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2010 Toyota Prius Review - VIDEO ENHANCED

2010 Toyota Prius (select to view enlarged photo)
2010 Toyota Prius

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2010 Toyota Prius; The Green Giant
By Rex Roy

2010 Toyota Prius Review

In the U.S. alone, Toyota has sold more than 670,000 Prius hybrid models. The car has become an icon of the environmental movement. We've just driven the all-new, third-generation 2010 Toyota Prius, and we believe that it will continue to be popular with the eco-conscious.

Evolutionary describes the new 2010 Toyota Prius's new shape. The all-new design rides on the same wheelbase as the second-generation model (106.3 inches). While the roof is the same height, the peak roof height has been shifted back almost four inches. The move gives the 2010 Toyota Prius a more wedge-like shape for improved interior room and reduced aerodynamic drag. According to Toyota, the Prius achieves an aerodynamic drag coefficient (Cd) of just 0.25, which is among the best in the world for production cars.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Even thought the 2010 Prius is slightly larger and carries more features than the outgoing car, its combined mpg rating has increased to 50 mpg, up from 46 mpg for the 2009 model. Toyota achieves this mileage using a 98-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine running on the ultra-efficient Atkinson cycle. The engine's extra size enables it to make more torque (105 lb-ft), and although it runs counter to conventional thinking, the additional torque enables the engine to get better highway fuel economy (because the engine can run at lower engine speeds).

The motor portion of the Prius hybrid system produces a peak 80 horsepower, and when combined with the engine, results in a maximum powertrain output of 134 horsepower. Acceleration should be more than ample.

Additionally eco-enhancements include seemingly dull engineering advancements such as an electrically-driven water pump. Water pumps are normally driven by the engine's crankshaft, and continuously sapped power even when water flow wasn't necessary. The beauty of the new system is its improved efficiency that stretches more miles from every gallon. Toyota also cut the weight of many components including the transmission.

Further reducing the vehicle’s power consumption, available LED (light emitting diode) lamps are used for low beams and also in the tail and stop lamps.

Like the outgoing Prius, the 2010 model is fully equipped with all manner of modern road-going conveniences. But Toyota did not just Xerox the old car's feature list for the new model. The company added clever features such as an available sliding glass moonroof that is packaged with solar panels used to power a new ventilation system. This solar ventilation system uses an electrically powered air circulation fan that does not require engine assist. In addition, an exhaust heat recirculation system reduces heat waste by warming engine coolant during cold startup, for improved performance. It also heats up the passenger cabin more efficiently.

Click PLAY to watch the Toyota Prius on RoadTrip

It's Electric On The Road Drivers who prefer cars with a sporty personality have never liked the Prius. Previous generations of the car were never fun to drive. The 2010 Prius, while far from being a sports car, is a much more enjoyable car to drive.

Toyota engineers told us that the hybrid's chassis has been stiffened, and significant changes have been made to the front suspension that improve the car's responsiveness.

We drove the new 2010 Toyota Prius in central Florida and found some great roads with curves East of the town of St. Cloud. The Prius eagerly took to the corners with confidence. There are four different "modes" that control the Prius's hybrid powertrain. There is an EV mode that, under ideal conditions, allows electric-only driving for up to a mile. The "normal" mode the default setting that is bracketed by the "Eco" and "Power" modes.

These modes change the way the accelerator pedal responds to your right foot. If you floor the pedal, you'll have the same amount of maximum power, but every throttle point in between changes depending on the mode you select. For example, the Eco mode requires the driver to push much farther on the pedal to accelerate, and this has the effect of delivering smooth, gentle, fuel-saving acceleration.

By contrast, in the Power mode, just a bit of throttle elicits a big response from the hybrid powertrain. Stabbing the accelerator makes the Prius accelerate briskly, feeling as if it had the momentary power of a V-6. Of course, mileage drops in the Power mode. There is no free lunch.

In less energetic driving, the ride was acceptable and quiet … not luxury car ride and quiet … but fine for a vehicle's whose primary mission is fuel economy. To that point, Toyota challenged members of the press to an economy challenge on a 40 mile loop that included many different types of roads including residential streets and interstates. Your author averaged 69 mpg, but was eclipsed by a number of other drivers who achieved as much as 78 mpg.

Along with the above, another solid feature are the controls mounted on the steering wheel. While lots of cars offer this feature, the Prius is the only one equipped with touch sensors for these controls. When the driver touches the audio or info switch located on the steering wheel, a duplicate image is displayed on the instrument panel, directly in front of the driver. This system, called Touch Tracer, is the first system in the world to allow steering wheel controls to read out on the instrument panel, helping drivers keep their eyes on the road.

The tracers show up on an easy-to-read center-mounted electronic instrument cluster that incorporates many different displays.

In contrast to this advanced technology, many of the Prius's interior surfaces are plain, old-fashioned plastics. Unfortunately, several important interior areas are completely formed from hard plastic (the console is the worst) and this cheapens an otherwise pleasant interior.

Before Laying Down Your Green For those following the latest in hybrid vehicles, the new Prius is in direct competition with the recently introduced Honda Insight and Ford Fusion Hybrid. The Honda is smaller and because it is a mild hybrid, doesn't get quite the mileage of the Prius.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid, however, may be the biggest hybrid surprise for 2010. Not only the imports that know how to make efficient cars these days. Compared to the 2010 Toyota Prius, the Fusion is more refined and substantial than the Prius.

This type of competition is new for the Toyota Prius. The improvements made for 2010, though, should be more than ample to keep current Prius owners happy and attract new buyers to Toyota's green giant.

Rex Roy is an automotive writer based in Detroit. He can be reached through his web site at

MORE: Electric Vehicle News and Reviews - EV MOTORING
MORE: Toyota Specs, Comparisons and Prices - Toyota Buyers Guide
MORE: 100 2010 Toyota Prius Articles and Video