Toyota’s fully redsigned 2016 Prius is the benchmark for hybrid vehicles

Prius‘ sharp lines gives the appearance it’s going 65 mph standing still.

Since 2000 when Toyota first introduced its Prius hybrid in the U.S., this marquee vehicle, combined with Lexus hybrid’s, have totaled over 2 million in sales. To say Toyota knows hybrids is an understatement. And their fully redesigned 2016 Prius has been made even better in ride, handling, interior comfort and fuel economy. It also strikes a concept car pose with its chiseled edges.

When Prius first came out, buyers were skeptical of the vehicle particularly battery life and other functions. But since then, the vehicle became trusted and satisfied owners proved there was no cause for concern.

A friend purchased a new 2006 model and when he recently sold it to his neighbor, it had 253,000 miles on it. And since his neighbor has owned it, it now has 260,000 miles on the odometer and with its original brakes. The only repair it needed since new, was a water pump replacement at 225,000 miles due to a pump bearing noise. This is a great testament to Prius’ hybrid standing and the fact that it has been the number one selling vehicle in California for the third straight year.

Offered in trim levels of Two, Two Eco, Three, Three Touring, Four and Four Touring, we were privileged to test the mid-level Three Touring. It was, however, a pre-production prototype that typically could have flaws. But this Prius lacked nothing fit, finish or amenity wise.

Compared to the 2015 model, the new Prius is a bit longer, lower and wider in stance and uses a new double-wishbone rear suspension for a much better ride where bumps are absorbed with tenacity. Steering too has a much tauter feel while providing a tight turning radius hence easy parking.

As for fuel economy, it’s a bit better as well. Its 1.8-liter four cylinder gas engine combined with a pair of electric motors/generator puts 121 horses to the front wheels. Combined with a CVT transmission, the trio gets EPA mileage ratings of 54 city, 50 highway mpg. The same powertrain has been independently tested at 9.8 seconds for 0-60. Not a neck snapper, but sufficient enough to merge onto rush hour traffic on most highways.

If you crave even better mileage, you may want to check out the upcoming 2017 Prius Prime that is an EV and hybrid mix. By that Toyota means you can drive up to 22 miles strictly on electric power, but can seamlessly switch to hybrid power for up to 600 miles of total electric-hybrid trips. It’s rated at 120-MPGe, a new measurement you’ll be seeing more of. And it’s a better bet than the new Tesla 3 that has been getting too much attention. For those contemplating a 3, remember there are considerably more Toyota dealers for repairs than upstart Tesla maintenance facilities.

The grey test car came with a wrap-around dash with eye-grabbing white and dark grey leather interior. The color contrast was eclectic. Even the high-gloss black plastic trim looked classy. Embedded within the vertical stack is a large 7-inch LCD that serves the latest of apps and technology. Features include Entune Premium JBL audio with integrated navigation and App suite. There’s also a wireless charging system for smartphones plus Siri Eyes Free that allows iPhone users to hear and send text messages and emails via the audio system. Apps include Pandora, iHeartRadio, OpenTable and Yelp.

The front bucket seats are comfy and supportive while the rears are firmer and rated for three, but more realistically, suitable for two adults. Rear legroom is sufficient if the front seats aren’t racked too far rearward.

Safety wise, Toyota didn’t leave anything out. They offer Intelligent Parking Assist and Clearance Sonar, Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, auto high beams and Full-Speed Radar Cruise Control round out the much desired features.

The trunk area is rated at 21.6 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 24.6 cubic feet (or 27.3 for models with a tire repair kit) with the 60/40 seatbacks folded. More meaningful, the trunk measures 33.5 inches deep, 41 wide and 25 high. Flip the seatbacks and there’s 64 inches of depth. The cargo area was enlarged since the Li-ion batteries are now stowed under the back seat bottoms rather than in the trunk area as before.

Base prices for the Prius line is as follows: Prius Two: $24,200; Two Eco (the Eco uses lighter materials and no spare tire), $24,700; Three, $26.250; Three Touring, $28,100; Four, $28,650; and Four Touring, $30,000.

Along with these prices comes a 36/36K mile basic warranty, 60-month/60K powertrain warranty while the hybrid components that include the HV battery, battery control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter are all covered for 8 years, 100K miles. In certain states, the hybrid component coverage is 15 years or 150K miles with the exception of the battery that is covered for 10/150K.

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