2016 Toyota Prius front 3/4 view
  • Image Credit: Sebastian Blanco
2016 Toyota Prius rear 3/4 view
  • Image Credit: Sebastian Blanco
2016 Toyota Prius side view
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2016 Toyota Prius front view
  • Image Credit: Sebastian Blanco
2016 Toyota Prius rear view
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2016 Toyota Prius front 3/4 view
  • Image Credit: Sebastian Blanco
2016 Toyota Prius headlight
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2016 Toyota Prius wheel
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2016 Toyota Prius taillight
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2016 Toyota Prius badge
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2016 Toyota Prius badge
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2016 Toyota Prius engine
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2016 Toyota Prius engine
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2016 Toyota Prius interior
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2016 Toyota Prius front seats
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2016 Toyota Prius rear seats
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2016 Toyota Prius infotainment system
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2016 Toyota Prius fuel economy display
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2016 Toyota Prius powertrain display
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2016 Toyota Prius eco mode
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2016 Toyota Prius normal mode
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2016 Toyota Prius power mode
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2016 Toyota Prius fuel economy display
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2016 Toyota Prius gear selector
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2016 Toyota Prius rear cargo area
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The premium many people pay for hybrid vehicles relative to similar gas-powered cars is getting more difficult to justify these days, automotive-research firm Vincentric says. Hybrids are becoming less cost-effective relative to gas-powered cars because of lower gas prices and better non-hybrid fuel efficiency. Perhaps that's one reason why hybrid sales are down substantially this year.

Less than one in four hybrids most recently reviewed by Vincentric generated lower ownership costs than their gas-powered counterparts. That's down from 32 percent in 2014 and from 44 percent in 2012. The Audi Q5 Hybrid, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Lexus CT 200h, Lexus ES 300h, Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, Toyota Avalon Hybrid, and Toyota Prius C were the models Vincentric deemed to have lower operating costs than conventional comparable models.

The narrowing gap is a result of lower gas prices and better overall fuel economy, both of which are great for the general public but not so great for those trying to sell hybrids. US gas prices currently average $2.20 a gallon, down from $2.58 a gallon a year ago, according to AAA. Meanwhile, average new-vehicle fuel economy has been hovering at about 25.5 miles per gallon for the past two years, up from 24.6 mpg for model-year 2014 and from 23.5 mpg for model-year 2013, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Such factors appear to be impacting hybrid sales in the US. While plug-in vehicle sales through July are up about seven percent from a year earlier, total sales of hybrids, diesels and plug-ins have fallen about 22 percent this year. Notably, sales of four Toyota Prius hybrid variants have collectively declined 26 percent this year.

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