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2017 Toyota Prius Overview
The Toyota Prius, the game-changing little car that brought hybrid technology mainstream, is now in its fourth generation. This most recent generation was introduced for the 2016 model year, and the Prius range has by now expanded to encompass several other models, including the plug-in Prius Prime, the subcompact Prius c hatchback, and the Prius v wagon. As for the standard 2017 Toyota Prius, updates are minimal given the thorough redesign it underwent the previous year. Styling has been greatly altered and may not be to everyone’s taste, but the Prius was not a conventional-looking automobile to begin with. The fourth generation has a lower nose and higher tail than the third-gen car, sharper lines overall, and both headlights and taillights have become sort of chevron-shaped, more distinctly so in the rear. Dimensionally, the new Prius is 2.4 inches longer, a little less than an inch lower, and half an inch wider than the previous model. The 2017 Prius is built on Toyota’s “New Generation Architecture” platform, on which we can expect several other models to ride in the future.
The main reason people buy a Prius is, of course, the fuel economy, and the standard car is still the most fuel-efficient non-plug-in automobile on the market. Toyota further improved the fuel efficiency on the fourth-generation Prius and in the process made its Hybrid Synergy Drive system both smaller and lighter. The gasoline engine is a 1.9-liter four that makes 121 hp; the base Prius Two uses a familiar 1.2kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery pack, but every other trim up the range features a 0.75kWh lithium-ion pack located under the rear seat. Thanks to a lighter, more efficient powertrain and a drag coefficient of just 0.24, the 2017 Prius will do 54 mpg city/50 highway/52 combined. Prius Two Eco trims do an even more impressive 58/53/56.
In addition to being more interesting to look at and more efficient where it counts, the fourth-generation Prius also handles better. It now features a double-wishbone rear suspension that leaves it feeling more like a proper car than a soft, mushy eco-box, as many drivers have previously complained.
On the inside, there are more soft-touch surfaces throughout, as well as a more premium, refined look to the overall space when compared to the old Prius. The fit and finish is of higher quality and the seats are better, although there’s less rear headroom than before. The cabin is also apparently quieter--even under hard acceleration, everything is fairly muffled.
All Prius trims come standard with heated mirrors and a 4.3-inch dual-screen display. Stepping up from the base Prius Two to the Prius Three gets you white console trim, a premium audio system with navigation, and a 6-way adjustable driver’s seat. The Prius Four adds features like rain-sensing windshield wipers, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, an auto-dimming mirror, and a number of safety features. An available Touring Package for the Prius Three and Four comes with fog lights, 17-inch wheels, and different upholstery. An Advanced Tech package brings Toyota’s Safety Sense suite, a head-up display, and a power moonroof. Finally, the Premium Convenience Package comes with parking assist, Entune Premium Audio with navigation, and Toyota’s Safety Connect system.
A high-tech car like the Prius should come with plenty of advanced safety equipment, and it does. Hill-assist control and a rear-view camera are standard across the range, and available features include blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert and an upgraded autonomous parking system. Toyota’s Safety Sense suite comes standard on Prius Three and Four and includes automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warnings. The even-more-advanced Safety Sense-P package adds pedestrian detection, an adaptive cruise control system that can operate in stop-and-go traffic, and upgraded lane-departure warning.
The Prius has gone from a lone eccentric model back in the late ‘90s to practically its own brand. The idea of such great fuel economy has obviously resonated with people for years now, and Toyota has cleverly expanded the Prius's appeal to various shapes, sizes, and price points while notably improving the car in just about every measure. The new fourth generation will likely be at the forefront of the hybrid market for a few years to come.
Andrew Newton first got into cars through vintage racing a 1969 Lynx Formula Vee. After receiving two degrees in history, he followed his passion for cars and became a contributor for sites like Sports Car Digest, BoldRide.com and JamesEdition.com in addition to serving as Education Manager at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, MA. Andrew currently covers the collector car market full time as Auction Editor for Hagerty Classic Car Insurance.
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