2010 Toyota Prius: Sportier, More Powerful and 51 MPG
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
The top-selling hybrid in the world has gotten sportier and more powerful, and that has not slowed down its attention to extreme mileage or its sales figures.
Celebrated as the benchmark for cars of the future, the Prius has delivered superior fuel economy and ultra-low emissions to more than 1.2 million owners worldwide for more than 10 years (700,000 units sold in America), and Toyota expects to sell 100,000 Prius cars in the United States alone for 2009, and 180,000 next year.
Prius entered the market in 1997 as the world’s first mass-produced hybrid. The name Prius, “to go before” in Latin, became symbolic of a car that was launched even before environmental awareness had become a mainstream social issue.
Rated at a top-of-the-scale 51mpg in city driving and 48mpg on the highway, the midsize third-generation 2010 Prius was created to provide enhanced performance, and innovative design features in a quieter, roomier package. Upgraded in terms of tech and capabilities, the Prius is no longer a boxy, no-frills econo-car.
The first-generation Prius was rated 41 EPA combined mpg, and the second-gen hybrid garnered an EPA rating of 46 miles per gallon (mpg), combined city/highway. With a combined rating of 50mpg, my test Prius came through with an average of 48.8 mpg over 500 miles of mixed-use driving on the interstates, borough streets and country roads of Central Pennsylvania and Northwestern Maryland.
The new Prius is the first of its model to employ sporty architecture. With attention to improved aerodynamics, the 2010 Prius was designed with the recognizable dynamic triangle form of the previous model, but extended the front pillar forward and the top of the roof rearward with strong character lines to build an athletic stance all the way back to its spoiler-bearing hatchback. The vehicle has been lengthened by 0.6 inches and now measures Overall Length 175.6 in. in length, 68.7 inches in width and 58.7 inches in height on a 106.3-inch wheelbase with ground clearance of 5.5 inches.
The new approach doesn’t stop with looks, it also encompasses increased power. Though still not a track car, the new Prius is still not a muscle car, but the larger and more powerful 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder engine produces 98 horsepower and together with its electric motor, the hybrid system generates a combined net horsepower of 134, an improvement of 24 horsepower over Gen-2.
Toyota believes that the larger engine actually improves highway mileage. By making more torque (105 lbs-ft), the new engine can run at lower average rpm on the highway. When operating at lower rpm, the new engine uses less fuel and mileage for the 3042-lb. car is especially improved in cold-start conditions and at higher speeds.
Now Prius is not a speed burner, by any means. My best zero to 60mph tests timed out in a slow, steady 9.9 seconds, and the quarter-mile was achieved in 18 seconds flat. On the highway, you have to plan out your moves, as acceleration is hesitant at best. But you are not buying Prius for its speed and performance, regardless of its new, sporty look.
Prius is a full hybrid and can run on engine alone, battery alone, or a combination of both. The system blends seamlessly and can charge the batteries while the car is running.
Behind the wheel, the vehicle is quiet, but the sightlines are challenging. The rear window is split by the spoiler and there are severe blind spots at each rear pillar.
Although a light touch on the accelerator produces the best mileage, you get very slow power response using that technique. In tight turns, the Prius shows distinct yaw, and with a relatively high profile and straight sides, the vehicle will move around at higher speeds during wind gusts. Steering is relatively responsive and front struts and a rear intermediate beam design, aided by a new stabilizer layout make for a smooth and comfortable ride.
Inside, the new lay-out is avant-garde and hip. There is really room to spare with seating for five and interior dimensions of 38.6 inches of front headroom (37.6 in row two), 42.5 inches of front legroom (36 inches behind) and 54.9 inches of front shoulder room (51.2 inches in the second row).
A space-age center cluster joins the instrument panel to the console. Tech abounds with an eco indicator on the multi-informational display, tilt/telescopic adjustable steering wheel with audio and HVAC controls with touch tracer display, air conditioning with electric A/C compressor, push button start, cruise control, driver’s seat with vertical adjustment, AM/FM/single-CD with MP3/WMA playback capability, auxiliary audio mini-jack, six speakers and satellite capability.
From a safety perspective, Prius is enhanced with driver and front passenger advanced airbags, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags, driver knee airbag and front and rear seat side curtain airbags, side-impact door beams, front and rear energy-absorbing crumple zones, regenerative anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution vehicle stability control and traction control
With a base price of $25,800, my vehicle as tested bottom-lined at $26,801, a very aggressive price for a vehicle that looks so sporty and delivers so much economy.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
# # #
Journalist note: Information about the Carlisle Events Group, its event listings, auction offerings and expo center is available to journalists by phone:
Carlisle Event Marketing Dept.
# # #