The fourth-generation Toyota Prius has been spotted testing in prototype form, revealing a familiar form for the latest generation of the world’s most popular hybrid. However, while the exterior is likely to feature only evolutionary changes (much of the design is dictated by aerodynamics), under the skin we’re expecting plenty of advancements.
Looking at this prototype, which was spotted testing in the U.S., we can clearly tell that the new Prius will sit lower and feature a sleeker profile than the current model. One of the shots even has the two generations sitting next to each other.
Toyota was meant to show the car at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show but delays mean we're not going to see the car until late in 2015 or early 2016. It will be launched as a 2016 model.
Interestingly, production of the 2016 Toyota Prius is expected to take place in the U.S. for the first time. A new Prius Plug-In Hybrid should arrive a year after the regular model goes on sale.
Expect U.S.-spec cars to come with a lithium-ion battery as part of an updated Hybrid Synergy Drive system. The switch from current nickel-metal hydride technology is due to the better density and lighter weight of lithium batteries. The lighter weight in particular is crucial as the new 2016 Prius is expected to weigh close to 155 pounds less than the current model.
The lighter weight, improved battery technology and a sleeker shape should all add to improved fuel economy. The current Prius returns an EPA-rated 50 mpg combined. Somewhere around 60 mpg combined for the 2016 model is likely for the basic hybrid, though a more frugal plug-in hybrid version will be launched once again.
Expect new versions of the Prius C and Prius V models with the same updated Hybrid Synergy Drive system further down the track.
Inside, it looks like Toyota is going for a more conventional dashboard layout. Gone are the central gauges of previous models, though it looks like a dash-mounted gear lever is still present.
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