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2015 Toyota Prius 3 Review by Steve Purdy +VIDEO
2015 TOYOTA PRIUS
By Steve Purdy
Senior Editor The Auto Channel
By far the most popular and best selling hybrid is also a pioneer in
the gas-electric hybrid car genre. We’re talking about Toyota’s
popular Prius, of course, the top selling car in California. Dating from
the 1990s Prius set the standard for efficiency and dependability at time
when hybrid technology was essentially untested and little-understood in
the marketplace. Prius has continued to lead the hybrid sales race while
adding a larger hatchback and a smaller compact version of the car –
Prius V and Prius C respectively.
As this is being written Toyota has previewed the newest version -
fourth generation - of the Prius, so our review here is on the last of the
current generation. The new car due out in early 2016 will seriously
overshadow this third generation car. So, we expect some serious bargains
will be had as Toyota sells the last of this one.
This mid-size Prius, a 5-passenger sedan, exhibits a distinctive,
some would say quirky, style that leaves no question as to its identity.
Prius enthusiasts appreciate the ability to make a statement about their
environmentalist cred. If their car looks like all the other white-bread
sedans how would your neighbors know you are driving an environmentally
responsible car? Steeply tapered front and rear makes for better-than-most
aerodynamic qualities and Toyota designers have continued to update styling
incrementally with minor details like the more sculpted fascia. We’re
struck by the appearance of plastic wheel covers. Can’t recall the
last time we saw those on any car. I was surprised that the specs say this
car has alloy wheels. It seems what used to be stamped steel has been
replaced by style-less alloy, so still needs a wheel cover.
Prius offers four trim levels from the “Two” with a base
price of $24,200 to the “Five” at $30,005.” Our test car
is the “Three” in the popular Sea Glass Pearly (pale green)
color and shows a base price of $25,765. The only extra we have is the
sunroof package at $1,500 and with the low $275 delivery charge our bottom
line indicates $28,315.
The aesthetically cool and swoopy interior is unconventional in
design but quite functional in a minimalist sort of way. Seats are covered
in a durable-looking, attractive fabric. A floating center stack keeps
controls near the driver with a cavernous storage bin beneath. Ingress and
egress are much easier than we would expect in this size of car. Fit and
finish are good but materials reflect the Spartan character of the car. An
electric shifter on the floating console has a light feel. USB and
auxiliary inputs are buried deep in the dark console. Plenty of room in the
back will accommodate full size people and the seatbacks fold easily. With
the seatbacks folded we have a good 39.6 cubic feet of cargo space and 21.6
with the seatbacks upright.
Prius is a full gas/electric hybrid meaning that the ICE (internal
combustion engine) and electric powertrain share propulsion
responsibilities. In this case a 1.8-liter, super-efficient engine
compliments a motor/generator fed by a substantial battery pack. Total
power is rated at a modest 134 horsepower with a specially programmed CVT
(continuously-variable transmission). Zero-to-60 mph acceleration is a
tepid 10.2 seconds.
Three power modes allow us to manually prioritize power or
efficiency. The full “PWR” mode still leaves us impatient. The
“EV” mode allows the car to stay on electric power a mile if
you like and the “ECO” attempts the find the best balance for
conditions. The EPA estimates a 50-mpg average fuel economy and that is
reasonably accurate. You could expect even better than that if you’re
careful. A “B” position on the shifter appears to trigger
additional regenerative braking adding another modicum of efficiency. The
11.9-gallon gas tank means a good 600-mile range for this 3,000-pound car.
As we might expect Prius handling and driving dynamics reflect
it’s overall character, that is, competent and comfortable, but
certainly not entertaining. This car is meant to be efficient, not fun. The
smallish P195/65R15 LLR (low rolling resistance) tires make a lot of noise
on certain textures of pavement and they become very squirmy on sipped
surfaces. But those tires also contribute to the car’s efficiency.
Toyota’s new car warranty covers the whole car for 3 years or
36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles. The hybrid
components are covered for 8 years or 100,000 miles. Some potential buyers
who tend to drive their cars for many years may be concerned about the
longevity of the batteries and electric motors but these components have
proven to be amazingly durable.
Prius is a car for the motorist who wants efficiency not sport. And
for that customer the car is just right. Power is adequate, it is
comfortable, handles well and makes a substantial statement about its
driver’s values. The price is good for a car with so much technology
and a dual power system.