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2016 Toyota Prius: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader February 2016

The Toyota Prius we've all grown accustomed to is no more. It's been replaced by an all-new, radically redesigned 2016 Toyota Prius, which boasts a totally new exterior design, a futuristic new interior and a long list of new features and equipment. And -- of course -- fuel economy is improved, too.

So what do we think of this new Prius? So far, we think it's a home run -- at least, in Prius terms. What we mean by that is the Prius is still unlikely to win over car enthusiasts, as it still isn't exactly a sports car. But with more practicality, better fuel economy, added features and a breathtaking (if controversial) new design, we suspect many shoppers will have many good reasons to flock to the new model. And given its many benefits and improvements, we think they're making a pretty good choice.

What's New for 2016?

The Prius is fully redesigned for 2016 with new interior and exterior styling, along with new features and a revised engine for improved fuel economy.

What We Like

Phenomenal fuel economy; handy hatchback design; adult-sized back seat; impressive equipment

What We Don't

Better to drive, but still not great; mediocre acceleration; styling may have gone a little too far

How Much?

$25,100-$30,900

Fuel Economy

Just like last year, all Prius models are powered by a hybrid 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine, which now makes 121 horsepower, mated to a fuel-saving continuously variable automatic transmission. Fuel economy, however, is up from last year: Base-level Prius models return 54 miles per gallon in the city and 50 mpg on the highway, while the new Eco version touts an impressive 58 mpg city/53 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Prius is offered in three basic trim levels: Prius Two, Prius Three and Prius Four. The Prius Two also offers a fuel-efficiency-minded Eco variant, while Three and Four models also tout a Touring trim with more features.

The Prius Two ($25,100) comes standard with a 6.1-inch center screen, Siri Eyes Free capability, a backup camera, a 6-speaker sound system, a USB port for music, automatic climate control, keyless access for the driver's door, a push-button starter, automatic LED headlights, 15-in alloy wheels, a CD player and Bluetooth phone and audio capability.

Choose the Two Eco ($25,600), and you'll get low-rolling resistance tires, revised wheel covers and a lighter hybrid battery. The Two Eco also removes the spare tire and rear wiper in an effort to save fuel economy.

Next up is the Prius Three ($27,100), which adds a wireless-device charging pad, leatherette upholstery, satellite radio and Toyota's Entune infotainment system with a 7-in screen, a navigation system and app functionality.

Opt for the Prius Four ($29,500), and you'll get automatic wipers, a power driver's seat, heated front seats, a cargo cover, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert.

Choose the Touring upgrade on either the Three ($29,000) or the Four ($30,900), and you'll get fog lights, 17-in alloy wheels, revised styling and -- most importantly -- the Toyota Safety Sense package, which adds lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control.

As for options, Three and Four models offer the Toyota Safety Sense package, along with a head-up display and a power sunroof. Additionally, the Four can be equipped with an automated parking system and an enhanced JBL sound system.

Safety

As of this writing, the latest Prius had not yet been crash-tested by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. We have high hopes, though, as the Prius offers a long list of safety features -- from the norm (side-curtain airbags and a backup camera) to modern gadgets such as lane-keep assist, an automated parallel-parking system, automatic high beams, forward-collision warning and adaptive cruise control.

Behind the Wheel

On the road, the latest Prius makes some strides over the last one. While the outgoing model was numb and uninviting, the new version is more engaging, touting quicker steering and more communicative suspension -- especially in upscale Touring guise. Admittedly, with only 121 hp and an automatic continuously variable transmission, it's still no sports car -- but the Prius no longer feels like a penalty box, either.

The latest model also boasts an enhanced smoothness that isn't found in the old version. That's partially due to improved suspension and revised body control, which makes for a slightly better ride. But it's primarily related to an improved transition from its gasoline engine to electric mode -- something previous Prius models have done well but not perfectly.

Our main problem with the outgoing Prius' driving experience -- and the main complaint most of its drivers had -- relates to its visibility. Unfortunately, that issue hasn't really been solved for 2016, as its unusual split rear-window design is a necessity to keep its aerodynamic (and thus, fuel-efficient) shape. The good news is that you get a lot of driver aids with any model from the Prius Three Touring on up.

Inside, we think the Prius' interior is a huge step up over the outgoing model's cabin. Although it isn't necessarily luxurious, we find it impressively futuristic, and there's no doubt the quality of materials has improved. It's a good new look that keeps up well with the daring new exterior design.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid -- The excellent Ford Fusion Hybrid doesn't offer the Prius' fuel economy -- it gets 44 mpg city/41 mpg hwy -- but it does tout more power, better performance and more traditional styling.

2016 Honda Accord Hybrid -- The midsize Honda Accord Hybrid boasts an impressive 50 mpg city/45 mpg hwy, along with a roomy cabin and more traditional styling.

2016 Toyota Prius c and 2016 Toyota Prius v -- If you're not sold on the traditional Prius, Toyota also offers two other sizes: small (Prius c) and large (Prius v). They aren't as modern as the latest Prius, but they may be worth a look.

Used Chevrolet Volt -- If you're looking for an environmentally friendly new vehicle, the Prius is a great choice. But so is the Chevy Volt, which offers a fully electric powertrain in addition to its gasoline engine. New models are more expensive than the Prius, so you may have to check out a used version.

Autotrader's Advice

We'd go with the Prius Three Touring. For less than $4,000 more than a base model, you get a pretty wide selection of high-end features, plus Toyota's excellent Entune infotainment system -- along with some of today's best cutting-edge safety equipment.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Toyota Prius: New Car Review - Autotrader