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2015 Toyota Prius Preview

What will change? Nearly everything. Toyota is planning a radically different, all-new-from-the-pavement-up 2015 Prius gasoline-electric hybrid and Prius plug-in Hybrid. Toyota has released a few nuggets about the fourth-generation Prius, including word that fuel economy will be significantly better. A new exterior design will improve aerodynamic efficiency, while a new structure behind the sheet metal will lower the car’s center of gravity and promise better handling. It is expected that the Prius Plug-in Hybrid will duplicate the standard Prius’s new design and mechanical changes. This preview covers the Prius Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid four-door hatchback, known officially as the Prius Liftback. It accounts for the vast majority of Prius sales. Toyota also sells the slightly larger Prius v wagon and the subcompact Prius c hatchback, which would be in line for updates sometime after model-year 2015.

Why wait for the 2015 Toyota Prius: To audition Toyota’s latest advances in gas-electric science. The redesign will showcase advances in battery, electric-motor, and gasoline-engine technologies. Fuel-economy gains alone may be worth the wait. The 2015 Prius will cost more, but it will look fresh well into the future and will be worth more at resale than the outgoing 2014 Prius.

Why buy a 2014 Toyota Prius? Because you want good transportation value that delivers 50 mpg before the all-new 2015 model arrives — and the latest technology and styling trends aren’t that important to you. Buying a 2014 will also likely put you in line to benefit from factory and dealer price incentives that might not be so generous when the 2015 Prius rolls out.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

2015 Toyota Prius Liftback styling

While the exterior styling will change significantly it will still be recognizable as a Prius. The most radical changes will be a lowered hood that sweeps downward to a striking front end with design cues found in Toyota’s NS4 concept car. The front roof pillars will be pushed back to form a more upright windshield. But from the middle of the body aft it will be similar to the outgoing model, including the high, truncated tail. A fully redesigned interior will feature upgraded materials with a traditional instrument cluster instead of the central gauge layout of previous Prius dashboards.

2015 Toyota Prius mechanical

Toyota says it has reengineered its Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain for the 2015 Prius. Specifically, the current 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine will be modified and will be among the world’s most efficient, the company says. Additionally, electric motors will be smaller but more powerful, and the nickel-hydride battery pack will have a higher density that will extend the electric-only driving range from today’s one mile or so. The 2015 Prius Plug-in will also benefit from advanced battery technology with a lithium-ion battery pack that will increase its all-electric driving miles from today’s 11 or so. It’s anticipated that both the plug-in and non-plug Prius will be available for the first time with all-wheel drive.

2015 Toyota Prius fuel economy

Toyota says fuel economy for the redesigned Prius Liftback will increase 10 percent from the current EPA estimate of 51/48/50 mpg city/highway/combined. That pencils out to 56/52/55 mpg. Using the EPA miles per gallon-equivalent (mpge) for electric propulsion, expect the 2015 Prius Plug-in Hybrid to rate 105 mpge. Running in “standard” gas-electric-hybrid mode, the Plug-in should rate 56/54/55 mpg city/highway/combined.

2015 Toyota Prius features

The 2015 Prius will again brim with creative technology, including solar-charged climate control, self parking, laser sensor cruise control, and lane-wander compensation. And it will introduce unspecified “advanced safety technologies.” Buyers of the Plug-in hybrid can look forward to a new wireless inductive charging system to recharge the battery without the fuss of a cable.

2015 Toyota Prius prices

Expect the 2015 standard Prius to continue with four grades labeled Prius Two, Three, Four, and Five. The Plug-in Hybrid will likely repeat with a base model that’s roughly equivalent to the Prius Three, and the Advanced model, which should return as the highest-priced Prius hatchback. Expect a base-price range of $25,400-$31,200 for the 2015 Prius standard model and $31,000-$36,000 for the 2013 Prius Plug-in Hybrid. Prius Plug-in buyers may again qualify for a federal tax credit of approximately $2,500, as well as additional state tax credits.

Quick Hits: The Toyota Prius has evolved from a niche vehicle to the most successful green car in history. Since the Prius launch in Japan in 1997, Toyota has sold more than 3 million — more than half in the U.S. With the addition of the Prius v, Prius c, and Prius Plug-in Hybrid models, Prius has become a brand of its own and commands nearly 45 percent of the U.S. hybrid market.

2015 Toyota Prius Liftback Competitors

Ford C-Max Hybrid and Energi, Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid and Plug-in, Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Chevrolet Volt

Toyota Prius Photo Gallery

About Larry E. Hall

This Olympia, Wash.-based freelance journalist and is founder of Northwest Auto News Service. Larry has written about cars and the automotive industry for more than 20 years, with a focus on alternative fuels and vehicles. His articles have been published by MSNBC.com and MSN Autos as their alternative-fuels correspondent and in numerous newspapers, trade journals, and business publications.

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