The much anticipated 2016 Toyota Prius is almost here. The fourth-generation Prius has been delayed almost a year because Toyota President Akio Toyoda didn’t care for the proposed look his design team presented to him. He sent them back to their drawing boards with instructions to make the car more stylish and emotional. The Prius has often been criticized for its lack of handling. Toyoda also told his engineers he wants the new car to be fun to drive.
September 8 is the date Toyota has selected for the official unveiling of the new Prius. But before then, it needs to have official photographs ready for its promotional literature and advertising campaigns. Last week, it brought a car to Malibu for a photo shoot, where spy shot photographer Brian Williams snapped photos of his own as the camouflage covering was removed.
The photos reveal a car that is still a 4-door hatchback but with a longer, more sloping roof. The rear roof pillars are blacked out, which makes the roof appear to be floating above the body of the car. The new car is definitely sportier, with less of the prior car’s egg-shaped design signature.
It is lower to the ground than the previous model, with a short snout, stretched windshield, and wraparound headlights. The sides have grown creases that start at the the rear doors and continue all the way to the back, much like the wings on a 1959 Chevrolet. Are tail fins about to stage a comeback, too?
“It was time for a change from the sharp angles and appliance-like styling of the current model,” Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis at the AutoPacific consulting firm told the Los Angeles Times. Karl Brauer, an analyst with Kelley Blue Book, added, “That car needs a design rebirth to have a shot because fuel efficiency alone will not do it anymore. It looks like that is what Toyota delivered.”
Sales of the Prius and other high-efficiency cars have declined a lot since gas prices started falling last year. It’s hard to sell gas mileage with gas selling for just over 2 bucks a gallon in many parts of the country. Even still, the new car will get about 10% better fuel economy, at 55 mpg.
Will the new Prius, which is due in showrooms by the end of the year, appeal to a broader range of customers because of its “up-to-date” styling and better driving dynamics? It will take more than a few spy shots to answer those questions.