LAS VEGAS — Lights, camera, Prius! Toyota unveiled the 2016 Prius to the world in a glitzy event at the Linq casino here. The debut was long on flash — the Prius logo was projected all around us, and we shouted to be heard over a loud and interminable set from a band, evidently the toast of Australia, called Atlas Genius.
But the car (on sale after the first of the year) did eventually appear, lowered down on a wire in true Vegas show fashion. It’s longer, lower and wider, but very recognizably a Prius, albeit one with some features borrowed from the Mirai fuel-cell car (disappearing C pillars, for example).
Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota division, was there to introduce the car but not to add many facts — no solid fuel economy figures, for instance. “There’s a 10 percent improvement,” he said. “And the new Eco model should do better than that.” Fay confirmed that Toyota is keeping the C, V and plug-in models, though he couldn’t say if the latter has any added electric miles.
The body styling was inspired by “a runner in the starting blocks,” but it’s very recognizably Prius. For maximum aerodynamic efficiency, they can’t change the look all that much. The headlight (LED) and taillight treatments are just plain weird — sculpted by Salvador Dali — but will probably grow on us.
There’s a new double wishbone rear suspension, a lower hood profile, and a lower center of gravity that should improve roadholding. The car has indeed grown a bit: It’s 2.4 inches longer, 0.8 inches lower and 0.6 inches wider.
The interior has good head and legroom, though it was too dark to get a really good look at it. If I’m not mistaken, that’s a wireless charging pad for smartphones in the console. The shifter is still in the center of the dashboard, and the overall layout will be familiar to the 1.9 million Americans who have bought into the Prius family (sparing two billion gallons of gasoline in the process).
“Look at this beautiful Prius,” Fay said, adding that he expected the fourth-generation car to appeal to a wider audience, beyond the fuel conscious and the environmentally committed. The Prius has never been a driver’s car, but he said this one is.
This is the first car based on the Toyota New Global Architecture (designed to share parts as much as possible), and it sports a raft of safety systems that will soon be on all of the company’s models: auto high beams, pre-collision with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, rear crash traffic alert, even a sonar system to warn drivers when they’re about to back into a concrete parking barrier.
First impressions of the Prius are good, but everyone is waiting for the fuel economy figures, hoping for 60 mpg (not likely) and ready to settle for 55. The Eco model is certainly going to be interesting.
Here's a look at the car on video: