The new 2016 Toyota Prius hybrid made its debut in Las Vegas Tuesday evening, where 350 guests watched the latest model of the world's most popular hybrid car raised into the night sky at an elaborate event to mark its global launch.
But "it's not just about MPG any more," according to the press release--and that's the message from the launch event too: The new 2016 Prius is better-looking, more fun to drive, and safer than ever.
It will also earn an EPA rating of about 55 mpg combined, retaining its "highest MPG without a plug" title, as Toyota proudly proclaims.
The company projects a 10-percent improvement in fuel efficiency for the base model; that would mean going from the current car's 50 mpg combined to 55 mpg combined.
The company has engineered each component of the Hybrid Synergy Drive system to be smaller and lighter, with greater energy density in the battery, and an internal-combustion engine capable of more than 40 percent thermal efficiency under some operating conditions.
And, Toyota says, "a soon-to-be unveiled Eco model will achieve an even greater improvement" in fuel efficiency--possibly even to the rumored 60-mpg mark.
2016 Toyota Prius
The lines of the new five-door liftback make it instantly recognizable as a Prius, but the nose is lower, the tail is higher, and the peak of the roof has been moved forward.
From the front, standard LED headlamps make the front light units smaller. The three points of their housings--which have sharply angled chevron shapes--extend back along the fender, toward the center of the grille, and down toward the ground.
Toyota notes that the front badge is at exactly the same height as it is on the Scion FR-S sports car, underscoring just how low the front really is.
A continuous character line runs along the side of the new Prius, with another starting in the rear door and wrapping into the rear tailgate spoiler.
The rear light units differ greatly from those of the current Prius, wrapping around the corners of the high back end but then dropping a long way down, in almost a question-mark shape, toward the bottom rear corners of the car.
The roof pillars are blacked out, giving the body-color roof panel a floating look at the rear--a clear tie to the styling of the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell sedan.
2016 Toyota Prius Unveiling
Overall, the lower front end and the side accents lines give the car a slightly sleeker look from the side, while the pillar treatment and rear body creasing disguise the height of the tail somewhat.
A new paint color, Hypersonic Red, gives what the company calls a "deep and vibrant luster" that highlights the new Prius's form. Seven colors will be available on launch.
Toyota says its shape was "inspired by a runner in the starting blocks" and "conveys a feeling of forward motion."
2016 Toyota Prius, global launch, Las Vegas, Sept 2016
The rear view, however, will likely be an acquired taste.
Overall, the fourth-generation Prius is 2.4 inches longer, almost an inch lower, and half an inch wider than the outgoing 2015 model--and provides more occupant room and cargo volume.
MORE: Ford, Hyundai Dedicated Hybrids To Target 2016 Toyota Prius? (Aug 2014)
Inside, the Multi-Information Display remains centered in the wide dashboard at the base of the windshield, but it is now a full-color screen.
A second, Mirai-like pod at the top of the center console houses two air vents above a color display for the navigation and other functions, with the characteristic "Prius shift stick" below it.