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Toyota Debuts Redesigned Prius in Las Vegas, Declines to Gamble

Toyota Debuts Redesigned Prius in Las Vegas, Declines to Gamble

By Christian Wardlaw, September 09, 2015

Prius buyers often buy Priuses because, visually, they make a clear lifestyle and philosophical statement. With no more than a glance, other people understand a Prius owner’s priorities. That won’t change with the introduction of the redesigned, fourth-generation 2016 Prius. Toyota, however, intends to broaden the fuel-efficient hybrid car’s appeal.

Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager, Toyota Division, said during the 2016 Prius reveal: “What was once a rational purchase that for many customers focused on fuel economy, is now so much more. This Prius will invite new drivers into the category by delivering an impressive look and feel, built on the foundation of safety and eco-consciousness that define the vehicle’s heritage.”

Built upon a new global vehicle architecture that Toyota says will allow it to spend more money developing advanced technology, the 2016 Prius features what the automaker calls “emotional” styling. The car’s hood is lower, the roofline peak is moved forward for a sleeker silhouette, and the rear pillars are blacked out to give the roof a floating appearance. Lighting elements are described as “arresting” and “striking,” and a side character line flows into the taillights with enough drama to recall a 1957 Plymouth.

The new Prius is 2.4 in. longer, more than half an inch wider, and nearly an inch lower than the car it replaces. The result is a larger interior with more room for people and cargo.

Toyota promises a premium interior, with a wrap-around dashboard design, comfortable seats, and improved outward visibility. The controls and displays retain the centralized layout familiar to current Prius owners, and Toyota says that the available white cabin ornamentation “is reminiscent of fine bone china.”

New safety technologies are also on the menu. An option package called Toyota Safety Sense includes full-speed adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and lane-departure prevention systems, as well as automatic high-beam headlights. A more rigid body structure is engineered to provide greater protection in the event of a collision.

That stiffer structure also helps Toyota to make the 2016 Prius “more fun to drive than ever,” according to the automaker. A lower center of gravity combined with improved suspension design and a revised approach to suspension tuning help to make the new Prius a more responsive vehicle, Toyota says.

Don’t worry. The car’s primary mission remains intact, with Toyota claiming a 10% improvement in fuel economy, which would bring the car’s rating to 55 mpg in combined driving. Reportedly, a new Prius Eco model will do even better.

Toyota also says that the 2016 Prius uses smaller and lighter hybrid components and a battery with greater energy density, though no additional details were revealed during the car’s unveiling in Las Vegas.

While the new Prius certainly looks more dramatic, and while it definitely appears to take a leap forward in terms of technological sophistication, it is also clear that Toyota isn’t gambling when it comes to its iconic hybrid car. Even in regions where the Prius is ubiquitous, this new one will stand out as a symbol of environmental responsibility when it goes on sale in early 2016.

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