco menu that tells you how efficiently you’ve been driving and gives you tips on how to get even better gas mileage. The Eco features in the new car take things to another level, giving you an Eco Score that grades you on your driving efficiency, an Eco Diary to record your driving history, an Eco Accelerator Guidance to help you be a better efficient driver, and an Eco Wallet that displays your gasoline costs and savings on each trip.
To ease the load on the climate control system, the 2016 Prius comes with a heat-insulating windshield in the Eco trim to ensure that infrared ray transmission is reduced and the cabin is comfortable in hot weather. A positive temperature coefficient ceramic heater warms the cabin quickly without relying on the engine coolant to get up to temperature.
Smart Flow Climate Control
The 2016 Prius’ air-conditioning system comes with a Smart Flow (S-Flow) mode that allows it to blow air specifically into areas where occupants are seated instead of blowing air all over the cabin. The new climate control system’s S-Flow mode also helps improve the 2016 Prius’ fuel economy.
Toyota Safety Sense-P
The 2016 Prius will be one of the first Toyota vehicles available with the Toyota Safety Sense-P suite of active safety features. In addition to the blind-spot warning system that’s standard on the Three and Four Touring trims, Toyota Safety Sense-P adds lane departure warning with steering assist, automatic high-beams, full-speed dynamic radar cruise control, and the pre-collision automatic braking system with pedestrian detection.
Proof that features that were exclusive to luxury cars are trickling down to nearly every vehicle segment, the 2016 Prius now comes with LED headlights, taillights, and indicators on all trim levels. At night those angular headlights and taillights make the newest Prius even more distinctive (and polarizing) than ever.
Intelligent Parking Assist with Intelligent Clearance Sonar
Your Prius can squeeze itself into a parking spot thanks to the available intelligent parking assist feature. Once only available in Japan, it uses ultrasonic wave sensors to let the car either park parallel or perpendicular. The system also enables the car to exit a parallel parking space via an automatic steering system. Additional intelligent clearance sonar provides visual and audible warnings when the car gets too close to an obstacle.
Fully Connected with the Entune App Suite
On the Three and higher trim levels, the 2016 Prius comes with the Entune app suite as part of the Entune infotainment system. This gives owners access to smartphone apps such as Destination Search, iHeartRadio, Pandora, OpenTable, Yelp, Facebook Places, Slacker Radio, and MovieTickets.com. The Entune app suite also gives you real-time information regarding fuel prices, stocks, traffic, and weather without a subscription.
Tells Pedestrians When You’re Close
Let’s face it. EVs and hybrids operate silently and can surprise pedestrians. To help, the 2016 Prius comes with a vehicle proximity notification system that alerts pedestrians and cyclists when you’re nearby. Using a small speaker, the car emits a warning tone that changes based on how fast the car is moving.