2010 Toyota Prius

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Date Posted: July 13, 2009
By Zack Spencer

Proven in the Taxi world and embraced by hybrid buyers, this new 201o Toyota Prius takes efficient driving to the next level.

 Toyota has made a strong effort to use recycled materials on the inside of the 2010 Prius
 A nice looking dash but the feel of the plastic is cheap
 The cargo are is free to use because the battery has been placed under the rear seat
 The interior has been updated but is still covered with hard plastic
 The overall shape of the 2010 Prius is designed to carve through the air with maximum efficiency
 The hatchback design offers a lot of space, on-par with most mid-sized cars
 The roof-line of the 2010 Prius has been raised for more passenger room

The Scoop

Hybrid vehicles are no longer fringe vehicles adopted by a few buyers wanting to effect change and make a statement. After the early adoption of the Prius as the vehicle of choice in the Vancouver taxi business, the Prius has been legitimized making it mainstream. In fact, Yellow Cab #15 which is currently in service has been driven over 1.3 million km's. The driver of Yellow Cab #15 told me that it drives just as well as any other Prius in the fleet and at the end of his 12-hour shift he never puts in more than $20 worth of gas. Yes car #15 has had components changed over the years, just like any taxi, but this kind of real world punishment is a testament to the durability and functionality of the Prius. Expect to see the new 2010 Prius implemented in more taxi fleets, let alone average drivers.

The Skin

When most people think about a hybrid car, the image of the Prius probably comes to mind. With that in mind, Toyota didn't want to stray from the recognizable shape of the car but evolve it into a more attractive machine. Every crease and accent on the car has been thoroughly tested for aerodynamic effect from the shape of the bumper to the side accent line running the length of the car. What you can't see is the amount of work under the car to help it slip efficiently through the air. The most significant change is the high point on the roof that has been moved towards the middle of the car to make the interior more open and roomy. The 2010 model defiantly looks like a Prius, it is when you see it next to the older model that the updates become more noticeable.

The Cockpit

The inside of the Prius remains a marvel of interior efficiency, especially the roomy back seats, no wonder these cars work so well as a taxicab. The dashboard has been nicely updated to include a wrap around centre console, which is clad with plant-derived bio-plastic. The Prius now comes with a height adjustable drivers seat, telescopic steering wheel, knee air bag, keyless entry and an improved information centre to aid the driver in achieving the best fuel consumption. The base price is less expensive than the outgoing model and now starts at $27,500. The premium version starts at $29,610 and has an optional solar panel above the cabin to power the ventilation system on hot days and to reduce the load on the air conditioning. The prius is considered a mid-sized car due to the vast interior volume and much of that is under the large flip up hatch. The cargo floor is low making it easy to access the cargo area.

The Ride

Here are a few stats. The 2010 Prius is 22% more powerful than the outgoing model but is 7% more efficient. In fact, the Prius is rated at 3.7L/100km in the city and 4.0L/100km on the highway. Toyota claims the Prius has comparable accelerate to a 2.4 L engine. How can a car be more powerful and more efficient? There is no one thing; the Prius is the culmination of all the refinements made from aerodynamics, reduced load on the engine, lighter electric motors, lighter transmission, a more condensed batter pack and advanced electronics. 90 % of the drive system has been revised. Even the driver can greatly affect the amount of fuel used by selecting the ''ECO'' or full electric modes on the dash. The full electric option is only effective for 1-2km of continuous driving.

Verdict

The Prius is the most high profile hybrid on the road but I was surprised to find out it isn't the best seller in Canada, the Toyota Camry Hybrid outsells the Prius almost 2 to 1. The conventional design of that car helps it to blend in, but maybe the traditional sedan shape makes it more appealing? Could it be the larger, more powerful 4-cylinder engine? The decision to buy a new 2010 Prius over another hybrid or small efficient car is easier now that the price is more attractive and the improvements to the car make it less of a compromise to drive, plus it sips fuel.

The Good, The Bad

Good: Styling tweaks have taken the Prius from a face only a mother could love into a more mainstream car. The dash is much better, especially the introduction of a centre console. The interior space is ample and the higher roof gives more headroom to rear passengers.

Bad: Even though the dash looks better, the plastic is hard and feels cheap. Still a very sedate way to get from A to B, the drive is uninspiring and at times the Prius feels sluggish.

The Lowdown

Power: 1.8L 4-cylinder plus electric motor equals 134 net hp

Fill-up: 3.7L/100km city and 4.0L/100km highway

Backup: 3-year/60,000km 8-year/160,000 on hybrid system

Sticker price: $27,500-$31,345

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