The Toyota Prius, the world's first mass-produced hybrid gas-electric car, has been around for over 15 years and it's finally getting an aesthetic makeover.
The Prius is hard to miss on the streets, especially in California. Though quite bland and blocky in design, the Prius has gained for itself a reputation for reliability, versatility and extraordinary fuel economy.
The industry's best-selling hybrid, the Prius has even become one of Consumer Reports' most popular vehicles among its subscribers. With the fourth-generation debut of Toyota's iconic hybrid, the brand name for gas-electric cars is primed to attract a new set of buyers with its edgier design.
"The car's shape is wedgy, with a rising beltline and small, angular lights. The 2016 Prius is lower and wider than its predecessor, but remains recognizably a Prius, the fourth generation of the world's best-selling hybrid," notes Mark Phelan, auto critic for the Detroit Free Press.
The foundation of the Prius' updated look is the Toyota New Global Architecture, a modular automobile platform the car manufacturer created to reduce costs by allowing the sharing of parts and to better improve the dynamics and efficiency of Toyota's cars. In fact, both the Prius and the upcoming Camry share the same platform on which they are built.
Even if the Prius has an electric motor, most of the work will still be done by the gasoline engine. "When the battery is fully charged, Prius-san takes off silently and graciously. That's really impressive, and it does make you feel good. Of course, the e-effect won't last long ... Even in optimum circumstances, we're told that about a mile of all-electric cruising is all that you can expect. This is a reminder that the Prius is a hybrid, not an EV," Automobile magazine's Georg Kacher warns.
The 1.8-liter four-cylinder gas engine is accompanied by two electric motors that provide a total of 121 horsepower for the Prius. Compared to last year's model with 134 horsepower, the 2016 Prius may seem underpowered. However, "that's due to a different Japanese calculation method that takes into account the gas engine's 95 hp and the electric motor's 71 horses," explains Gabe Shenhar of Consumer Reports.
The entry-level model starts at about $25,000 and as much as $30,000 for the top-of-the-line Four Touring model.
"New design inside and out - not dramatic, but, better perhaps - complemented by much better performance, and the single most important thing: greater fuel economy than the current generation. The 2016 Toyota Prius moves the hybrid needle in the right direction," SlashGear's Matthew Askari says.
Overall, the 2016 Toyota Prius provides the best of both worlds between a gas and an electric vehicle.