2016 Toyota Prius

2016 Toyota Prius

Episode 3515
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

While almost every major car brand offers some form of hybrid vehicle, it’s Toyota that is truly the hybrid champ, with over 8 million hybrids on the road worldwide. And the vast majority of them are the hybrid that started it all, the Prius. Well, believe it or not, now it’s time for a 4th generation of the popular gas-electric. Let’s see if it’s still a green-machine benchmark.   

Not only is this 2016 Toyota Prius all-new, but it’s built on Toyota’s New Global Architecture that will carry a wide variety of new models in years to come; not just hybrids. 

And while that might be mostly about cutting costs and simplifying production, it’s a much stiffer platform that is supposed to deliver a more rewarding driving experience; not a past Prius strong suit. Is this the fun to drive Prius we’ve been waiting for?

Well, a first-time double wishbone independent rear suspension is certainly an upgrade over the former torsion beam. It provides both a smoother reaction to bumps, and better grip in corners. 

Now, we’re not saying it can now moonlight as a track day ride, but there is clearly a better, more in control feel behind the wheel. Furthermore things have gotten quieter and visibility has improved all around. 

Prius is longer than before, by over 2-inches; and appears less bulbous, if also less familiar. In fact, a taller front grille area, most probably for pedestrian crash protection, and a flatter, more defined hood, alters the traditional Prius triangular profile significantly. The stance is wider, lower, and with lots of front fascia character lines, far more aggressive. 

Lighting is a big contributor to that theme too, from the standard, menacing slim LED headlights, to the form following signature tails.

New looks and improved driving capabilities are great, but Government Fuel Economy Ratings are far more important to the Prius buyer. While not yet finalized, Toyota estimates 54-City, 50-Highway, and 52-Combined. Or overall, 2 more than last year. 

There will also be an Eco model with lighter weight and enhanced aerodynamics that will push the numbers even higher, to 58-City, 53-Highway, and 56-Combined. 

As for the hybrid gasoline-electric powertrain behind those gains, it has gotten lighter and more compact. 

The gas-fed internal combustion part remains a 1.8-liter I4; but it’s been redesigned top to bottom. And while fuel efficiency is up, power is down. Total output now comes at 121-horsepower. 

Transmission remains a CVT, with a combined transaxle/electric motor that is also smaller and more efficient. If only we could figure that trick out for ourselves. 

The powertrain space saving translates to more space inside. It was already a pleasant, if not super comfortable environment, but now it’s been upgraded to be a bit more mainstream and perhaps more inviting, but there is still plenty of that “Prius feel” remaining to keep it unique. 

The instrument panel now has a hint of a wraparound theme to it, and controls are more in-line with the rest of the Toyota car family. Yet, the wide, and very comprehensive full-color TFT gauge cluster remains in a centrally located dash top bubble.  

Steering wheel controls are even more comprehensive, and of course there’s a big center touchscreen for navigation and the like. 

Front seat comfort and support have never been Prius strong points. 20-16 makes another stab at correcting that. The cockpit feels wide and airy, and there is excellent small item storage. The rear seat is also more comfy even as the space retains its coziness.

Cargo space is up slightly as well, to 24.6 cubic-ft. with a spare tire, 27.4 without; thanks to the smaller battery pack which is now Lithium-ion in most models, and now located completely under the rear seat. 

It seems like everything you buy these days, whether it’s a toaster or toilet boast increased safety, and for ’16 the Prius gets Toyota’s Safety Sense, with Lane Departure Alert, Radar Cruise, Pedestrian Detection, and other active features to keep you from hitting anything or anyone; making the new Prius a borderline autonomous machine. 

Pricing starts off at exactly the same place as the outgoing model at $25,035. A top end Four Touring starts just over 30 Gs. 

We’ve been down this road three times before with Toyota. As like many of their recent products, their hope is that the 2016 Prius will transition from being a rational purchase to an emotional one. We’re not sure it’s quite there, yet.  But bottom line, the Prius will continue to do what it has done for years, expand the hybrid profile to more and more households, and be the gasoline/electric benchmark for others to follow.


  • Engine: 1.8 liter I4
  • Horsepower: 121
  • Torque: 105 lb-ft.
  • EPA: 54-City /50-Highway
2023 Mazda3

2023 Mazda3

Still The Same Mazda3, Just A Bit Better

Episode 4304
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

When the fourth-gen Mazda3 arrived for 2019, it grew a little more stylish, a lot more upscale; and loads more practical too, adding all-wheel drive into the mix for the first time. How does it get better than that? Well, for ’23 the 3 adds an engine update that promises to deliver more power and better efficiency. Time to speak truth to this power.

