I almost turned down this Prius Hybrid tester due to a busy schedule and not being too excited about the car. I’ve never been a fan of the hybrid model but was pleasantly surprised after spending a week with the new, fuel-stingy compact. Once I received the vehicle, my expectations changed as I looked at the exterior design and stepped inside.
Prius, now in its fourth generation, receives significant changes in both appearance and driving characteristics. We drove the base model 2016 Toyota Prius Two Eco and saw the changes that were made firsthand.
This is a different Prius. It needed a redesign and Toyota steps up to the plate with a big at bat. Did Toyota hit a home run?
Toyota’s most prominent hybrid vehicle has been fully redesigned. The new Prius features a steeply angled windshield, a lowered nose, and a raised rear end, now with a spoiler. Measuring 2.4 inches longer than before, the 2016 Prius is nearly an inch lower, maintaining its aerodynamic shape. The Eco model is all about fuel efficiency.
Features & Options
The 2016 Toyota Prius Two Eco ($24,700) is lighter by 65 lbs. compared to the standard Prius. It subtracts the spare tire, rear wiper, and other items to cut weight, reduce aerodynamic drag, and increase fuel efficiency. It also uses a lighter, smaller lithium-ion battery pack.
Standard features include LED headlights, keyless entry and ignition, automatic climate control, dual 4.2-inch driver information screens, a 6.1-inch touchscreen display, rearview camera, Bluetooth, voice recognition, and a six-speaker audio system.
MSRP as tested: $25,535.
Steeping inside the remodeled Prius reveals a new, two-tone cloth interior with material that reminded us of a comfy family room couch. Fronts seats have been reshaped and are more form-hugging with additional side bolstering. The interior is simple and modern with more soft-touch materials than the outgoing generation. The dash is futuristic looking with its black, cream, and white color combo.
The driver sits significantly lower than before, giving the feel of a sporty compact.
The back seat has considerable legroom, but taller passengers in the back could be short on headroom due to the ranked roofline. The 60/40 split rear seats fold down easily to reveal a large cargo area. The rear hatch provides plenty of utility for carrying sports equipment and hauling materials from the local building supply store.
Unfortunately, Toyota keeps its twin-window tailgate, which isn’t the greatest for rearward visibility. Visibility out the front is excellent, but out the rear, it’s still blocked by the split in the glass that runs through the driver’s sight line.
Engine, Drivetrain & Fuel Mileage Specs
Powering the Prius Eco is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gas engine producing 95 horsepower. It comes coupled to a pair of electric motor/generators that work in conjunction with a battery pack to produce a total of 121 horsepower and 105 lb-ft of torque. This base model gets 0.75-kWh lithium-ion battery packs underneath the back seat.
Those looking for ultimate frugality can expect an EPA estimated 58/53 city/highway and 56 combined mpg with the Eco model.
When we got behind the wheel of the Prius Two Eco, we could see the big difference in driving dynamics. Between the lower driver’s seating position and the new interior, the fuel-stingy compact feels more engaging. There’s a bit more power when you step on the gas, likely due to the aerodynamics and weight loss. On a scale of 1-10, it’s about a 5 on the fun-to-drive meter. With that said, anyone who looks at the new Prius is probably more interested in fuel mileage than a performance car.
That’s where the Prius Two Eco shines. The gas gauge barely moved this week and we pushed the little four door hard up the mountain roads leading out of Denver. This car produces enough power for 95 percent of compact car buyers. It’s much sportier than the outgoing model – you won’t be afraid to park it up front at work from fear of getting laughed at.
In the tight mountain corners, we were surprised at the way the new Prius hugs the road. Gone are the days when you feel like you’re going to tip over. It now features reasonably improved road holding ability, as well as a substantial reduction in body roll. The new Prius is quieter than the outgoing model too.
The all-new Toyota Prius Two Eco is a highly fuel efficient hatchback that has improved driving dynamics. The exterior styling we think is much improved. The interior is modern, if not futuristic, and it’s a highly capable cargo-carrying commuter. The 2016 model is more engaging and more pleasurable to drive for sure.
*Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy