2015 Toyota Prius: Still Defining the Hybrid [First Impression]

2015 Toyota Prius
2015 Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius is one of the most distinctive vehicles on the planet. No other car quite looks or drives like a Prius. It’s name has become so synonymous with hybrid cars that it might join the ranks of Hoover and Kleenex as the next brand-name-turned-dictionary-word.

The Prius revels in its weirdness. It’s not normal, and it doesn’t want to be. Toyota tried to make the Prius look normal – the first-generation sedan was about as normal as a Prius can get – but no one bought it. Once Toyota made it weird, people bought it.

The 2015 Toyota Prius is the third generation of the venerable hybrid, and it’s really not a bad looking car for a tall, four-door hatchback. It has a strong character line leading from the front fender up to the tall taillights. The car’s best angle is arguable a rear three-quarter view, where that character line and the tall rear end give it an eager appearance, like it’s ready to pounce.

2015 Toyota Prius

Not that it can do much pouncing. The Prius’ reason for being is fuel economy, nothing more. It’s not a sports car. Acceleration from the Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain is, at best, leisurely. Great care and planning is needed for anything requiring acceleration, like passing or merging.

The hybrid system, which consists of a 1.8 liter, Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine and an electric motor, makes 134 horsepower and 153 lb-ft of torque. The powertrain is mated to a continuously variable transmission.

The Prius is not meant to be driven fast or hard. Press the accelerator and the CVT spools up slowly as the car gains momentum. Flooring it will give it some jump off the line, but normal acceleration is met with a long pause until the car sorts itself and starts accelerating.

The steering is oddly stiff and requires effort to turn, although in return it doesn’t give any feedback from the low-rolling-resistance tires. No car isolates the driver from the act of driving like a Prius. It’s not driven so much as directed.

The one trade-off for this lack of excitement is fuel economy. The EPA says the Prius should get 51 mpg city, 48 mpg highway, with 50 mpg combined.

Inside, the weirdness theme continues, as the large dash curves up to the windshield, with a narrow slit in the center for the electric gauges and information screen. The console is a two-tiered setup with a large shelf on the bottom. The controls are a set of too-similar buttons surrounding the touch screen. The setup seems very odd at first, but it doesn’t take long to get acclimated.

At $30,005 to start and $35,150 as tested, the top-of-the-line Five model is not a cheap car. Is it worth the money and the lack of excitement just for 50 mpg? A full test is coming soon that will answer that question and more.

Check out this TFLcar video of the next generation 2016 Toyota Prius’ debut in Las Vegas: