2016 Toyota Prius Four Touring Review

New, improved and more like an alien spaceship than ever before

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

Positives: Drives better than previous models, ridiculously good mileage, easily recognizable as the king of hybrid cars, as roomy as ever.
Negatives: Weirder looking than any previous Prius, bizarre shift knob, distracting levels of display information, Stormtrooper/Apple Store inspired interior trim, scratch-inducing piano black wheel trim, audio knob too close to the touchscreen.
Bottom Line: Toyota further cements the Prius as the wear-your-environmental-heart-on-your-sleeve car both in terms of mileage abilities and aesthetics. You really have to love the whole idea of the Prius to want to be seen in this car. It's impressive but polarizing.
The Prius has been the best-selling hybrid car in history, and it's now reached its fourth generation model in the most dramatic fashion. Though it will no doubt crush the competition again in terms of sales figures, the new car has to answer to critics of its driving dynamics, who have always been vocal about the Prius's distinct lack of driving excitement and composure. Toyota apparently also wants the Prius to get more visual environmental street cred because the styling is pretty radical with pulls and tweaks from tip-to-toe.

But aside from these aspects, the Prius is first and foremost an efficiency and hypermiling darling, and loyalists want to see even better mileage figures than the last car. So, the new Prius is aimed at those who want both distinct styling and great hybrid efficiency, as well as the assumed Toyota reliability. Here's how the top trim Prius Four Touring stacked up in our test drive.

Driving Experience



Let's be honest. Nobody expects a hybrid to be a thrilling drive. In that way, the Prius is consistent with conventional wisdom. It's no substitute for a hot hatch, but it is better in the driving department than the Prius has ever been before. The new chassis based on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) and the new rear suspension make for better handling and control. All that being said, we'd still take the fantastic Ford C-Max when it comes to truly enjoyable hybrid drive--that is until Mazda makes a Mazda3 Hybrid. We're not holding our breath.

Ride Quality: The Prius is smooth most of the time, and the new suspension and chassis pay off well, giving it decent composure over bumps and expansions joints. The low-rolling resistance tires are, however, way too noisy.

Acceleration: In Power mode, it actually gives the sensation of a modicum of acceleration, but in actuality the Prius remains painfully slow to accelerate, especially at higher speeds, made obvious when attempting to pass or make haste on an on ramp. Mid-range torque is improved, though, and in traffic, it can scoot better than before.

Braking: A mushy brake pedal and poor stopping distances combined with increased weight in the Touring make planning imperative.

Steering: Steering isn't great, but it's better than before. It's sharper but lacks feedback. Turn-in isn't bad, though.

Handling: The body roll was noticeable, and the car never felt confidence-inspiring, but it's not a total mess. You can put it into turns without too much drama, but this is a car best left for slow, straight lines.




There's nothing really missing or wrong with the Prius's infotainment technology. It's got a good screen (soon to be outdone by the Prius Prime's gimongous touchscreen that nods to Tesla's), decent controls and solid smartphone integration for iOS and Android. More prominent than all of these is the color and customizable dual high-resolution Multi-Information Display (MID) on the top of the dash that provides you with more eco-info than you'd ever care to know. What systems are working, how they're working, daily mileage and overall hybrid performance is there to arouse your eco desires in every way possible. It's almost too much, really.

Infotainment System:The screen is on the large side and very clear. It's easy to read and easy to use. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make it even easier technophiles.

Controls: The controls are mostly good, with the exception of the awful blue lollipop shift knob that's about as intuitive as a Rubik's Cube (and less attractive) and the left audio control knob that's so close to the touchscreen, we missed just about every time. The three large toggle switches for climate control are the easiest to operate. Well done here.

Bluetooth Pairing: Easy pairing when setting up our phones. The Prius had no trouble recognizing our phones when re-entering, either.

Voice Call Quality: Phone calls were clear through Bluetooth, and we had no trouble on multiple calls.




Prius drivers love to be noticed, and the new car does it better than ever. Looking less and less like a conventional hatchback, the Prius is truly a polarizing car in terms of style, both inside and out. It's the most dramatic, most adventuresome look yet. For us, it was just hard to like because it incorporated individually interesting elements like the zig-zag tailights and the complex headlights, but none of it actually looked good together. Some onlookers found it "cool", while others just thought it looked bizarre. We're in the latter camp.

Front: The whole front fascia looks painfully pinched, making it look like an angry hamster. Aerodynamic needs aside, it's just too weird to be considered attractive.

Rear: The unique tailights look great (in the dark), but they're overly busy and descend too far down on the tail section. The back end is also far too thick, and the giant expanse of black plastic underneath doesn't help.

