Toyota Prius May Get Drastic Design Changes


While the Toyota Prius hybrid is by far the most popular and fuel efficient car for sale in the U.S., you won’t find many people who buy it because of the way it looks. But it seems that the powers-that-be are considering ditching the practical Prius wedge-shaped design for something more aesthetically pleasing.

The Toyota Prius looks the way it looks to keep its drag coefficient as low as possible, with the most recent model nailing a very slippery rating of 0.25. That is better than both the Chevy Volt (0.28) and Honda Insight (0.32), and judging by the meteoric sales of the Prius, the looks don’t bother many people, and with a little elbow grease, the Prius can even look kinda cool.

Yet looking around at the rest of the auto industry, it seems as though pure hybrid design is falling out of favor. The 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid is rated at 47 mpg across the board, just a few mpg shy of the standard Prius, yet it looks a lot more like a regular car. Same with the Chevy Volt, the VW Jetta Hybrid, and other vehicles that are going for a more blended-in look rather than something that screams “HYYYYBRIDDDD!” With many former Prius owners turning in their cars for rides like the Volt, maybe Toyota is starting to see the writing on the wall.

With sales of alt-fuel vehicles rising, there is a much broader base of consumers who are considering buying a hybrid vehicle. With so many options other than the Prius, perhaps Toyota is worried that it will lose market share if it remains a distinct outlier. But on the other hand, this could also be a strong point for the Prius…some people want the world to know they drive a hybrid.

For those people, no car is more recognizable than the Prius. A drastic design change could alienate these buyers as well. America’s largest car market, California, is also the largest market for Prius sales. So the design still appeals to a LOT of people…or at the very least, it doesn’t put them off enough to buy another car.

Toyota has to walk a tightrope with the new Prius design. Should they strike off in a bold new direction, or stay with the proven formula?

Source: Bloomberg

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • The Toyota is ugly as sin. I wouldn’t want to be seen in it. If people are going to compare it to a Volt, then yes please make the thing look better. By the time Toyota makes the Prius look as good as the Volt, GM will come out with the 2nd generation of the Volt that will still out class the Toyota’s new design coming.
    I’m hoping the Volt ends up looking as sporty as the Cadillac ELR, and yet keep 4 doors.

    • I love the 3rd Generation Prius wedge design, and I think it looks better and more sleek than a Volt. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and over 1 million Prius owners who have voted with their wallets obviously must think the Prius doesn’t look too shabby. Toyota shouldn’t mess with success. And more than just a pretty face, the Prius is also a lot more practical than the Volt, too. Its interior is roomier and has over twice as much cargo volume as the Volt.

      • Jason Carpp

        I like the Chevy Volt in terms of looks better than the Prius. I agree with you that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and this beholder tends to look at a car’s outer skin and decide whether he wants to get into the car. If he likes what he sees, he might like how it rides or how it drives.

      • I almost did not get a Volt because it looked cramped inside. It is deceiving though, mostly the fault of Chevy Dealers. Every single Volt I saw had the seat all the way back making the rear look cramped. The Volt is designed to fit a 7′ person in the front with no problem, so the seats are really adjustable. Most dealers I see are ignorant enough to put the seats all the way back, scaring off buyers. It almost scared me away. When I set the front seat for a normal 5’10” person, there is plenty of room for another 5’10” person behind.
        Wife stays in the back seat with the baby, so I keep the other seat all the way up and my wife has enough room to swim back there.
        The trunk is so accessible that you can really organize stuff and I never had anything that did not fit, though I was very skeptical before I got one.
        All I can say if you like a Prius better, enjoy buying the GAS. I don’t use gas anymore, my EV range is enough.

        • Jason Carpp

          I’ve never ridden in a Chevy Volt, nor have I driven a Chevy Volt. I’ll have to check it out. I have ridden in a couple of Toyota Prius, and I like how it rides. If I knew someone who had a Chevy Volt, I might ask to go for a ride in it.


    ” The 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid is rated at 47 mpg across the board, just a few mpg shy of the standard Prius, yet it looks a lot more like a regular car. Same with the Chevy Volt…”

    There is for more than a few mpg difference from the Volt and the Prius. It is more like 13 mpg. I know Volt fanbois believe it gets 230mpg, but we are talking gas mileage, and not using something they must consider as free. You could drive a Volt just like a Prius, and never plug it in, but the mileage would not be even close to 50mpg.

    I don’t find the Volt that good looking. Actually it looks very derivative of the Prius. Ford, on the other hand has a very good looker in the Fusion. Too bad the plug-in version will not have the same mpg as the straight hybrid.

    I’m still hoping for the VW XL1. You can plug it in, but it would actually cost more to run it on electrons, unless you have your own solar panels that you got for free. If VW made a CNG version, it would be incredibly cheap to fuel.

    • I wish the Volt gen 2 becomes sportier and better looking, but today’s Volt still out classes the Toyota.
      The Volt on board electronics allow you to experiment. Using mountain mode intermittently I have gotten 67 mpg gas from my Volt. I have not even been able to experiment enough with this, since I rarely use gas. Why would you want to drive a Volt on gas anyway. I have 2300 miles and still have the original gas tank from the dealer. I used about 1.8 gallons total.
      Electric on night charging costs me pennies to drive the car. I drive to work and back, a 20 mile trip and it costs 0.44 cents. With my last car it was $4.
      You cannot do this with a Prius. Even the plug in Prius and the Fusion Energi both have a range that is too short to be able to drive on electric only.
      Pure electric cars have range anxiety, so the Volt is the only real affordable choice.

  • Jason Carpp

    Sometimes the grille of the car can determine how attractive the rest of the car looks. The front end of the Prius in the picture, for example, is good looking, but the previous year the front end made the car ugly. It’s the same, I’m afraid, of the current Prius V.

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  • D. K

    I hope they’re not going to change it too much to please a conservative crowd. I just love the looks of the Prius. One of the most beautiful car ever made.

  • If you look at the Prius ignoring aesthetics it is clear what an ingenious design it is. Those slab sides maximise interior space and to combine this with such a low cd is a true advance. The purity of form following function in contrast to the rather over-designed shapes we usually see which already seem to evoke the end of an era.