2016 Prius New Car Test Drive
All-new for 2016, Toyota Prius begins its fourth generation. Toyota's most prominent hybrid-powertrain vehicle has been fully redesigned for the 2016 model year. Part of Toyota's lineup since 2001, the Prius has changed significantly in both appearance and driving characteristics.
Still easily recognizable as a Prius, the five-door hatchback features a steeply angled windshield, while the nose has been lowered and the rear end raised, now ending with a spoiler. Measuring 2.4 inches longer than before, the 2016 Prius is nearly an inch lower, maintaining its sloping roofline. Not everyone may swoon over the new look, especially at the rear. Taller folks may find headroom tight in the back seat.
Minimizing fuel usage has been Toyota's primary goal with every Prius version, and they've succeeded once again. The latest Prius still ranks as the most fuel-efficient car on the U.S. market, with the sole exception of those that plug into an electrical outlet.
EPA fuel economy ratings are 54/50 mpg City/Highway, or 52 mpg Combined, for the base model, called Prius Two, while the Prius Two Eco manages a 56-mpg Combined estimate.
Confusingly, Prius Two is the base model and is the only model with a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack rated 1.2 kilowatt hours. The Prius Two Eco and all other versions move to a 0.75-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The battery packs reside beneath the back seat.
Toyota claims to have re-engineered every hybrid-system component, to boost efficiency while cutting weight and cost. A revised 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine makes 95 horsepower and can reach thermal efficiency as high as 40 percent. Working together, the gas engine and electric motors develop 121 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque.
In addition to greater passenger space and cargo volume, the 2016 Prius promises improved handling and grip, with a more engaging driving experience.
For 2016, Toyota offers two new Safety Sense suites of active-safety systems for the Prius Three and Prius Four. Safety Sense-C includes a Pre-Collision System with automatic braking, automatic high beams, and Lane Departure Alert,. With Safety Sense-P, the Pre-Collision System operates up to the car's top speed. That group also adds pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and full Lane Departure Correction. Optional Intelligent Park Assist helps a driver parallel-park or back into a right-angle parking space.
Three basic trim levels are offered: Prius Two, Prius Three, Prius Four, plus a high-efficiency Prius Two Eco and Touring versions of Three and Four:
Prius Two ($24,200) comes with fabric seats, a 4.2-inch dual color multi-information display, rearview camera, and 15-inch alloy wheels. Prius Two is the only one with a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack.
Prius Two Eco ($24,700) subtracts the spare tire, liftgate wiper, and other items to cut weight by 65 pounds and reduce aerodynamic drag. It uses a lighter, smaller lithium-ion battery pack.
Prius Three ($26,250) gets soft-touch material on door tops, Entune Premium Audio with navigation, pearlescent white console trim, and built-in Qi smartphone charging. Prius Three Touring ($28,100) adds foglamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, a unique rear bumper, and SofTex upholstery,.
Prius Four ($28,650) and Prius Four Touring ($30,000) include blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, along with rain-sensing wipers, and an eight-way power driver's seat with power lumbar support.
Eight airbags are standard. The Premium Convenience Package includes Intelligent Parking Assist, Entune JBL Premium Audio with navigation and apps, and Safety Connect features. Offered only on Three Touring and Four Touring, the Advanced Technology Package bundles Toyota Safety Sense-P, a head-up display, and moonroof.