Toyota Prius One: stripped-down hybrid added at lower price

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2017 Toyota Prius

2017 Toyota Prius

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It hasn't been the greatest of years for the Toyota Prius hybrid, the Japanese carmaker's flagship product.

The fourth generation hybrid hatchback debuted as a 2016 model into the teeth of continued low gasoline prices, and its radical design language apparently turned off at least some potential buyers.

Now Toyota is taking steps to make the Prius more "accessible" to a greater pool of buyers.

DON'T MISS: 2016 Toyota Prius: Gas Mileage Review Of 50-MPG-Plus Hybrid (Dec 2015)

Translated, that means a lower-priced version with fewer features to get the entry price down from the roughly $25,000 level it had moved up to.

Midway through the 2017 model year, a Toyota Prius One trim level has appeared, as our colleagues at CarsDirect noticed.

The new Prius One base model is a mid-year addition. It'll have about a $1,200 advantage in price over the current Prius Two, with some minor sacrifices in equipment.

2017 Toyota Prius Two (Natl) Dashboard

2017 Toyota Prius Two (Natl) Dashboard

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Those include the omission of three components: a spare tire, a rear-window washer-wiper, and the pockets on the backs of the front seats.

Its starting price will be $24,360, including the mandatory $885 destination charge.

That's roughly $1,210 lower than the starting price for the Prius Two, the previous base model.

READ THIS: Toyota Prius design, popular in Japan, not a hit in U.S.

Notably, however, Toyota has not deleted any of the standard active-safety equipment from the new Prius One.

Specifically, those are the standard (and awkwardly named) Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) package of driver assistance technologies.

They include a collision warning system with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams.

2017 Toyota Prius Two (Natl) Rear Seats

2017 Toyota Prius Two (Natl) Rear Seats

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At the same time, Toyota is adding a standard equipment discount on all other trims—Prius Two and higher—that effectively makes the Safety Package Plus no-cost standard equipment.

It adds a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert and a parking assist feature that detects a potential collision while parking, and can apply emergency braking

There's actually precedent for a Prius One trim level.

CHECK OUT: 2010 Toyota Prius One Equipment Level: Not Available Any Time Soon (Nov 2009)

On the third-generation Prius, sold from 2010 through 2015, the trims offered to retail buyers also started with the Prius Two.

But for commercial operators looking for the Prius's unparalleled fuel economy at a lower cost, a Prius One trim level—again missing a rear wiper and some other equipment—was available only to fleet buyers.

The new trim level brings the 2017 Toyota Prius starting price below $25,000 for the first time. Whether it will contribute significantly to boosting lagging Prius sales remains to be seen.

2017 Toyota Prius Two (Natl) Tail Light

2017 Toyota Prius Two (Natl) Tail Light

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The 2017 Toyota Prius lineup consists of the standard Liftback in several trim levels (One, Two, Two Eco, Three, Three Touring, Four, and Four Touring), the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid, and the now-aging Prius C subcompact hatchback and Prius V mid-size wagon.

The 2017 Toyota Prius Two Eco has the second highest EPA fuel-economy ratings of any car without a plug sold in the U.S. this year, at a combined 56 mpg.

The new 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Blue hatchback carries a 58-mpg combined rating, the first time in several years that any car has bested the Prius on that front.

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