The Prius is dead. Long live the Prius.
That’s the message from Japanese automaker Toyota, which finally unveiled its forth-generation Prius hatchback hybrid last night at a gala event in Las vegas, Nevada.
Just like the two generations before it, which sought to make hybrids gradually more mainstream and appealing to everyday car drivers, Toyota says the fourth-generation 2016 Toyota Prius is its best model to date. While the new model has yet to receive its official EPA rating, Toyota executives say a 10 percent improvement on the outgoing 2015 model year Prius should be possible, ensuring the Toyota Prius continues to be the most fuel efficient non plug-in car on the market.
But at the presentation to around 350 journalists yesterday evening, Toyota executives were keen to emphasize that the 2016 Prius isn’t just a fuel-efficient vehicle. This time, says Toyota, the Toyota Prius is smarter, safer and more fun to drive too.
The improvements in handling come from an all-new chassis which is longer and wider than the outgoing Prius chassis. While those changes aren’t much — giving 2.4 inches in length and around half an inch in width — that extra space is noticeable in the cabin, with more room for passengers and cargo, despite a roof line that is an inch or so lower than the outgoing 2015 model year car.
From the front, there are enough visual clues to mark the 2016 Toyota Prius as the latest in a long line of Prius models, including the two-piece front grille and distinctive LED headlights. But there’s also a significant nod to the upcoming 2016 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Sedan courtesy of the all-black C pillar and large ‘inverted boomerang’ tail lights.
While it won’t be to everyone’s tastes, the design certainly ties both hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles together in a shared design language. Moreover, it should help Toyota sow the seeds of familiarity for those who are currently looking to buy a new hybrid but may find themselves in five or ten years’ tie buying a similarly-designed hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.
Inside, the extra cabin space combined with the deletion of the flying buttress centre console and ‘button-for-everything’ of the third-generation Prius means that the 2016 Prius should feel substantially larger from the drivers’ seat, while a split-level display and centre console — located centrally rather than in front of the driver — yet again ties the Prius design language together with the limited-production Mirai.
While Toyota has yet to offer drives of the all-new hybrid, it promises a much more engaging driving experience thanks to a stiffened chassis with double wishbone suspension. Combined with the wider, lower stance, Toyota says the 2016 Prius Hybrid will be its most pleasurable hybrid to drive to date.
It will also be the safest, thanks to a host of new driver assistance technology included as standard. Improving on the radar-based adaptive cruise control on the previous generation of Prius Hybrids, Toyota now says its adaptive cruise control will work from freeway speeds all the way down to standstill, while lane departure alert and lane keep assist will help ensure drivers stay in the correct lane.
Meanwhile, automatic high beams — which will automatically raise and lower the headlights as appropriate — will ensure drivers get the best illumination of the road at night without blinding oncoming vehicles.
Finally comes an advance collision system with pedestrian detection. Combined with the other advanced safety technologies, the system forms what Toyota calls the Toyota Safety Sense package. Due to roll out across the Toyota range in coming years, the 2016 Prius is the first of Toyota’s 2016 model cars to get the package as standard.
Yet to be mentioned by Toyota is the upcoming Prius plug-in hybrid, which is expected to receive its debut some time next year, as well as a special ‘Eco’ variant of the Prius which Toyota promises will get somewhere around 60 mpg on the EPA combined fuel economy cycle.
Pricing and availability have yet to be announced, but we’re interested to see what you think of Toyota’s latest Prius hybrid.
Are you interested in the forth-generation of Prius’ hybrid cars, or are you disappointed with just a 10 percent improvement in fuel economy? And what do you think of those Mirai-like design cues?
Leave your thoughts int he Comments below.
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