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Solid Performer

Say hello to the all-new 2016 Toyota Prius.

After a pretty frumpy first few years in its original U.S. incarnation, Toyota’s Prius came to the conclusion that, gee whiz, just because you’re on a mission to save the planet doesn’t mean you have to dress like you shop at garage sales. So, in 2004, Prius adopted its storied lozenge look.


The 2016 Prius has been completely redesigned, sporting a longer profile and much more. © Toyota

Now, for 2016, the totally redesigned Prius doubles down.

This wildly styled hybrid’s astonishing new face looks like it bumped into a suction cup and then tried to pull away. Peeling back from that pointy nose, as if more hey-look-at-me features were needed, are a pair of origami hood grooves and headlights that look liquid.

In profile are a blacked-out C-pillar, which vaguely reminded us of the Jaguar XJ, and a longer, lower stance -- 2.4 inches longer, 0.8 inches lower.

But the piece de resistance is the rump, where a window-splitting horizontal micro spoiler appears to be resting on a pair of boomerangs that, in fact, are taillights.

Have mercy!

Inside, the personality graft continues with a robot-face center stack and a graphically rich gauge display that sits atop the center dash. (I have to confess that, when driving Prius, it still weirds me out to look through the steering wheel and see a blank.)

Once one recovers from the visual shock, he or she will discover that Prius is available in six trims: Two, Two Eco, Three, Three Touring, Four and Four Touring. Each is powered by a 1.8-liter four-banger assisted by a battery pack (lithium-ion in all but the base non-Eco Two, which soldiers on with a nickel-metal hydride pack) and a pair of electric motors.

We drove the base Two and, in 120 miles of mixed surface streets and highway, registered an astonishing 58 mpg. The EPA expected us to get 52.

Inside, room is fine up front, though tall drivers will find they have to use the seat so far back that the door-mounted elbow rest is lost to them. In back, leg room is dependent on the kindness of front passengers, but head room is excellent.

Although the Prius driving experience remains more commuting than compelling, this hybrid’s various drive modes -- Normal, Eco, EV and Power (such as it is) -- do provide variety. Also, a double wishbone rear suspension, which replaces the old torsion beam setup, and a more rigid body structure, not to mention the car’s lowered center of gravity, all help to improve handling.

But this all-new 2016 Prius’s real attributes are lofty fuel economy and, perhaps surprisingly, eye-popping looks.

July/August 2016 Issue

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Dan Wiese is an automotive freelance writer living in St. Louis, Mo.




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