Toyota Estimates 55 mpg for 2016 Prius

DETROIT (Detroit Free Press/TNS) -

Toyota said Tuesday its all-new 2016 Prius sets a new bar, with an expected 10 percent improvement in fuel economy, or 55 mpg, for the core models of a family of hybrids already known for their efficiency.

The fourth-generation Prius will go on sale in Japan in December and hit U.S. showrooms early next year. Pricing has not been announced.

It debuts in a rare cycle of low gasoline prices, which has suppressed the sales of hybrid and electric vehicles. But gas prices are expected to rise again.

The Prius was not the first hybrid on the market when it debuted in 1997, but it established itself as the industry benchmark and Toyota used its success to expand the technology across its lineup.

The Prius is Toyota’s flagship hybrid, and the 2016 model has a new look and technological advances while also being lighter and more aerodynamic. It debuts the automaker’s next generation of powertrain technology that does an even better job of using fuel and energy to get more miles per gallon.

Toyota does not have official results yet from the Environmental Protection Agency, but estimates a 10 percent fuel-economy improvement on core models, which would put it in the 55-mpg range compared with the 50 mpg that the 2015 model gets. And there will be an Eco model that will get even better figures, the automaker says.

Modifications have been made to everything from redesigned smaller components to changes to the transaxle, engine, battery and other aspects of the hybrid system.

The 2016 Prius still has a 1.8-liter engine, but it has been re-engineered. Not only is it smaller and lighter, but it achieves 40 percent thermal efficiency and the car has active grille shutters that open and close the grille depending on the outside temperature so the engine can run at peak efficiency.

The Prius continues to offer nickel-metal hydride batteries, but the 2016’s batteries are denser and produce more power yet are smaller, fitting under the rear seat, increasing cargo space. Toyota also has new lithium ion batteries that are expected to go in the Eco model.

The Prius was developed in Japan and is the first vehicle since Toyota introduced a new product-development strategy known as Toyota New Global Architecture to better leverage the global scale of one of the world’s largest automakers.

The car has a stiffer body, is lower and sleeker and gets the new Toyota Safety Sense system, which includes collision prevention systems and parking assist.

Other enhancements include new seats, gauges and displays including a heads-up display that projects information onto the windshield, and better air conditioning.