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Overview (Final Score: B)

It might not have been the first hybrid vehicle sold in the U.S. (that honor goes to the Honda Insight), but the Toyota Prius has cemented itself as being the gold standard for them. You might think this may cause a manufacturer to rest on their laurels, but not Toyota.

Last year saw the Japanese automaker introduce the fourth-generation Prius that brings a number of key improvements in the powertrain and aerodynamics. But other changes for the interior and chassis help make it a better car overall.

What We Love About the 2016 Toyota Prius:

  • Easy to exceed EPA fuel economy estimates
  • Interior that looks and feels nice
  • Somewhat better to drive

 

What We Don’t Love About the 2016 Toyota Prius:

  • Poor acceleration
  • A bit too much road noise
  • Exterior design is a love or hate affair

 

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Technology (8/10)

The Prius’ technology story begins in the center stack where a seven-inch touchscreen with Toyota’s Entune infotainment system resides. Our tester featured the optional Entune system with navigation. We like Entune for its simple interface and fast performance. We not too keen on the graphics as it makes the system look slightly older than it is. Also, there isn’t a dedicated button to take you straight to the navigation system. You need to go into the ‘Apps’ section and hit the Nav button or go to the home page and hit the nav overlay.

Look above and you’ll see one of the major changes Toyota made for the Prius. The microwave-inspired gauges have been swapped for two 4.2-inch color displays. The left one shows speed and basic trip information. The right one provides driving data, powertrain diagram, and tips on improving overall fuel economy. The screens are vibrant and easy to read at a glance.

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Fuel Economy (10/10)

The key reason you buy a Prius is for the fuel economy figures and the new one doesn’t disappoint. The EPA says the Prius will return 54 City/50 Highway/52 Combined. We were shocked how easily you can match and even beat the EPA figures. Our average for the week was an astonishing 60.2 mpg. If you want to eek out a bit more mileage out of a gallon of gas, then take a look at the Prius Two Eco that boasts EPA figures of 58 City/53 Highway/56 Combined.

Performance (8/10)

The Prius’ hybrid powertrain is made up a 1.8L Atkinson-Cycle four-cylinder engine and two electric motors/generators. Total output stands at 121 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque. A continuously-variable transmission routes power to the front wheels. The base Prius Two sticks with a nickel-metal hydride battery, while higher trims get a compact lithium-ion battery pack.

The low power numbers mean you will not be winning any drag races at the intersection. It also means that you’ll need to plan how you’re going to merge onto an expressway or making a pass. Around town is a different story as the Prius has enough punch to keep up with city traffic. One thing that has changed from the previous-generation model is how far the vehicle will run on just electricity alone. Keep a light a foot and you’ll be able to travel a good distance on only just the battery. The CVT, for the most part, is behaved, except during times of hard acceleration where the dreaded drone comes in.

A common complaint about previous Prius models has been the handling. There was an abundance of body roll around corners and the steering felt like you were stretching a rubber band. The new Prius is a huge leap forward in this department. A lot of credit needs to go to the Toyota New Global Architecture (TGNA) that debuted on the Prius and will appear in future Toyota models. TGNA introduces a new chassis design and a lower center of gravity for the Prius. The difference is very apparent as the Prius doesn’t show any sign of body roll. Steering has some decent weight and feels more accurate. One area the Prius is still struggling with are the regenerative brakes. For an automaker that has a lot of experience with building hybrid vehicles, Toyota still cannot seem to get rid of the vague feeling in the brake pedal that has been present in the Prius for a number of years.

When it comes to rough roads, the Prius does quite well. Bumps and imperfections are ironed out. Noise isolation is a mixed bag. Wind noise is mostly nonexistent. Road noise is somewhat apparent thanks to the low-rolling resistance tires and not much sound deadening being used for the floor.

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Total Score and Competitive Comparison (59/70, 84%)

There isn’t a true competitor to the Prius at the present moment. The Honda Insight, which was the closest, was axed after the 2014 model year due to poor sales. It really comes down to what your needs are. If you need a bit more space for passengers or cargo, then the Toyota Camry Hybrid or Hyundai Sonata Hybrid deserve a look. If you’re wanting a plug-in hybrid, the Chevrolet Volt is very impressive. Plus, Toyota will be launching a plug-in version of the Prius called the Prius Prime in the near future.

Toyota could have just rested on their laurels and just phone in a redesign of the Prius. But they didn’t and it shows. The fourth-generation Prius builds upon the hybrid technology and impressive fuel economy. Plus, Toyota has made considerable improvements in the handling and interior. There is a reason that the Prius is used a benchmark for all other hybrids and it looks to continue that with the 2016 model.

Read the FULL REVIEW Now to get more expert tips on the 2016 Toyota Prius’ safety, reliability, pricing, interior, exterior and technology.

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