Going green has never been better

By Jim Prueter

(May 15, 2016) It isn’t sexy, nor sporty and definitely absent any measure of cachet yet the Toyota Prius has become ubiquitous on American roads and byways with well over a million of them sold. Eight million have been sold worldwide.

Prius wasn’t the first mass market hybrid vehicle sold in America, that distinction goes to the two-door Honda Insight in 1999 and delivered EPA mileage ratings of 61 mpg city and 70 mpg highway.

A year later Toyota introduced the Prius, the first four-door sedan available in the U.S. Since that time the technology has proliferated and a flood of hybrid vehicles have been introduced with excellent fuel economy, yet the Prius still accounts for half of all new hybrids sold and is the standard bearer for green motoring and the environmental movement.

For 2016 Toyota launches it’s fourth generation Prius and with it comes numerous improvements to expand its appeal to those who otherwise wouldn’t have considered a hybrid.

For the first time the Prius will use lithium ion battery technology, improves the ride with a new double wishbone rear suspension and is offered in a new Eco grade trim level that ups fuel economy to 58 mpg for city driving. Non Eco models are rated at 54-mpg city and 50 mpg highway.

The new Prius still features Toyota’s hybrid synergy drive that pairs electric motors to a small 1.8-liter gas powered engine and captures otherwise wasted energy to recharge the battery pack. Under gentle acceleration at low speeds the Prius can run on electric power alone.

Toyota designers have moved the smaller lithium battery from behind the rear seat to under the rear seat, which now affords more cargo space. The new Prius is also lighter, wider, longer and lower than before. There’s also the new Toyota Safety Sense™ that includes a pre-collision and pedestrian detection system to prevent or mitigate damage/injury and lane departure alert with steering assist to help you stay in your lane.

There’s also intelligent parking offered for the first time that provides automatic steering for parallel and perpendicular parking.

The new Prius looks a little less slab sided than before and we appreciate the much-improved design of the front end. With a blacked out section at the rear the roofline looks much better with a floating appearance. Out back the new rear end is, well, let’s just say, it isn’t to everyone’s liking.

Inside, the dash is better organized and there’s larger color displays with better graphics. Seating affords ample room for drivers of all sizes but we would have appreciated some lumbar support in the front seats. 

Overall, while the new Prius is better every way there is still the feeling that it is uniquely different from other cars and stands apart from the mainstream. Bottom line – it still appeals to buyers who utterly rebuke performance and style for fuel economy and the “green” crusade.

Vital Stats

Price: $24,200 - $30,000
Price as Tested: $29,330
Seating: 5
Engine: 1.8-liter four-cylinder and dual electric motor/generators
Horsepower: 121
Fuel Economy: 54/50 – City/Highway

Fab Features

Outstanding fuel economy
Improved ride and handling
Safety Sense™ technology