While Toyota threw quite the launch party in early September in Las Vegas—a first for the company—to enable over 350 guests to get an official look at the 2016 fourth-generation Prius hybrid as opposed to subsisting on leaked images and suspect drawings, the party was most definitely more about looks than details.
One detail that did become clear was that even if over the last 15-20 years the Prius has accounted for more than 3.5 million in global sales (a good chunk of Toyota’s overall 8 million hybrid units), Toyota now seems to want the Prius to be viewed as just another pretty face, albeit one that happens to be a hybrid, hoping that the vehicle’s design will tempt new buyers to enter the hybrid market. It is already among the top three of Toyota vehicles in terms of loyalty rates.
If Toyota says so itself, the 2016 Prius features a “striking exterior design [that] ushers in [a] new hybrid era.” Besides the look of its redesigned exterior, emphasis has also been placed on performance with a “new platform and rear double wishbone suspension [that] dial up driving dynamics.” As Bill Fay, Group Vice President and General Manager, Toyota Division said at the event, “What was once a rational purchase that for many customers focused on fuel economy, is now so much more.”
Toyota says its rationale behind the “completely reimagined” Prius’ exterior was inspired by a runner in the starting blocks, with a “sporty design that conveys a feeling of forward motion” that it hopes will having future customers running toward it. Part of that design consisted of the vehicle’s hood being made lower and the roof peak moved forward. Overall, the new Prius is 2.4 in (61 mm) longer, 0.6 in (15 mm) wider, and 0.8 in (20 mm) lower with more interior space than the model it replaces.
New standard LED headlamps were placed to minimize the Prius’ front fascia and “help define the vehicle’s character.” The rear combination lamps are certainly “unique” as Toyota describes and follow along the lines from the rear spoiler to the trailing edges of the sides.
In terms of the details about some of the technologies that make up the Prius, including which battery options (nickel-metal-hydride vs. Li-ion) will be available for which vehicles, more detail on Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA), and confirmation or denial about an all-wheel drive version, Bob Carter, Senior Vice President—Automotive Operations, said that Toyota is holding onto that information and more until the Tokyo Motor Show in late October, when the company will “give you all the specs you can stand.”
For now, Toyota teases that the vehicle will have smaller, lighter hybrid system components; higher energy density in the batteries; and an internal combustion engine (probably 1.8 L) touting “ground-breaking thermal efficiency” (more than 40%), that will all contribute to about a 10% fuel economy improvement. Hinted at the Prius reveal, Toyota says an Eco model, to be unveiled at some other future date, will achieve an even greater improvement.
The 2016 Prius is the first global vehicle to implement TNGA, which is an integrated development program for powertrain components and vehicle platforms. Vehicle development is strategically grouped to promote better sharing of components to improve resource efficiency by over 20%. Just a sampling of the benefits the Prius reaps via the use of the TNGA is a lower center of gravity and a more responsive suspension package that includes the new rear double wishbone design.
TNGA is also expected to provide a more rigid structural framework to help enhance occupant protection with an upper body designed to distribute frontal collision impact energy.
The vehicle is expected to be in dealerships in early 2016.