Toyota Prius reviewToyota were really ahead of the pack when they released their hybrid car, the Prius, back in 2004 and it has been one of the most efficient eco cars on the market ever since. When it was first unveiled most people had no idea how a hybrid car even worked. Other car makers were left bewildered at the amazing technology that was packed into it. The Toyota Prius was the hybrid trailblazer and it would be quite some time before it would have any decent competition. Toyota very definitely still lead the way in economical hybrid cars and their latest edition, the 2010 Prius packs lots of new hi-tech features as well as being the most fuel efficient Prius yet.
The Prius initially had a 1.5 litre 4 cylinder petrol engine but many customers were unhappy with the cars sluggish acceleration. The latest Prius has a larger 1.8 litre petrol engine outputting 73kW in combination with a 60kW electric motor. The car is still sluggish on take off when only powered by the electric motor but when the petrol engine kicks in at about 25mph, acceleration is comparable to other family cars.
Despite the larger 1.8 litre engine the new Prius has better fuel economy than the old 1.5 litre car it replaces. This must certainly be in part because the more powerful engine doesn't need to work as hard as the old one. The hybrid engine is combined with a continuously variable automatic transmission which always keeps the petrol engine in a narrow rev range thats best suited for maximum fuel efficiency. All this makes the Prius the most efficient family car on the market. It returns amazing fuel economy figures - 51 mpg in the city and 48 mpg on the highway. Only smaller cars with tiny engines can beat it. Not only do these official figures sound impressive but this is a car you can be confident will return these kind of stats without having to press the accelerator with a feather. The 2009 Prius returned slightly worse fuel consumption figures at 48 mpg for the city and 45 mpg on the highway. Emissions on the Prius are similarly best in class at only 89 grams of CO2 per km.
The suspension on the Prius is very soft and results in quite significant cornering lean. On the plus side, the ride is very smooth, but really the suspension needs stiffening up on this car. The steering feels good but you need to be aware you're on very skinny low resistance tyres. The Prius has a very tight turning circle which is ideal for city driving. The regenerative brakes take some getting used to as they're on the sensitive side. Overall the Prius is neither a bad car to drive nor will it excite you very much either.
The styling of the Prius hasn't changed all that much since it was first released and after 6 years its starting to look a bit aged. When the Prius first hit our streets, housing all that new technology, its styling looked suitably futuristic. But things have changed in the six years since. Now it looks slightly dull and boring - not the sort of image Toyota want to portray. I understand that this design came about because of its highly aerodynamic properties but this can't be the only shape that gives such low drag. I think Toyota need to sharpen up the styling before they get overtaken.
Inside the Prius, large windows provide excellent visibility. Passenger space is very good - 5 adults can travel in comfort with good head and leg room. Cargo space is similarly good for this size of car so it should make for a practical family car. Although the base Prius models are priced quite reasonably, the luxury models take the price up considerably and with that in mind some of the interior plastics do look a bit cheap for the price.
Safety is very good. The Prius is equipped with front, side and curtain airbags, anti lock brakes and optional stability control. In crash tests the Prius achieved respectable four and five star ratings.
Included in the optional Advanced Technology Package are several further safety features which are at the cutting edge of technology. Radar cruise control automatically slows the Prius if the car in front slows down, then resumes cruising speed when its safe to do so. A pre-collision system tightens seatbelts and applies the brakes if a potential collision is detected. Lastly, automatic lane keeping will prevent the Prius from wandering out of its lane on the highway.
The Prius reinforces its hi-tech status with generous standard equipment and exciting optional features. The car comes with a push button start system, 6 speaker MP3 CD stereo, cruise control, multi informational display and multiple steering wheel buttons for hands free operations. Options include GPS navigation, solar cabin ventilation, seat heaters, parallel parking assist and rear reversing camera. The solar cabin ventilation is an interesting new feature of the Prius. A solar panel on the roof powers a cabin ventilation fan which keeps the cars interior cool when the car is parked.
Overall the Prius still leads the way in the hybrid car market. It has the best fuel economy in its size class and Toyota are doing more all the time to produce the car in an environmentally friendly way. Green credentials aside, the Prius also packs great high tech features. I especially like the new safety features of the 2010 model such as the radar cruise control, auto lane keeping and collision avoidance system. Despite minor issues with driving dynamics the Prius performs well on the road and is pleasant to drive. The only downside is the cars styling which for me is starting to look a little old. This is an excellent hybrid car that has so much going for it and most other eco cars simply don't get anywhere near it.
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