2016_Toyota_Prius_009_AF9B2E3388E88DFA80451DD90147DE77C7F41B07

After plenty of leaks – including the spillage of press pictures just hours from the car’s Las Vegas launch – the 2016 Toyota Prius has finally been officially revealed! The fourth generation of Toyota’s landmark hybrid promises better fuel efficiency, added technology and improved driving dynamics compared to its predecessors.

It’s certainly a very striking car to look at – the polarising (to put it mildly) styling, clearly inspired by its hydrogen-powered Mirai sibling, will divide opinion for years to come. The arrow-shaped headlights sit above the low-set nose (the Toyota badge sits at the same height as on the 86, apparently), and feature LEDs as standard for the first time.

Although the iconic Prius silhouette has been mostly retained, the side profile has been made much sleeker – the car is now 60 mm longer, 15 mm wider and 20 mm lower than before. A more cab-forward stance, an upwards flick in character line along the sills, a lower rear spoiler and a more steeply-raked beltline combine to give a more dynamic look that Toyota says has been “inspired by a runner in the starting blocks.”

2016_Toyota_Prius_008_851DA72ACA513592E324C77A2FA7A00A6A3DBF71

At the rear, blacked-out C-pillars (which give the impression of a floating roof) and blown rear fender surfacing provide yet another visual link to the Mirai, while the distinctive plunging full length tail lights connect the rear spoiler to the trailing edges of the sides. A new specially-developed Emotional Red/Hypersonic Red paint with a “deep and vibrant lustre” is one of the eight exterior colours available.

Inside, the more upright design is a departure from the previous model; the gloss black centre console now sits closer to the driver, with “wings” that reach across the full width of the dashboard. Below this, the familiar gear selector “cube” is now mounted vertically, while the lower surfaces (seen here with a Qi wireless charger, most likely optional) are now optionally available in a gloss white finish, inspired by bone china.

Up top sits a broad digital instrument cluster, mounted in the centre – as before, it incorporates a display showing the operation of the hybrid powertrain, but the screen is now in full colour. Toyota promises improved visibility and increased occupant and luggage space, despite the lower roofline.

2016_Toyota_Prius_003_BFD9231177B78208254C9F2E776C8576C9520309

Safety-wise, all new Prius models will come standard with the Toyota Safety Sense suite of active systems, which, depending on trim, includes Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beam, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and the Europe-only Road Sign Assist.

The 2016 Prius is the first car to be built on the modular Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) designed to lower the centre of gravity while facilitating greater parts sharing and improved resource efficiency, the latter by as much as 20%. Handling is claimed to have been much improved thanks to a stiffer bodyshell, as well as new double wishbone rear suspension that replaces the old torsion beam setup.

toyota prius 4-gen Euro 11

Technical details remain scarce – what has been confirmed is that the new car will feature an internal combustion engine with the world’s highest thermal efficiency (at over 40%), matched to smaller, lighter hybrid components and batteries with a higher energy density.

Reports indicate that the current 1.8 litre Atkinson-cycle petrol engine will soldier on, but with tweaks to improve performance – total system power output is rumoured to hit the 150 hp mark – and achieve the aforementioned efficiency figure. A 10% improvement in fuel economy is promised on core models, with a forthcoming Eco model touted to offer even lower consumption. So, what do you guys think?