Toyota's Prius hybrid features a towing package for the first time ever

Toyota built the world’s first mass-production gas-electric hybrid vehicle in 1997, becoming a pioneer when most other automakers remained obsessed solely with petrol and diesel engines.

Now the automaker is pioneering a new frontier, one perhaps a bit less earth-rattling, but certainly interesting. The fourth-generation Prius is now being offered with a tow package. While that may sound peculiar given the vehicle’s sedan ride height and modest power output, Toyota believes this new option will give outdoorsy types another reason to love the hybrid.

Toyota’s 2016 Prius has a maximum towing capacity of 1,598 pounds, which roughly translates to a light caravan or a braked or unbraked trailer. Since “caravanning” is more of a euro-activity, Toyota may not be targeting the U.S. marketing directly with this feature, but you could probably pull a small trailer with a pair of dirt bikes without issue –- a commonplace sight here in California.

To set up towing capability, Prius owners will need to shell out for Toyota’s official towing hitch and wiring systems. Attaching the hitch seems simple enough: the accessory is fitted with clear green and red indicators to show when a secure connection is in place. For the vast majority of times when you aren’t towing something, simply unhook the hitch and store it in the trunk.

Also, for those who are worried about how the Prius might look with a hitch attachment (spoiler alert: it would look silly), all the hardware is concealed behind the bumper’s lower rim.

Toyota’s says its latest Prius generation is able to tow thanks to improved head management of the hybrid system’s generator and differential.

When we reviewed the car late last year, we found it not only to be more efficient, but also far more fun to drive, thanks to chassis stiffening and steering tweaks. The looks may not be for everyone, but these latest feature additions might help buyers forget about stylistic concerns.