By on April 13, 2018

2016 Toyota Prius Four - Image: Toyota

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 CarSensor.net, 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]

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31 Comments on “So Long, Pikachu? Toyota Prius’ Adventurous Styling Due for a Toning Down...”


  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    The only new car that the rear of the vehicle looks like it has been in an accident right off the dealers lot.

  • avatar
    210delray

    Don’t be so hard on it. I look at it as the 59 Chevy of today’s vehicles. It even has vestigial batwing fins!

    What Toyota needs to tone down are the predator maws on Lexi and frowning Darth Vader mouths on Toyotas.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      I’m glad someone else noticed the ’59 Chevy notes on the rearward styling. As an owner of one of these, the front end has very much grown on me. The rear styling is just plain awkward and weird. The revisions pictured on that website are an improvement IMHO.
      Plenty of other contemporary Japanese models are, shall we say, not visually appealing either.

      • 0 avatar
        SSJeep

        No one wants to buy them because of the rear styling? That is a stretch. I see the new Prius styling all the time and it seems to be doing well. And the Prius is built to do one thing and one thing only – get great gas mileage. Its just a tool in Toyota’s belt.

  • avatar
    TW5

    Current Prius’ styling is best described as visual pollution.

    I never thought a manufacturers would impede its ability to generate CAFE credits by building an aerodynamic vehicle so ugly that no one wants to buy it. But Toyota has dared greatly to prove me wrong. And their quest to achieve new dizzying heights of ugliness came after Toyota America said they were trying to make the Prius more mainstream.

    Prius needs a lot more than a headlight redesign and softening a few edges. Clean sheet redesign might be in order.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I honestly don’t even notice these anymore. As with all prior Priuses they are ubiquitous in Seattle, driven by a mix of ordinary citizens and Uber/Lyft drivers. If I think about it I realize that the taillight treatment is ugly but I usually don’t think about it. The rest of the car doesn’t register any emotion.

    • 0 avatar
      a5ehren

      Yeah, the design here doesn’t bother me anymore. They’re not selling because gas is cheap right now.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        If you drive a lot, like a cab driver, they’re economical enough, especially on brakes. That’s the market right now, but the price of gas is going up, even more than it usually does before Summer driving season. Frackers have been adding drill rigs again recently, so expect the price spike to be short-lived.

  • avatar
    JMII

    The previous Prius was odd looking due to aero reasons, while this version is just ugly. There is a difference. Its like a kid was told to draw a robot, future, space car, and did exactly that. To me its the modern version of the oval Taurus, but now everything is triangles!

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    Prius and all Lexis are the worst abominations currently in play in the Auto Design universe.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      It’s been said, by David Burge (@iowahawkblog) that the wind tunnel has destroyed Auto design. You can claim that the three-box is dead, but look at the most expensive cars – top-of-the-line Mercedes, Rolls Royce, Bentley – and the closer they are to a three-box design, the better looking they are. It seems the three-box now is only for people who can afford it.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Oh man that makes it worse. Trying to cover up past mistakes while keeping the bonelines that trace them out is just an abomination.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    Someone at Toyota is a fan of Picasso.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Demoiselles_d%27Avignon

  • avatar
    02nz

    A toning down of the Prius’ styling can’t come soon enough. I actually think the Prius Prime is a better execution of some of the same styling cues. But the regular Prius is just hideous. Too bad, as the latest version supposedly drives so much better than previous generations. But I’d never buy one with the current styling – it doesn’t look good now and definitely won’t age well either. It looks like Toyota is already toning down their styling – the ’19 Corolla Hatchback looks very good.

  • avatar
    scott25

    The new one, like 90% of mid-cycle refreshes, looks worse. I’ve never had a problem with this though. It doesn’t make me want to grab a baseball bat like the new Terrain or most Mercedes do.

  • avatar
    HahnZahn

    I never thought the old Prius looked bad – I appreciate utility in a car more than aesthetics. The interior layout and gear selector were train wrecks of design, but externally, it was fine and stayed more or less unchanged long enough to become iconic. But this new Prius was – and remains several years after its introduction – aesthetically awful. Just haven’t ever gotten used to the way they look, and I see a million of them around SoCal. I test drove one a couple years ago, but even I who thinks the Aztek looked good enough, couldn’t get past the appearance.

    Raise the Prius an inch and make it look as much like the Kia Niro as they can, and they’ll sell a whole lot more. I just noticed the new Prius C the other day, and I think it looks great.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      They could offer the Awd version that is offered in Japan here in 4 wheel drive crazed USA, and have a real mechanical and marketing leg up on competitors.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    The first time I saw the current Prius it went from my maybe list to my no way list in 30 seconds.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Like the second gen Prius my initial reaction was revulsion. The revulsion has softened over time but there is a distinct difference from the ugly second gen and this abomination. The design screams of someone betting that people would buy a Prius no matter what it looked like.

    For what it’s worth, I see more Teslas on the road in my area than this gen Prius. Something to the tune of 10 Teslas for every Prius.

    Times have changed and Toyota seems to be taking a lot of buyers’ decades of loyalty for granted.

    • 0 avatar
      Trucky McTruckface

      “The design screams of someone betting that people would buy a Prius no matter what it looked like.”

      I’ve become convinced that this is how Toyota’s designers have operated for at least a decade now.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    It ain’t pretty, but I think it looks better than the current Corolla/Camry/Avalon disasters.

  • avatar
    hirostates12

    It’s important to remember that this is designed first for the Japanese market and second for the rest of the world.

    In the context of other rolling cubes seen on Japanese roads the Prius seems almost sleek.

    While I would not buy one I have always respected the originality and engineering Toyota shows with this mark.

  • avatar
    syncro87

    On one hand, you have boldly styled cars like the Prius. On the other, bland lemming-mobiles that look like everything else on the road. I’m not sure which is the bigger example of visual pollution.

    I give credit to Toyota for taking a risk with the Prius. They were criticized for years for playing it too safe. They take risk, people still gripe.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    The current Prius is so ugly that I continue to engage in otherwise unnecessary maneuvers to avoid looking at them in traffic. The release of this style was when the sales mix shifted dramatically in favor of the prime, a move not seen in other manufacturers lineups. This is way overdue.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    The current Prius is so ugly that I continue to engage in otherwise unnecessary maneuvers to avoid looking at them in traffic. The release of this style was when the sales mix shifted dramatically in favor of the prime, a move not seen in other manufacturers lineups. This is way overdue.

  • avatar
    incautious

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

  • avatar
    Rick Astley

    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.

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