After a summer of spy shots and leaked photos, Toyota finally held the world debut of the 2016 Toyota Prius in Las Vegas this evening. And what does the fourth-generation of the world’s best-selling hybrid vehicle bring forth? A huge change in style — and a conservative approach to bolstering fuel economy.
While the mid-size Prius keeps its hatchback form, the new sheetmetal and LED lighting elements form far more sharp creases around its form, one that will stand out for better or worse. Designed on a chassis that will form the basis of many future Toyota models, the new Prius grows slightly in length (2.4 inches) and width (0.6 inches.) Toyota claims it designed the new Prius for better handling, lowering the car by 0.8 inches and adding a double-wishbone rear suspension. Tonight’s initial reveal included no performance figures or even total horsepower, so whether the new Prius will go faster than before is an open question.
Toyota was more assertive about the Prius’ fuel economy, saying it would increase by 10 percent and rank first among cars its size without a plug — which would give the Prius a combined EPA rating of about 55 mpg. But again, Toyota played specifics of its improvement close to the vest, saying only that a future Eco version would offer an even greater improvement.
The Prius has its fair share of haters, but after 18 years and 3.5 million sold, it still lacks a true competitor. No other hybrid come close to the Prius’ popularity, and Toyota’s focus on making the Prius an affordable statement of environmental concern stands as a lesson that other automakers have yet to fully grasp. Low gas prices have stunted sales of all hybrids, including the Prius, but Toyota will still likely sell more than 150,000 copies in the United States alone this year. All those angles have a point.