The Toyota Prius has never been what we’d call a “looker” by any means. The first generation model looked like a budget econobox sedan (it was), while the second generation model introduced the frumpy hatchback form-factor in 2003. The third-generation Prius, which was introduced in 2009 as a 2010 model year vehicle, was a further refinement of the previous model’s design, but still was instantly recognizable as the world’s most popular hybrid-electric vehicle.
Perhaps in an effort to grab some more attention in an automotive landscape that is already littered with high efficiency cars, Toyota is going bolder with the fourth generation Prius. Seemingly taking a few styling cues from the limited production run Toyota Mirai fuel cell vehicle, the 2016 Prius looks a bit “funky” to put it nicely. From the narrow, horizontal slits in the front bumper to its oddly shaped headlights, the Prius will definitely elicit some sort of response from passers by.
However, as we move around to the rear of the vehicle, things starting getting a bit weirder. You’ll find deeply sculpted flanks and a sharp character line that starts just above the front door handles and melds into the rear taillights, which flow nearly all the way down to the bottom of the rear bumper. You’ll also notice a blacked out C/D pillar and that the vehicle has retained its versatile hatchback form-factor.
A lot has happened in the automotive landscape since the third generation Prius took to U.S. streets in late 2009. Back then, the Prius’ 50MPG combined fuel economy rating seemed almost “magical” compared to competition gasoline engine-only vehicles. However, even your garden variety sub-compact and compact vehicles (and even some midsize sedans like the Mazda6) are able to achieve at least 40 MPG on the highway.
Given the fact that traditional autos are now achieving great fuel economy without the assistance of electric motors also means that people are able to buy vehicles that actually look “normal” instead of the stylistically-challenged vehicles like the Prius that have been designed first and foremost to cheat the wind.
Although we’ve been given a glimpse at what the next Prius will look like, other details are harder to come by. We do know that the vehicle is based on the new modular Toyota New Global Architecture (TGNA) which is both stiffer and lighter than the platform used on the outgoing Prius. Toyota has also promised that the fourth generation Prius will be at least 10 percent more efficient than its predecessor, which would put its combined fuel economy rating at roughly 55 MPG. But we’ll have to wait for the vehicle’s official September 8th debut to get all the official specs on Toyota’s newest hybrid.
With that being said, with Prius sales steadily trending downwards in recent years, the 2016 Prius will have to find a way to resonate with buyers that have more options than ever when it comes to “green” vehicles. Perhaps the toughest competition will come from the second generation Chevrolet Volt. The vehicle manages to look somewhat “normal” while also offering an all-electric driving rage of 53 miles before tapping into its gasoline engine/generator.