The Toyota Prius is all new for 2010 as the Japanese automaker’s most popular gas electric hybrid goes into its third generation of production car status. Our Blue Ribbon metallic [Prius features an all new shape from the previous version that includes a few more aerodynamic touches to get the gas electric hybrid as close as possible to 50 MPG. Toyota’s engineers had a very unique approach to making the new Prius as fuel efficient as possible by adding larger power units. The 2010 Prius features a larger 1.8 Liter engine than its predecessor that by itself makes a maximum output of 98 HP and 105 lb-ft of torque and when combined with the larger 36 HP electric motor gives the 2010 Prius a combined gas/electric output of 134 HP, more than most economy cars.
Despite the larger displacement power plant the latest generation Toyota Prius is able to get an EPA estimated 51 MPG in the city and 48 MPG on the highway thanks to a very concentrated effort to aerodynamically reduce drag and eliminate unnecessary energy loss with a few new sophisticated driving modes, one of which turns the Prius into a true zero emission electric vehicle. Priced with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of just $22,000 the 2010 Toyota Prius is now well within the reach of the average new car buyer and proves to be a perfect solution to the future of personal transportation.
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The all new third generation Toyota Prius has been given a bit of an aggressive restyling for 2010 with the same attention to drag reducing detail which leads to improved fuel economy, like the bolsters on the sides of the front and rear bumpers that bulge out to move air away from the turbulent zone around the wheels when spinning at highway speeds. Not only has the car’s coefficient of drag been reduced so that it can cut through the air with less resistance and achieve that magical 50 MPG mark but it has also been given a sense of attitude that it was previously missing with the redesigned headlight housings that look like they are being stretched back into the fenders up front and sharper rear wing that juts out the back of the hybrid.
The Prius’s profile is more of a smooth arc than before, with the base of the A-pillar moved forward so that the windshield could benefit from a few more degrees of rake which leads into the apex of the roof that has been moved further back to achieve the 2010 Toyota Prius’s .25 Coefficient of drag as opposed to the previous generation’s .26 Cd. to make an even more slippery shape than in 2009. The design team even incorporated fins at the rear of the flat paneled under tray that Toyota feels are actually more functional that the majority of the diffusers bolted to most sports car’s back bumpers. Toyota engineers go to countless measures to squeeze every last ounce of efficiency from their flagship hybrid. A number that was being thrown around when we first spoke to a Toyota representative was one million, because that is how much the Japanese automaker spends every hour of every working day conducting drag reduction research.
The third generation Prius also wears a few redesigned badges that add another dimension to the fuel efficient Toyota with a little bit of blue accenting. These forward thinking emblems aren’t only about looks, because behind the sombrero at the nose of the vehicle there is a microwave radar emitter housed underneath. The sensor works in conjunction with the adaptive cruise control, to make sure you don’t get to close to the object moving along in front of you.
The first thing that we noticed when we climbed inside the Bisque/Sand Beige interior of our 2010 Toyota Prius is just how spacious a compact car can be. The large glass surfaces and open elements make it seem like you are inside of a much larger car. The fundamentals for the driver consist of a very clean and comfortable multifunction steering wheel, a green LED heads up display inside of the center mounted instrument cluster that is able to display lots of information into a compact and easy to interpret arrangement and just below that is a very modern looking blue shifter with a pattern that might take a little getting used to, but if you follow the instructions printed on top and pull the stick towards you and then down, you’ll be ready to go before it flings back into its neutral position.
The other thing that the Toyota design team did well was to give the car an airy feel and incorporate lots of storage space, like the split center console that the blue knob is mounted, the design resembles the unit found inside the new Ferrari California , however in the Prius it is much larger and makes for more usable storage space; just like the double glove box directly ahead of the front seat passenger. Toyota also incorporates a few non-petroleum based products to further fight the war on oil. The driver sits on new-plastic, a non-petroleum based synthetic product that Toyota only used in few select locations. New-plastic is denser than the traditional polymer so the added weight was an issue and therefore used only in select locations, but it is another environmentally friendly nod for the Japanese automaker.
Our car came without some of the more high end features that we have become accustomed to seeing like leather wrapped seats and satellite radio, but when we looked at the spec sheet we could see why. Priced at around $23,500 our Prius was ready to give any Honda Insight a run for its money, the car came with just enough creature comforts to keep us content, but we are a little concerned as to how much a full blown Prius with leather and a solar paneled sunroof would run.
Our favorite feature of the new Prius came under the hood, for 2010 Toyota decided to up the hybrid’s displacement from 1.5 Liters to 1.8 Liters in an attempt to make the Prius both more powerful and more efficient, getting 51 MPG in the city and 48 MPG on the highway; imagine that, not to mention that we were pleasantly surprised by just how quick this hybrid felt behind the wheel. The new 1.8 Liter Toyota Prius hybrid synergy drive power plant uses variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust side that is able to seal off the combustion chamber and thus reduces pumping losses when the engine isn’t needed. On the electric side of the hybrid equation, the Toyota engineers have also decided to incorporate a more powerful motor that is connected through a planetary gear set, providing a much more maintenance free hybrid ownership experience than one would experience with a belt driven unit like on the Honda Insight.
The Toyota Prius offers three different driving modes tailored to how you plan on using your vehicle; Power, Eco, and EV. When the Power Mode is selected, it increases the sensitivity of the gas pedal and improves the Prius’s acceleration delivering the best performance from the gas electric hybrid. On the other hand, the Eco Mode slows the electronic throttle body’s opening and closing while managing the creature comforts in the name of efficiency performing operations like readjusting the air conditioning to reduce fuel consumption. The last mode makes the Prius a true Electric Vehicle up to a certain speed, perfect for sneaking into the driveway late at night undetected.
The only downside to driving the Prius is that the brake energy recovery units inside the front wheels add an excessive amount of unsprung mass the vehicle’s suspension and not only makes the steering extremely heavy, but it also makes the Prius quite clumsy around corners.
Why to Buy
The 2010 Toyota Prius is the perfect car for anyone who wants to drive a fuel efficient hybrid, make a statement about their stance on the environment, save money at the pump or if they are just looking for a good four door economy car. The third generation Prius’s more powerful engine dispels any notion that a hybrid is any less of an automobile than any other car; in fact it offers a whole lot more. In short, our new Prius, priced at $23,563 came with plenty of creature comforts and is still affordable enough for the average new car buyer makes it the perfect car for just about everybody.
Why Not to Buy
One of the only reasons not to buy this particular Toyota Prius is so that you can get one that is overflowing with the latest of Toyota’s futuristic technologies; like the solar panel sunroof combination that when remote activated will ventilate the hot stagnant air from the interior of the Prius for up to three minutes so that it won’t kill the battery, while this isn’t quite the icebox effect it is good enough to make the inside of the Toyota more comfortable on a 90 degree day, however those comforts come at a pretty hefty price.
There are only a few other cars on the market that can compete with the fuel efficient Prius, the first would be the all new Honda Insight that is reportedly more affordable, but doesn’t offer the same status as the technologically advanced Toyota. If you are in the market for a sports car that won’t harm the environment, then look no further than the Tesla Roadster and the Fisker Karma if you need room for two more.
Top Speed Final Verdict
The 2010 Toyota Prius pleasantly surprised us; it was both quick and spacious, dispelling our preconceived notions that hybrids had to be small and slow in order to get great gas mileage. Thanks to our car’s larger 1.8 Liter gas engine combined with a more powerful electric motor puts the third generation Prius on par with any other economy car as far as straight line performance is concerned and at an average of 50 MPG, it is hard to go wrong with buying a Prius.