Toyota pins hybrid hopes on new Prius in September

Toyota's new Prius will make its debut at the LA Auto Show in September, the 4th-generation of the hybrid and the car the Japanese company is counting on to reignite sales. Set to break cover on September 8th, the new Prius is expected to not only boost economy but power, too, addressing complaints that the eco-minded auto is lacking in driver appeal.

It'll also be an opportunity for Toyota to give the Prius an aesthetic makeover. The third-generation car dates back to 2009, and though it has spawned a number of variants over the intervening years – including larger hatchbacks and smaller city-cars – has begun to look a little pedestrian in comparison to rival EVs.

As a result, the instruction inside Toyota is believed to have been to make the 2016 Prius more "heart racing" in its design.

That could take a leaf out of the styling book for the Mirai, Toyota's fuel-cell powered sedan. Although much of the core powertrain is shared by the two cars, the hydrogen-eater has a far more distinctive look, albeit one that has left potential owners divided.

Meanwhile, the 4th-gen Prius is also expected to switch out the current 1.8-liter engine for an updated version that could see power rise to around 150 HP. Fuel economy in the region of 55 mpg is predicted, five points up from the combined economy of the current car.

Whether the new Hybrid Synergy Drive will continue to rely on the nickel-metal hydride batteries Toyota has steadfastly clung to for the majority of the current Prius range, or follow its competitors and switch to lithium-ion packs, also remains to be seen.

The car company also previously suggested that wireless charging could arrive with the 2016 car.

Inside the dashboard is certain to get a technological upgrade, presumably with app-connected infotainment – though not necessarily CarPlay or Android Auto, which Toyota has so far avoided – among other improvements.

While it may have effectively created the hybrid car market, the Prius has faced stronger and stronger competition in the years since its initial debut in 1997. Sales have been buoyed to some extent by the proliferation of models, though demand has begun to dip over the past twelve months.