2017 Toyota Prius
After a redesign for the 2016 model year, including a new engine and styling, the 2017 Toyota Prius comes with more standard equipment.
Even the base model includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and active lane control. It all comes in a package called Toyota Safety Sense-P.
The powerplant remains an efficient 1.8-liter four cylinder mated to an electric motor and making a combined 121 horsepower.
The standard battery pack is an older-tech nickel-metal hydride. Upper models use a lithium-ion battery pack.
The Prius runs the board with Good scores from the IIHS, earning the Top Safety Pick+ designation.
It’s the most efficient vehicle on the road without an electric plug, getting an EPA-rated 50/54 mpg City/Highway, 52 mpg Combined. The Two Eco model gets even more, with 53/58/56 mpg. That’s a 10 percent improvement over the previous generation. And there’s a Prius that’s more efficient, a plug-in called Prius Prime that can go 22 miles on all-electric power. We review it separately.
It’s hard to imagine model-line nomenclature being more confusing than that of the Toyota Prius family, with multiple versions using the Prius brand name. (There’s Prius covered here, plus Prius v and Prius c. Then there’s Prius Prime.)
Prius Two ($24,685) comes with a nickel-metal hydride. (There is no Prius One.)
Prius Two Eco ($25,165), Prius Three ($26,735), Prius Three Touring ($28,115), Prius Four ($29,135), and Prius Four Touring ($30,015) get lithium-ion batteries. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Prius Two models come with a 6.1-inch infotainment touchscreen, 4.2-inch color information display, 15-inch wheels, rearview camera, keyless ignition, LED headlamps, and that Toyota Safety Sense-P package.
Prius Two Eco adds a bigger infotainment screen and navigation, Three Touring gets better seating, Prius Four adds blind-spot monitors, Prius Four Touring gets a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, and bigger wheels.
The sheetmetal got more sculpted for 2016, especially the nose and sides, but the rear end got confused. The black roof pillars make the roofline float, but there are two little comma-shaped tails that look weird, where they wrap around the corners of the hatch. They’re non-cohesive touches that make the tail look even higher than it is, despite the blacked-out bottom of the bumper.
In short, the egg-shaped and aero-eco Prius looks distinctive.
There are more non-cohesive elements in the cabin that are downright conflicting. The way the dashboard wraps to the doors makes the interior look clean and sophisticated, and we like the instrument display with upmarket color screen, and the way the console sweeps into the big touchscreen. But the plastics, textured or glossy, are questionable, and the bins are clunky. The available two-tone beige and gray upholstery looks more adult, but the optional pearlescent-white center console scratches so easily that they’ll sell you a $200 cover for it.
The front seats in the 2017 Prius are better bolstered and more comfortable than they were in 2015. The more expensive models get eight-way power adjustment with lumbar support.
Most passengers will fit in the back, but the slope of the roofline will make it hard for very tall passengers to fit back there. The bolsters on the outboard rear seats push those occupants to the middle, squeezing that third person. The rear seats split and fold.
The 1.8-liter internal combustion engine makes 95 horsepower, and the 53-kilowatt electric motor makes that 121 horsepower combined.
The batteries are located under the rear seat, whether it’s the base Two’s nickel-metal-hydride battery pack that’s been in every Prius for the last 20 years, or the lighter and more compact lithium-ion battery pack that’s in every other model in the line.
The engine is not as refined as the Chevy Volt’s, but it’s quieter than it used to be; and it still lets you know you’re in a Prius.
The ride is good enough to make you forget, at least for a few times during the 65 miles that we drove it. Because the seating position is 2.3 inches lower than the 2015 model, it feels sportier. It feels like a compact to mid-sized hatchback.
Over the last 20 years, the Prius has proven to be reliable, especially in recent years, with nickel-hydride batteries. Now lithium-ion batteries are here. To get 56 miles per gallon for $25,000 is an excellent thing. However, the inherent bugaboo hasn’t gone away: don’t expect that kind of mileage in hilly country in cold weather.
Driving impressions by The Car Connection.