Profile: This is the Prius's best angle because it actually looks semi-normal from the side view, minus the overly creased tail section and the odd piano black trim on the wheels.

Cabin: Just plain strange. In an attempt to look futuristic, the interior just looks garish. Cheap white plastic trim contrasts a lot of grey and black. The center stack and vents protrude awkwardly upwards. Not much to like here.




Weirdness aside, the Prius is surprisingly comfortable and easy to live with on a daily basis. We helmed it for an entire week, and between kid and grocery transport and commutes to and from the office, it worked like a charm. Plenty of space, a potent climate system and good front and rear seats made it very usable. No one lacked for space in front or back, and there was plenty of room for stuff. Even the rear seat passengers found no reason to complain. Even though the Softex leatherette is an upgrade for the Prius, it's not something to brag about. It feels cheap and is pretty hot when the temps climb.

Front Seats: Well-cushioned and bolstered, the Prius's front seats are quite comfortable. We just wish they weren't so plain looking for a car this futuristic-looking. At least go for a two-tone color scheme like the rest of the interior.

Rear Seats: Two passengers will find themselves well-seated with plenty of legroom and headroom, thanks to a large greenhouse.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): We wouldn't call the Prius Touring quiet, but it's not bad. The low rolling-resistance tires increase road noise significantly, seemingly working against the new and improved underpinnings and suspension.

Visibility: Big glass provides good visibility out the front in spite of a low seating position, but the big rear C-pillars and split window make it tough to see out the back. The rear camera, thankfully comes standard.

Climate: Climate controls are simple and easy to use, and the A/C works beautifully, providing chilly blasts of air on command.




The Prius Touring gets high marks for safety and for standard packaging that includes a host of solid safety features. For its price, the inclusion of the Star Safety System and Toyota Safety Sense are a big deal, and we laud Toyota for making their environmental baby not just innovative and different but also very safe, indeed.

IIHS Rating: The Toyota Prius hatchback attains the IIHS's Top Safety Pick+ rating, the highest rating available.

Standard Tech: The Four Touring gets a bevy of solid safety features including the Star Safety System with vehicle stability control, traction control, ABS, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist & smart stop tech; blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, as well as Toyota Safety Sense, which has a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, automatic high beams, as well as full-speed dynamic radar cruise control.

Optional Tech: Our test car had no additional safety features beyond the standard equipment.




One thing the Prius is known for is boku space for a car this size, and that's still the case with the fourth generation car. It's surprisingly roomy for all passengers, even tall ones. It also has a nifty hatchback that swallows plenty of gear and a host of storage options for smaller items that Prius owners likely carry being the tech heads that they are.

Storage Space: There's no lack of space when it comes to cubbies. The big white center console has large cupholders and a big front tray just beneath the center stack. It's where the Qi-compatible device wireless charger sits but can also hold plenty of other gear items. The center console armrest is also quite large and has a removable tray for coins, gum, trinkets, Greenpeace souvenirs, etc.

Cargo Room: The rear cargo section is truly huge (27 cu. ft.). Lower the 60/40 split rear seats, and it becomes downright cavernous (66 cu. ft.) with room for anything shy of large furniture or lumber.

Fuel Economy



It goes without saying that this is the Prius's life purpose. It's not meant to be fast, exhilarating to steer through the twisties or even look exotic and desirable. It's created to get crazy good mileage and encourage its drivers to max out its efficiency capabilities to the frustration of every other driver that has to get behind one. If you're out to save money even in this cheap gas environment right now (or you just want serious bragging rights), then the Prius is the hybrid you want.

Even when we put it in Power mode and basically hammered the throttle every time we had the opportunity, we could not manage to get worse than 47 mpg on any given trip. We drove about 400 miles, and we weren't even close to having to stop at a gas station. Getting way over 50 mpg combined should be like falling off a log for the Prius. This is one capacity in which the car absolutely shines (and logs the achievements in full view of everyone in the car). We have yet to see how really cold weather affects the Prius, but we imagine it would still do quite well.

Observed: A whopping 53.5 mpg combined, and we were using the air conditioning and not attempting to hypermile.

Driving Factors: We drove it on the highway 12 miles per day at a speed of around 65 mph and locally about 15 miles per day under heavy throttle in Sport Mode.




The Prius Four's Premium Audio System by JBL is very good. Clear and loud sound with ample bass and good mid-range was a pleasure to listen to. The 10-speaker system is full and provides rich sound, whether you're listening to Bach or Burt Bacharach (hopefully not the latter, though). We would like to have seen larger and better-placed audio control knobs, which are tough to use and way too small to have to grab when the car is moving.

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