Bet on 55
The 2016 Toyota Prius made its debut in Las Vegas, and it’s almost impossible to find anything the car and the tourist destination have in common. One is obsessed with saving you money, while the other encourages bingeing on booze, buffets, and Britney Spears. There is, however, a number the two share: 3.5 million. That’s how many people visit Vegas per month on average, and that’s how many Priuses Toyota has sold globally since launching the hybrid almost two decades ago.
The Prius is still the best-selling hybrid out there, but competition is getting fierce. The current Prius is already efficient with an EPA rating of 51/50/48 mpg (4.6/4.7/4.9 L/100km), but Toyota promises the fourth-generation 2016 Prius is even more miserly.
How much more? We can’t say because Toyota is waiting for a future auto show (Frankfurt or Los Angeles?) to release fuel economy numbers and details on its next-generation hybrid system. Toyota did say the new Prius will be at least 10 percent more efficient, which means it should return around 55 mpg (4.3 L/100km) combined. Details on the plug-in version will come at a later date.
CEO Akio Toyoda’s directive for bolder styling is pretty well known, and the new Prius is proof of that. In fact, when designers submitted the initial Prius design back in 2013, Toyoda rejected it and sent the designers back to the drawing board.
The final result is what Toyota describes as “easy on the eyes.” Whether your eyes agree or not, the overall Prius design blends the signature wedge shape with a few flashy Vegas-appropriate elements. The dramatic boomerang-style taillights, for example, are reminiscent of the ones found on the hydrogen-powered Mirai, while blacked-out C-pillars give the Prius the “floating roof” effect that seems to be gaining steam nowadays. The headlights also get the boomerang treatment, contrasting with the relatively simple grille that likely benefits aerodynamics.
Inside, the Prius retains its center-mounted instrument panel with a redesign and sharper display screen. The center stack features a simple tiered layout for the infotainment system, climate controls, and the gear selector and drive mode buttons. Materials appear to be improved, and Toyota says the cabin will be quieter.
As previously reported, the 2016 Prius will be the first model to ride on the new Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA). The new modular platform improves Toyota’s production efficiency and will be used in a number of future models.
For the Prius, TNGA results in weight savings and a stronger body. In addition to a new rear double wishbone suspension, the new Prius dimensions have slightly changed. Overall length increases 2.4 inches (6.1 cm) to 178.8 inches (4.54 m), while it’s now 0.6 inches (1.52 cm) wider at 69.3 inches (1.76 m). Overall height has shrunk by 0.8 inches (2 cm) to 57.9 inches (1.47 m). Another benefit of the TNGA platform is its lower center of gravity, which should improve handling of the Prius.
Another significant tech upgrade is the available Toyota Safety Sense system. The package includes automatic high-beams, a pre-collision system, a lane departure alert system with steering assist, and a radar-based adaptive cruise control system. With the Prius scheduled to arrive in showrooms early next year, we should expect to see full details no later than the 2015 Los Angeles auto show in November.