2017 Toyota Prius Prime Struts Its Stuff In New York

First there was the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid. It was in showrooms for a while before it was pulled due to slow sales. The original had only 11 miles of electric range, which most prospective buyers deemed too low to justify the extra cost. In the meantime, Toyota has introduced the all new fourth generation Prius. That car was delayed almost a year while Toyota engineers struggled to improve its ride and handling characteristics. Company stylists were also instructed to pump up the car’s appearance to make it appeal to younger buyers.

Last week, Toyota offered a teaser photo of the new Pruis plug-in hybrid ahead of its introduction at the New York auto show this week. That photo hinted of a cool new tail light treatment for the Toyota’s new plug-in. It accomplished its goal. It started some buzz about the new car.

Toyota Prius PHEV Tease

Now the new plug-in Prius has been revealed officially at the New York auto show. Here’s what we know. The car has a new name. It is now called the Prius Prime. It has an 8.2 kWh battery that allows it to travel 22 miles in electric mode. Wait, that’s it? 22 miles? We waited a year and all we got is 22 measly miles? Apparently that is the number Toyota is happy with. It must represent some perfect compromise between price and performance, but it is less than virtually all its plug-in hybrid competitors offer. It is less than half what Chevy Volt drivers can get, for instance.

That’s not all that’s new. The Prius Prime has its very own front and rear visuals. The back isn’t too bad, but the front? Ouch, my eyes! Not only is the color Toyota chose for the reveal ghastly, but those enormous air scoops on either side of the grille — borrowed from the Toyota Mirai — are just scary. They look like the mouth of the shark in the Disney movie Finding Nemo.

Toyota Prius Prime front

Toyota says that, once the battery is depleted and the car switches to gasoline power, it will get the same or better fuel economy as the regular Prius. In other words, it should score 52 mpg combined or higher in EPA testing. It will have an estimated 120 MPGe, though, which is among the highest available in the US market. Will all that fuel sipping prowess be enough to offset the decidedly dysfunctional appearance of the car? We will find out when  the Prius Prime goes on sale later this year.

Photo credits: Toyota

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.