Dress for success
We Like: Its extraordinary mileage, greatly improved handling, and silky drivetrain.
We Don’t Like: The inexplicably strange styling.
Ever watch two dudes sit down to arm wrestle? You study their flexing biceps. Hmm, they look evenly matched. Their palms clasp, eyes lock, and arms tense, and then—BAM!—the back of one hand slams against the table. Over. Despite appearances, it isn’t even close.
And that’s symbolically what happened when we debated the fourth-generation Prius. Its legitimacy as a candidate was given an immediate pass. It crushes its rivals in sales, and it has a COTY pedigree—a predecessor had grabbed the calipers back in 2004.
Kim Reynolds posited that “this car is a stunning technological advance, a road map to how future cars could actually achieve the government’s target of 54 mpg by 2025.”
Its revamped drivetrain delivers the best mileage ever achieved by an internal combustion automobile, with this Two Eco version hitting 58/53 mpg city/highway. Such advancement must put it in contention, right? No other hybrid comes close to this level of fuel-sipping excellence. So what if gas is cheap? This thing is amazing.
Then the wrestling started. “The exterior design is difficult to comprehend or describe,” styling guru Tom Gale countered. Amid nodding heads, the battle was joined in earnest.
Reynolds fought back: “But its new chassis has a lower center of gravity, and its new rear suspension noticeably improves its handling.” Crickets.
Tom Gale: “This sort of thing just shouldn’t be condoned by advancing it as a finalist.”
Bam—That’s the sound of the back of a hand on the table. Design matters.
2017 Motor Trend Car of the Year Contenders
- Buick LaCrosse
- Chevrolet Cruze
- Chevrolet Volt
- Fiat 124 Spider
- Ford Focus RS
- Honda Accord
- Hyundai Elantra
- Jaguar XF
- Kia Cadenza
- Kia Forte
- Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe 4Matic
- Mercedes-Benz E300
- Mini Clubman
|2016 Toyota Prius Eco|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$26,030|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback|
|ENGINE||1.8L/95-hp/105-lb-ft Atkinson-cycle DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus 71-hp/120-lb-ft electric motor; 121 hp comb|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont. variable auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,027 lb (61/39%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||178.7 x 69.3 x 58.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||9.9 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||17.4 sec @ 78.0 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||118 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.79 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.9 sec @ 0.55 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||58/53/56 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||58/64 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.35 lb/mile|