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.
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.Â 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.