The Prius needs little introduction as one of the most well-known hybrids on the market today. However, competition appears to have compelled Toyota to re-evaluate the car's positioning in the wake of newcomers like the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid.
A letter distributed to dealers indicates the automaker has decided to add a new base model called the 2017 Prius One at a lower price. The model's value proposition is also set to improve with mid-year changes adding even more safety equipment at no extra cost.
So what will the new base model include? What changes will the other Prius trims get? And what can you expect to see in terms of deals?
Here's what you need to know.
Starting with April production, Toyota will introduce a base version of the 2017 Prius called the Prius One. It will be nearly identical to the current Prius Two, but will not come with a spare tire, rear wiper and driver/passenger seatback pockets.
More importantly, the Prius One will carry a lower starting price of $24,360, or $1,210 less than the Prius Two. The price reflects a destination charge of $885. Somewhat surprisingly, the new version will not sacrifice the current car's impressive range of standard safety features.
The Prius One retains the model's Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) driver assistance technology including a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, adaptive cruise control and auto high beams.
But that's not all.
At the same time, all other Prius variants ranging from the Prius Two to the range-topping Four Touring will now offer the Safety Plus Package with no subsequent increase in price.
Safety Plus is currently an option that adds a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and parking assist. The assist feature utilizes sonar to detect an imminent collision while parking, with the ability to apply emergency braking.
All versions of the Prius from the Two on up will benefit from a built-in equipment discount to offset the cost. This will equate to an added value of up to $1,000 based on trim.
The changes were confirmed for CarsDirect today by Toyota spokesperson Nate Martinez with the following statement:
"We are constantly striving to improve our vehicles for the benefit of our customers, including in key areas such as safety technology and value proposition. The Prius’ MY2017 changes reflect this commitment, and help to further distinguish America’s top-selling hybrid vehicle from its competition, without negatively impacting its MSRP.”
The addition of a new base Prius is a rather bold move, apparently a direct reflection of the vehicle's current competition. The all-new Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid made waves by undercutting the Prius by a whopping $2,535 with an MSRP starting at just $23,035.
In addition to bringing the Prius closer in line with the Ioniq, the changes bolster the vehicle's already stellar safety credentials. There is no direct competitor that features such a complete range of safety gear at no additional charge.
In terms of deals, the Prius already benefits from a range of attractive incentives. This month, Toyota upped cashback here in Los Angeles to $2,000, the most we've seen to date. Alternatively, well-qualified buyers can finance at 0% APR for 60 months.
On the other hand, lease incentives remain a sore spot. In fact, based on our analysis, the Prius is actually more expensive to lease than the Lexus CT 200h. When comparing effective lease costs, the CT is $34/month cheaper to lease based on current offers.
Will the mid-year changes on the Prius stoke buyer interest and make an impact in helping fight off competitors? We expect to find out in the months ahead once the new version begins arriving at dealers.