Toyota, one of the world’s most popular auto makers, has unveiled the fourth generation of its Prius. After being on the market for more than seven years without a redesign, the result is a sportier-looking and (somehow) more efficient model of the eco car.
In fact, the new Prius puts an even larger emphasis on efficiency, boasting a 10 percent boost in fuel economy, raising the miles-per-gallon count to 55 mpg. An eco version of the model will take it even further, thanks to lighter hybrid components and a battery with higher energy density. The sale of the Prius has been linked to rising and falling gas prices, with the model peaking in sales in 2010 after 2008’s record high gas prices. This week, the nation saw the lowest Labor Day gas prices since 2010. And recent sales reports show that trucks and SUVs have outsold cars in the U.S. by more than 1 million vehicles this year through August. But according to Bill Fay, a group vice president for Toyota’s U.S. sales unit, the new Prius is about more than just efficiency, it’s about the new look. “It’s just gorgeous,” he says. “It’s a little bit lower, a little bit wider, and there’s more interior room.”
The new generation will have more passenger room because it’s 2.4 inches longer, 0.6 inches wider, and 0.8 inches lower than the outgoing Prius. It’s similar to previous models with its compact sedan shape, but the latest version features a slightly edgier body type, with sharp angles on the slanted hood, curved roof, and vertical rear tail lights. It’s sleeker, and the interior features softer materials and an overall more premium feel.
This seems to be Toyota’s answer to Tesla, which has recently put focus on making their luxurious (and powerful) eco cars more affordable for drivers. But Toyota still rests on its laurels that it was in the hybrid game before anyone else. “Prius set the global benchmark for hybrids, but now is breaking its own boundaries with more engaging style and fun-to-drive dynamics,” Fay says.
The 2016 Prius is the first global production car to use Toyota’s New Global Architecture, or TNGA. TNGA is Toyota’s new manufacturing system, which aims to standardize parts, development, and production so cars are easier to create and get out onto the market. The efficiency of the manufacturing standardization allows for more uniform technology to be applied to Toyota’s full line. The company touts TNGA’s ability to produce more refined engines and vehicles with a lower center of gravity for the better-handling capabilities of the Prius. While the overall look and power can’t be compared to that of a luxury sports car, it’s more athletic than all the other cars that are more concerned with mpg than mph out on the highway.
According to Fay, pricing will be in line with the current Prius and sales will start next year.