2016 Toyota Prius: higher MPG, lower price, better value

Once again, the Toyota Prius is the one to beat in terms of efficiency and low cost of ownership. 

Shizuo Kambayashi/AP/File
Toyota Motor Corp. Executive Vice President Mitsuhisa Kato poses with a Toyota new Prius at the automaker's showroom in Tokyo, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015.

The Prius family has, for years, included some of the highest achievers of the EPA fuel economy ratings list. Among vehicles without a charge port, you can’t do any better for sheer efficiency and fuel-stinginess; and considering ownership cost—and elements such as insurance cost, maintenance expenses, and repairs—the Prius has consistently been among the best on the market.

The 2016 Toyota Prius is offered in six different trim levels. The Prius Two is the entry-level model and intended to sell based on its low $25,035 sticker price (including the $835 destination fee that applies for most of the U.S.); it’s the only one in the lineup with a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack and hubcaps. Next up are the Prius Two Eco ($25,535) and Three ($27,085), which make incrementally more technology available; both upgrade to a new, smaller lithium-ion battery pack, and the Eco is the pick of the lineup if you want to maximize gas mileage: That’s the one that earns the top EPA rating of 56 mpg.

Then the Prius Three Touring, with its exclusive use of 17-inch wheels and tires, LED clearance lamps, unique rear bumper treatment, and integrated fog lamps, is set up for a somewhat sportier driving experience, at a cost of $28,935, while the Prius Four ($29,485) is the top-of-the-line guise and the Prius Four Touring ($30,835) combines that with the sportier configuration.

The top end for a 2016 Prius Four Touring, optioned up with the Premium Convenience Package (JBL premium audio, Safety Connect conceierge and emergency services, upgraded infotainment with apps, and Intelligent Clearance Sonar with Parking Assist) adds up to $32,595.

Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt remain top rivals

If you want to go tailpipe-emissions-free and can live with the limitations of all-electric driving, the Nissan Leaf remains one of the leading rivals to the Prius—especially in terms of go-green image.

The 2016 Nissan Leaf starts at $29,860 for the base model, with its EPA-rated 84-mile range, or $37,640 for the mid-level Leaf SL, which upgrades to the new larger battery pack and 107-mile range. When you apply the federal $7,500 Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit (an income-tax credit) to that, you end up with $22,360 and $30,140, respectively.

Meanwhile, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt—the second-generation version of GM’s extended-range electric car, a vehicle that effectively combines both worlds, with 53 miles of all-electric driving then more than 370 miles of gasoline-powered extended-range opteraion—starts at $33,995.

As we point out in our full review of the 2016 Chevrolet Volt, GM has made the new Volt very refined, quiet, comfortable, and responsive—and the biggest obstacle remains helping shoppers understand how it works. We think the Prius is much more pleasant-driving this time around, too—although the styling isn’t a particularly strong selling point, as we see it.

Deals to be had on the 2015 Prius

The new 2016 Toyota Prius is expected to reach dealerships beginning early next year. But in the meantime, as our affiliate CarsDirect points out, several tantalizing offers currently apply to the 2015 Toyota Prius—including a $3,000 rebate; zero-percent APR financing for 60 months plus a $1,000 bonus; or a $199 lease deal for 36 months ($1,999 due at signing. Those offers expire January 4.

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