2016 Toyota Prius Four

The 2016 Toyota Prius hits the road with a new battery, improved efficiency and a new look. The new Prius is available in four trim levels: Prius Two, Two Eco, Three and this top-trim 2016 Prius Four.

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The redesigned front end is polarizing, to say the least. Most readers that we've informally polled are not fans of the new look. Then again, the Prius has never really been a beauty queen.

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Beneath the new look is a more aerodynamic profile. The hatchback's drag coefficient has dropped to 0.24 versus the previous generation's 0.25. These abstract numbers translate into tangible improvements in highway fuel economy.

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This top-tier 2016 Prius Four model receives an EPA estimated 52 combined mpg -- breaking out to 54 city and 50 highway mpg. A slighly lower trim Prius Two Eco stretches to 56 combined mpg, thanks to its weight savings.

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The new model's cabin also features and aesthetic overhaul that is, thankfully, easier on the eyes. The new Prius isn't a luxury vehicle by any stretch of the imagination, but we grew to like its enveloping dashboard, the use of high quality materials and minimalist design.

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The dashboard is punctuated by an Entune infotainment system with a glossy, capacitive touchscreen. The system gets the job done, but it's essentially the same tech you'll find in a garden variety Toyota sedan, which didn't wow us with any unique features.

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The hybrid lacks a conventional instrument cluster, which takes some getting used to. Instead a bank of digital readouts is tucked into an eyebrow near the windshield. Here is an area where the Prius excels; there is a multitude of eco, efficiency and cost analysis displays to help drivers maximize their fuel economy and driving habits for maximum fuel savings.

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The only gearbox available is the automaker's eCVT, which is integrated into the Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain. Drivers select the Prius' direction of movement with this surprisingly beautiful blue tulip shifter. In addition to drive, reverse and a battery-charging regen gear, there are also Eco, Sport and Normal drive modes.

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Beneath the hood, you'll find Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain. A 95-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine is mated with a 75-horsepower, electric motor. Total system power and torque are stated at 121 horsepower and 120 pound-feet.

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That power flows to the front wheels via Toyota's eCVT (continously variable transmission). The hybrid system stores its excess energy in a battery pack. All new Prius models starting with the Two Eco get a new, lighter lithium ion battery pack for this generation. The base Prius Two retains the older, heavier sealed nickel-metal hydride battery pack.

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The Li-ion battery pack is smaller than the NiMH battery and lighter, but also has a slightly lower capacity (0.75 kWh versus 1.31 kWh). However, the Li-ion battery can make more efficient use of its full charge (70-percent) than the older tech (about 40-percent) and the useable capacity of both batteries is about the same.

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