The new Prius infuses some life into the eco-friendly hatchback

2016 Toyota Prius Prototype Review

The new Prius outdoes its biggest competitor - itself

By: Amos Kwon

Web2Carz Editor-In-Chief

Published: March 1st, 2016

My roommate quipped, "That's a Prius?" "I've never seen one that looks like that before." My roommate is not a car buff, but I think her words accurately sum up the reaction many unassuming customers will have to the new Prius - and that's a good thing. For those who know the auto world inside and out, there's no mistaking the shiny, new hatchback as anything but the successor of the original fuel-sipper. But viewing it with a fresh eye, the new Prius has reinvented itself, making a comeback with sleeker styling, even better fuel economy, and immensely improved performance.

While we had a 2016 Prius Two prototype on loan for the weekend, it's virtually production-ready, with all the same performance and technical aspects that consumers will see. A piece of cloth here or there might be slightly tweaked, but essentially 98 percent of the vehicle is representative of what consumers can expect.

  • Exterior: Out with the old, in with the new

    The new Prius has gone all dramatic on us - not in 2007-Britney fashion, but more like that moment when you first saw Orlando Bloom without his Legolas wig on. A complete departure from the previous designs, the new Prius ditches its dated, boxy haunches, for a sporty, streamlined look that incorporates elements resembling its sibling Mirai (Toyota's fuel cell vehicle). Everything about the car's posture has been altered to make it more aerodynamic and efficient.

    • It sits lower and wider, with the roof peaks inched up to reduce drag.
    • A new front fascia with boomerang-shaped LED lights gives it a cleaner, sharper-looking mug.
    • It's athletic silhouette is accentuated by free-flowing curves and a floating roofline.

  • Interior: A glimpse of the future

    Toyota is really hitting home the "next-generation" idea of the 2016 Prius, extending the futuristic styling cues of the exterior to the interior. A two-tone color scheme of piano black and China bone white might evoke the image of a Stormtrooper in your mind, but a stylish Stormtrooper at that. A more efficient use of inside space leaves the cabin feeling open and fluid, with one element transitioning smoothly into the next.

    • Toyota ditches the bulky center stack, replacing it with a clean infotainment system with its signature Prius shifter underneath.
    • A convenient nook rests just below the shifter, providing the perfect amount of space to hold a smartphone, and in some trims, actually functioning as a wireless charging station.
    • As before, the instrument panel is positioned in the center of the vehicle, just above the color touchscreen nav, with an optional head-up display for the Prius Three and Four trims.
    • Comfortable front seats were tested and approved by the chief designer himself.

  • Driving Impressions: A pleasant surprise

    Though the updated looks of the 2016 Prius are eye-catching, its transformation is more than skin-deep. Underneath the handsome sheetmetal sits a new platform, boasting a lower center of gravity, and a chassis that is 60 percent more rigid. This directly translates into driving advantages, while also curbing road noise. But the biggest adjustment is the new double wishbone rear suspension, giving the new Prius fully independent suspension to boost handling and control.

    • New structure allows the Prius to remain composed when cornering, staying flat in the turns, with responsive steering, at least for a Prius.
    • An improved powertrain has received estimated fuel economy ratings of 54 city/ 50 highway/ 52 combined.
    • Three driving modes - eco, power, and normal - allow the driver to adjust throttle response for either improved pickup or increased thriftiness.
    • Though the Prius is no slug on the pavement, its acceleration felt a little slow, especially when trying to pass on the highway.

  • Final Say: A tough value to beat

    This is a vehicle that has been completely redesigned from the bottom up. In addition to drastic interior, exterior, and performance upgrades, the 2016 Prius also receives a suite of updated driver assistance technologies, bundled together in an optional safety package. Things like Lane Departure Alert, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection are all available to customers.

    When assessing the vehicle as a whole, the one word that comes to mind is value. Toyota has made some impressive gains with its trend-setting hybrid, delivering all the traditional benefits of an environmentally-friendly vehicle, without sacrificing style, tech, or performance. Not to be misunderstood, this isn't a car you're going to be taking on a track (though I did), but when it comes to delivering on the promises that a hybrid makes, the new Prius goes above and beyond, enticing not just those who are eco conscious, but anyone looking for an efficient, capable vehicle. Offered in six trim levels, what's a true testament to Toyota's ingenuity with the new Prius, is the fact that they were able to add all this new equipment, while still keeping the based model the exact same price as the outgoing version. That's a tough value to beat.

  • Specifications & Price

    Engine: 1.8-liter four-cylinder with Hybrid Synergy Drive

    Transmission: Electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT)

    Drivetrain Layout: Front-Wheel Drive

    Power Output: 121 horsepower / 105 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 54 city / 50 highway

    Base Price: $24,200

    As Tested: 25,035 (incl. $835 destination)

    Standard Features: LED lights, heated power outside mirrors, active grille shutter, smart-flow climate control system, Entune audio, integrated backup camera, 4.2-inch color display

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