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The Toyota Prius has been completely redesigned for the new model year and of the half-dozen models competing in our annual Car of the Year battle royale, it’s one of, if not the most, efficient.
This machine’s main mission, its No. 1 reason for existing, is to deliver the best fuel economy possible. Obviously, the Shelby GT350 Mustangand Chevy Camaro can’t touch it in this area, and even the fuel-sparing Honda Civic is dramatically less thrifty.
Undoubtedly, Toyota made sacrifices in order to maximize this car’s MPG. But have these decisions made the new Prius too much of a compromise? Here’s how things break down.
The 2016 Prius is built on a brand new structure, a fresh global architecture for Toyota. It’s stiffer than before and incorporates a sporty sounding double-wishbone rear suspension arrangement.
Thanks to its new platform, this car is bigger than before, with more interior and cargo space. In fact, models that don’t have a spare tire offer up to 27 cubic feet of room for cargo.
Under its hood, this latest Prius brandishes a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine. In the name of efficiency, this propulsion unit has been totally overhauled this year to cut friction. The car’s transmission and electric motor assembly has also been optimized, shedding both weight and parasitic losses.
Most versions of Toyota’s pioneering hybrid feature a compact and energy-dense lithium-ion battery pack, the latest widely available chemistry on the market. To keep cost down, base models make do with nickel-metal hydride chemistry.
All of these foundational engineering changes are wrapped in all-new sheet metal, that you may, or probably may not, like. The new Prius looks like it was beamed down from an extraterrestrial mothership with a design that’s all over the place.
This car’s interior is treated to the same “otherworldly” design theme. Its dashboard looks weird, some of the trim is strange, bringing to mind the porcelain of a toilet bowl, and then there’s the odd, centrally mounted gauges. Toyota, why can’t the Prius just look and work like a normal car?!
Also, this car is not all that much fun to drive. It clearly prioritizes efficiency over excitement, which is great for some motorists, but lackluster for the rest of us. On top of that, it’s not all that more economical than its predecessor.
The 'standard' Toyota Prius stickers at 54 miles per gallon city, 50 highway and 52 combined. The special Eco variant is a bit more economical, returning a claimed 58 MPG city and 53 highway, numbers that result in an average of 56. To be clear, these are heady figures, but they’re not a huge leap over today’s Prius, which averages a claimed 50 mpg.
Stay tuned to see if the Prius wins our Car of the Year. We announce the winner on December 15.