The long-reigning champion of hybrid sales, the Toyota Prius, has been completely redone for 2016.
Pricing: 2016 Toyota Prius
Base price: $25,995
Options: $590 Upgrade package; $255 optional paint colour
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $28,630
Toyota described the Prius’ new look with the line “Sportier new styling”. You’d be forgiven for thinking this will be a slick-looking little ride especially with colour choices like my review car’s “Hypersonic Red”. It already sounds sporty, doesn’t it?
Well, it’s not quite that sporty. I will acknowledge Toyota’s 5-door liftback does get some edgier styling and comes to the table with some very bold lines and creases. There are nifty touches, such as the standard LED headlights and daytime running lights. But let’s not get caught up in marketing speak – the Prius is still a weird-looking car. It actually doesn’t bother me, but I wouldn’t go so far as calling it sporty or pretty. And the wheel covers in this trim do not look good. But it will catch your eye, and those newfound aerodynamics will, in fact, slice through the wind thanks to that “sportier new styling”.
Inside the new Prius, you will find a spacious-feeling cabin with improved materials which now include some legitimate soft-touch plastics and less weird textures. The wrap-around dash styling is pretty swoopy and you’ll find a very wide centre “instrument” bin – which is all digital – with a ton of information.
The heated fabric seats are manually adjustable and quite comfortable. A floating centre stack holds the 6.1-inch touchscreen with Toyota’s simple but well laid out user interface. It handles your sound system, phone functions and a wealth of fuel economy data. Higher trims can be had with 7-inch screen that includes navigation. Below the screen is an automatic climate control system and the now-familiar-but-no-less-strange Prius gear selector set-up.
The Prius comes standard with a back-up camera and my review sample had a bit of optional driver assistance technology – adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert, a pre-collision system and auto high beams.
At 5’10”, I had lots of head room and leg room in the back seat. There are three seats in the back, and the centre position is actually big enough for an adult – it’s not super comfortable, but it works. More than I can say for plenty of other 4-door cars that are this size or even bigger. Rear passengers get a 12V plug at the back of the centre console and if you need to anchor some kids’ seats, there are two sets of LATCH connectors.
I really liked the drop-in bin at the front of the console. Of course there’s a pair of cupholders and you’ll find USB, 12V and auxiliary plugs in the console too. Under the armrest lid is a carpeted bin. I’m happy to report that the armrest lid is now upholstered in a fabric that isn’t as strange as the former Prius’ neoprene-feeling stuff.
Prius’ trunk has a high load floor but is quite spacious at 697 litres. Those rear seats fold flat (in a 60/40 split) – if you do this, you get a very impressive cargo capacity to work with.
Under the Hood
The front-wheel drive Prius is motivated by a 1.8-litre 4-cylinder gas engine and Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system, which combine for a net 121 horsepower. As you’d expect, it comes with a continuously-variable transmission (CVT).
Toyota says the Prius will use 4.4 L/100 km in the city and 4.6 L/100 km on the highway, which is an improvement on what was already a stellar performer in terms of fuel economy. I ended up with an average of a nearly unbelievable 4.7 L/100 km over the course of my week with this fuel sipper. It ended up costing me less than $5.00 to fill. And I made no effort to save fuel or drive economically although there are plenty of electronic coaches available to help you with this if you care. In the end, it posted very very impressive fuel economy numbers – and that’s the whole point of this car.
Yes, the Prius’ mileage was awesome. But it is the driving experience that surprised me the most. While nobody will accuse the Prius of being a snappy performer, the amount of power is actually perfectly adequate for normal driving. There are plenty of drive modes – Normal, Power – which makes things surprisingly sprightly, Eco – which is the most efficient hybrid mode but was quite drivable in this Prius and EV mode, which will stick to pure electric drive as long as possible.
Toyota did a great job with the ride, which is exceedingly comfortable, and even the handling is nothing to sneeze at. I found the Prius livelier than before in the corners. Am I saying it’s fun to drive? Not really. But I’m saying it handles well and it’s happy to play along when you crank the steering wheel over a bit. And frankly, that’s the case for most vehicles these days.
The Prius’ regenerative brakes, which one expects to be mushy and grabby at the same time as in nearly all hybrids, seem to have been improved and feel a bit more conventional. Noise and vibration are handled very well, and the Prius remained quiet even at highway speeds. Visibility out of the Prius is mostly fine, but your rear view is still irritatingly bisected by the transition between the extreme slope of the hatch glass and the vertical glass part of the rear fascia.
Overall, there is nothing that a Prius driver will be compromising on when it comes to the driving experience, as long as you’re OK with a car that isn’t particularly fast. Of note, and as I touched on when talking about the handling too, that applies to plenty of other vehicles too – not just hybrids, or the Prius specifically.
In the end, I came away from my week in the Prius with respect. Here’s a vehicle that fulfills its mission in sipping fuel and keeps its promise there. And yet, there are few compromises required to achieve that goal. There’s nothing that this car doesn’t do well, so if you’re OK with its styling, there shouldn’t be any reason not to consider a Prius. Because it will do anything you ask of it, and it will do it well.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was middling. She said the car was simple to drive and it was comfortable and spacious, but she simply couldn’t get past the exterior on this one. Oh well, can’t win them all…
Blog provided with permission from Tom Sedens, a local automotive blogger in Edmonton, Alberta, and member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). For more vehicle reviews, visit wildsau.ca.