So Long, Pikachu? Toyota Prius' Adventurous Styling Due for a Toning Down

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

I’ll never forget gazing at the latest iteration of the Toyota Prius for the first time. Much hand waving ensued, along with words to the effect of, “No, this is all wrong.”

Styling is subjective, but as hybrid and electric vehicles enter the mainstream, designers haven’t exactly copied the space-age looks of the fourth-generation Prius. In fact, in a bid to avoid scaring off customers, automakers have charted a course for the safe and non-threatening.

That leaves the Prius as the odd man out — a model enamored with triangular shapes that eyes the Hyundai Ioniq, new Nissan Leaf, and upcoming Honda Insight with worry.

It’s makeover time!

According to Japan’s, Toyota appears ready to dial it back a bit. The publication recently posted images showing what’s purported to be a refreshed 2019 Prius, looking very much like the mildly more conservative Prius Prime plug-in hybrid.

Up front, the model’s fascia isn’t as busy. Gone are the stacked lights, replaced with more conventional headlamps, a vertical LED running lights, and foglights positioned further inboard, tucked into the corners of the lower air opening. Each illumination source keeps its distance from the others.

Out back it’s the same story, with the prior model’s aggressively vertical taillights now mimicking that of the Prime. While the car keeps its overall body shape and associated lines, the taillights wrap around the outer edges of the lower rear glass, rather than making a beeline for the bumper.

Toyota hasn’t given us anything to go on, but the publication claims we’ll see the new model before the end of the year. Potential powertrain tweeks remain a mystery.

The current generation Prius launched for the 2016 model year, with the Prius Prime arriving late that year as a 2017 model. The smaller Prius C continues on unchanged, but the larger, wagon-like Prius V, built on the previous-gen Prius’ platform, was phased out of the U.S. market late last year. Currently, the Prius Prime shows significant sales growth, sitting as the country’s best-selling plug-in hybrid. The Prius, on the other hand, ranked third in hybrid sales in March.

Despite a 4.5-percent uptick in U.S. sales last month, the “regular” model’s tally over the first quarter of 2018 shows a volume loss of 24.1 percent compared to the year before. There was only one month in the past year where the Prius posted a year-over-year sales gain: last October, and only by 56 vehicles. Clearly, the days of Toyota ruling the sparse hybrid landscape with a single model are over.

With newcomers like the Kia Niro and Hyundai Ioniq making inroads in the U.S. market, a makeover is as good an idea as any to help preserve the Prius’ future.

[Images: Toyota]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Incautious Incautious on Apr 16, 2018

    Fugly pure and simple. Lexus is no beauty queen either.

  • Rick Astley Rick Astley on Apr 16, 2018

    Anything that moves their disastrously low placed turn signals up off the ground and possibly gives indication to the sides would be greatly appreciated. Not that many Prius drivers use their turn signals in the first place. But if safety is a concern in any way, why on earth is a manufacturer allowed to make front turn signals which aren't visible to the side, and mere inches above the bottom of the bumper??? Aren't there some crash regulations which have caused the trunks of vehicles to steadily rise, in addition to aerodynamic benefits... So WHY, Toyota, WHY?????? Full disclosure: I have a 1961 Thunderbird with low mounted, forward firing turn signals. It's obnoxious to others that they really can't see when you indicate your intentions... However I did expect that manufacturers had made such basic safety improvements over the past 57 years.

  • ToolGuy I am slashing my food budget by 1%.
  • ToolGuy TG grows skeptical about his government protecting him from bad decisions.
  • Calrson Fan Jeff - Agree with what you said. I think currently an EV pick-up could work in a commercial/fleet application. As someone on this site stated, w/current tech. battery vehicles just do not scale well. EBFlex - No one wanted to hate the Cyber Truck more than me but I can't ignore all the new technology and innovative thinking that went into it. There is a lot I like about it. GM, Ford & Ram should incorporate some it's design cues into their ICE trucks.
  • Michael S6 Very confusing if the move is permanent or temporary.
  • Jrhurren Worked in Detroit 18 years, live 20 minutes away. Ren Cen is a gem, but a very terrible design inside. I’m surprised GM stuck it out as long as they did there.