The new Prius can be driven about a mile on electric power only with a top speed of around 25 mph. The Prius drives most often with a smooth blend of gasoline and electric power. And it does not need to be plugged in. Toyota is planning to launch a plug-in version of the Prius later this year.
Though the Prius and Volt operate differently, the redesigned models do have several things in common:
- Weight loss. The Volt has dropped about 243 pounds, and some versions of the Prius have shed as much as 35 pounds.
- Aerodynamics. Both cars have slippery shapes. The Prius has a drag coefficient of 0.24, down from 0.26 with the last model, while the Volt, at 0.28, stays the same.
- Improved battery packs. The Volt uses fewer, but more efficient, lithium ion batteries, while some versions of the Prius are available for the first time with lithium ion batteries.
- Completely re-engineered powertrains. They both eliminate the heavy orange power cables and move the power electronics directly to the engine/transaxle. Toyota claims the Prius' carryover 1.8-liter engine achieves 40 percent thermal efficiency, best in the industry. Most engines are about 25 percent thermally efficient. The Volt's engine grows from 1.4 to 1.5 liters, and power output jumps to 101 hp from 84 hp.
- Improved fuel economy and acceleration. The 2016 Volt carries an EPA rating of 42 mpg city, 43 highway and 42 combined.
It can travel a total of 420 miles on electricity and gasoline. It zipped to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds in a drag-strip acceleration test conducted by Motor Trend, an impressive 1.4 seconds faster than the previous model, according to the magazine.
The Prius offers several models. The Prius Two Eco earns the highest EPA ratings at 58 city, 53 highway and 56 combined. Performance from 0 to 60 mph remains about the same as before, at 10.2 seconds, but the car feels faster because the torque is available at lower rpms, said Curt Schoenig, a product trainer in Toyota's Cincinnati region.
- Styling changes. Both cars were redesigned from the wheels up for 2016, and both remain five-door hatchbacks. The Volt takes on more of Chevy's corporate look. The Prius, from some angles, looks like a scaled-down version of Toyota's Mirai fuel cell car, especially the front fascia.
"The Prius went a little more of the wild-child way, which they can do, since, when people think hybrid, they think Prius," says AutoPacific's Sullivan. "Volt went for a safer exterior design."