The Mazda3 has always been a great compact car, big on both fun and value, and has earned numerous MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards over the years. This current-gen has been on the road for 4-years now, and it gets even better for 2023.

Starting with the powertrain, the base 2.0-liter I4 has been eliminated leaving just 2 versions of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, turbo and non-turbo. Base versions get a 5-horsepower bump to 191-horsepower, along with updates for its cylinder deactivation system. The 2.5 Turbo fits standard all-wheel drive and outputs the same 250-horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque as last year; provided you use Premium gas. Max ratings drop to 227-horsepower and 310 lb-ft. with Regular.

2023 Mazda3 6
2023 Mazda3 2
2023 Mazda3 5
2023 Mazda3 3
2023 Mazda3 4
2023 Mazda3 62023 Mazda3 22023 Mazda3 52023 Mazda3 32023 Mazda3 4

A 6-speed manual transmission remains available in front-wheel drive 3s, but AWDs come exclusively with a sport-tuned 6-speed automatic. We found it well-sorted and seemingly always on the same page as us whether we were shuffling through back roads or sitting in traffic. There is a softer overall feel compared to Mazda3s of old, which you’ll appreciate when encountering harsh pavement, but it still feels plenty agile when called upon.

That softer feel certainly carries over inside, where it has gotten much quieter, and quite nicely finished, consistent with Mazda’s Audi-like premium intentions. All 3s get an 8.8-inch center display, and all of the fingerprints on our test car’s screen signifies most people assume it’s a touchscreen. It’s not, however, as inputs are made with a rotary controller on the console. It’s not the most intuitive system, but once you’re past the learning curve, it’s tolerable.

The rear seat room doesn’t have the roomy feel of the Subaru Impreza, but space is certainly more than adequate compared to the rest of the compact set. Rear cargo space for this hatchback rates a good 20.1 cubic-ft. with trunk space in the sedan coming in at 13.2 cubic-ft. So yes, the Mazda3 remains available in both sedan and hatchback, but we still prefer the 5-door hatch both for its practicality and for its sporty looks. Top Turbo Premium Plus gets gloss black aero treatments including a roof spoiler and front air dam.

At the test track, power from the 2.5-turbo felt more than adequate off the line, using all-wheel-drive grip to bite into the pavement and get up and go to 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. There was virtually no turbo lag, and the engine felt nicely refined with its power delivery. Transmission operation was equally as smooth and kept the power flowing quite effectively throughout the ¼-mile, which ended in 14.5-seconds at 95 miles-per-hour. We really appreciate a well-tuned 6-speed in this world of overactive 8 and 10 speed automatics.

2023 Mazda3 1

While there was definitely some understeer to manage in our handling course, the 3 turned in quickly and provided real, sporting feedback through our cone course. I-Activ AWD features G-Vectoring Control Plus, which uses both engine torque vectoring as well as selective braking to minimize body roll, and preserve the lively feel we’ve come to expect from Mazda. In panic braking runs, the pedal was soft, but that kept ABS pulsing to a minimum; and the results were great, as we averaged a very short 106-feet from 60, with minimal nose dive and stable, straight stops.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel drive Turbo are 23-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined; we averaged a good 28.4 miles-per-gallon of Regular.

Obviously by eliminating the previous base engine, prices have taken a jump for ’23, but so has everything else. Still they remain more than reasonable. The base S now starts at $26,855, with the top Turbo Premium Plus at $37,815, with many options in between. And sedan prices are even more sensible, starting at $23,715.

Like most brands, Mazda seems to be going all-in on SUVs; as the 3 is the last family sedan and hatchback in their lineup. And it would be a real shame if that were to change. As the 2023 Mazda3, the hatchback in particular, is just about the perfect car, offering utility vehicles levels of practicality along with better than average luxury, plus handling performance that few crossovers can match. So, long live the Mazda3!


As Tested

  • Engine: 2.5-liter Turbo-4
  • Horsepower: 227 | 250
  • 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
  • 60-0 Braking: 106 feet (avg)
  • MW Fuel Economy: 28.4 MPG (Regular)
  • Transmission: 6-speed auto
  • Torque: 310 lb-ft. | 320 lb-ft
  • 1/4 Mile: 14.5-seconds at 95 mph
  • EPA: 23-City / 31-Highway / 26-Combined