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New Car Review: The 2010 Toyota Prius

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By Thom Blackett
2010_Toyota_Prius_exterior_roadandtravel copy iPod. McDonald’s. Pampers. It’s hard to imagine this trio sharing any common ground. However, we’re betting that if you ask people to name an MP3 player, a fast food chain, and a brand of diapers, the majority of respondents will answer with these three names. Due to marketing and healthy sales, certain products inevitably represent their niche within the consumer marketplace. Serving that role for hybrid vehicles is the Toyota Prius, a funky yet functional fuel-sipper that has been redesigned for 2010.


Among the changes are styling tweaks, a more powerful Hybrid Synergy Drive propulsion system, and an updated cabin. That’s where you’ll find a spacious and expandable cargo area and generous accommodations for up to five passengers. We weren’t terribly impressed by mostly low-grade interior materials, visibility that was hampered by a spoiler spanning the Prius’s rear window, or buttons for the heated seats hidden below the center console. Conversely, we applaud features such as a touch-screen navigation system and a solar roof panel designed to keep the Prius cool on hot days. Front bucket seats are comfortable, and while there’s plenty of room for rear passengers, the bench is firm and the sloping roof limits head room. On the safety front, every 2010 Toyota Prius is equipped with antilock brakes, seven airbags, and stability control.


Out on the open road, Toyota’s redesigned hybrid is livelier than its predecessor, though low-rolling resistance tires make the ride a little stiff. Four operating modes are available to the driver, ranging from full-electric EV to Power, the former aimed at maximizing efficiency at very slow speeds and the latter making the Prius more responsive. Thankfully, the feeling of intermittent drag has been eliminated from the regenerative braking system.


All of that – and up to 51 mpg in the city -- comes with a base price of about $23,000, though a fully-loaded 2010 Prius will run you about $33,000. Personal choice will dictate whether or not pricey options are worth the added expense, but for us, that $10,000 would buy a helluva lot of Big Macs.  



Test Vehicle: 2010 Toyota Prius IV

Base Price: $22,750

Price as Tested: $30,709

Engine: Hybrid Synergy Drive System consisting of a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, an electric motor, and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack

Transmission: Electronically-controlled continuously-variable

EPA Fuel Economy: 51 mpg city/48 mpg highway

Road & Travel’s Observed Fuel Economy: 44.3 mpg

NHTSA/IIHS Frontal Crash Ratings: TBA / TBA

NHTSA/IIHS Side Impact Ratings: TBA / TBA

Also Consider: Honda Insight, Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sedan


For more information visit toyota.com. To learn about other new models hitting the streets, check out all of our 2010 car reviews. 


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