Until recently, the 2000 Honda Insight was the most fuel efficient car ever tested by Consumer Reports. It got 51 miles per gallon. But the 2016 Toyota Prius has just eclipsed that number. As tested, it returned 43 mpg in CR’s city driving test and recorded 59 mpg during steady state highway cruising at 65 miles per hour. The combined fuel economy as observed by Consumer Reports was 52 mpg. CR calls that a stunning achievement, especially since the prior generation of the Prius could manage “only” 44 mpg combined in its tests.
The improvement is due to close attention to details. The gasoline engine is now 44% efficient — one of the highest efficiency ratings of any production internal combustion engine. The restyled body is more aerodynamic for less drag and the transmission has been redesigned to reduce internal energy losses and make it more efficient as well.
The new Prius uses a lithium ion battery for the first time. It is lighter than the nickel metal hydride battery used in prior versions of the car and is more efficient at storing energy . It also costs more. With increased battery power, the Prius now operates in electric only mode more often during city driving.
The new Prius was delayed almost a year because company president Akio Toyoda wanted the car to have flashier styling, a better ride, and better fuel economy. He got his wish, Consumer Reports says.
“The 2016 Toyota Prius has sharper handling, a more cushioned ride, less grabby brakes, and nicer interior materials. And even with its flashy new exterior styling, the interior has plenty of space, while the hatchback layout makes it easy to haul large items. As such, the Prius is a proper family car for five occupants, with strong crash-test results.” It goes on to say the previous mileage champ, the original Honda Insight, “felt more like a two seat science project.”
Not everything about the new Prius pleased the testers. They disliked the wimpy gear selector and wished for more supportive seats on long drives. They also disliked the lack of rear visibility caused by the smaller rear windows used in the restyled body. The midrange Prius tested by Consumer Reports had a list price of $27,323.
Prius sales are down 22% so far in 2016. Many other manufacturers like Hyundai and Volkswagen are finally getting around to bringing Prius competitors to market just as buyers are flocking to larger, thirstier cars. Fuel economy is a low priority for many people who think low gas prices will last forever. It remains to be seen whether all the effort Toyota made to hone the Prius will pay off in increased sales volume.
Source and photo credit: Consumer Reports