Despite Early Issues, 2010 Toyota Prius Best Yet

(All photos courtesy Toyota)

Toyota Prius is the ubiquitous hybrid. And yes, I did have to look that word up.

The 2010 model is the third generation Prius to hit U.S. soil and this new midsize model bring better fuel economy, enhanced performance and modern styling to the platform. It is roomier, quieter and equipped with all of the latest technology including offering a moonroof complete with solar panels, four driving modes, Intelligent Parking Assist and steering wheel touch controls that display on the instrument panel.

“The Prius has evolved with our customers over the past 10 years and is now more things to more people,” said Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager, Toyota Division. “It’s environmental, innovative and practical. It’s an everyday car for everyday use, and we believe that its new features will appeal to returning owners, while at the same time attract buyers who are looking for innovative technology with a hybrid powertrain.”

The Prius (whose name means “to go before” in Latin) entered the global market in 1997 as the world’s first mass-produced hybrid and the modern Hybrid Synergy Drive system came to bear in 2004 with the second-gen car.

At the heart of this propulsion system is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that now uses no belts under the hood for enhanced efficiency. Water pump and power steering components are now all electric drive and the Prius has been a true hybrid since day one, meaning it can run on electric only, gas only or any combination of the two through a balance of parallel and series hybrid designs.

The 2010 Hybrid Synergy Drive system is 90 percent new featuring lighter components and state-of-the-art technology.

Aerodynamics are also apparent in the new design. The stylish wedge shape slices into the air producing less drag than ever before. Eerily odd is just how much this hybrid looks like the new Honda Insight hybrid. Hmmmmm.

Operationally, the Prius is very similar on the road to its predecessor, however drivers can now choose EV operation only or the fuel-sipping ECO mode. For me, however, rarely did I switch from the power mode. This offers full benefit of battery and gas engines at launch and the responsive nature of the duo produce a feeling of at least a V-6 under the hood.

New Prius packaging is more simplistic – just order up a combo number II, III, IV or V. (No. I was removed from the menu per the health inspector.)
Our recent 2010 Prius was a V, so basically loaded to the gills with as much as Toyota could pour into the hybrid without hurting fuel economy due to extra weight.

The EPA ratings for the 2010 are 51 mpg city and 48 mpg highway. And for those of you still asking why a hybrid gets better gas mileage in town than on the highway, well, go back to your cave and figure out what you want to kill for tonight’s dinner.

Pricing for the new Prius V begins at $27,270 with our tester coming in at over 32 grand thanks to the advanced technology package added on (complete with dynamic radar cruise, lane keep assist, intelligent park assist and voice-activated nav system).

Some of you may recall (pun intended) some issues with early 2010 model Prius’ concerning braking. Hopefully those of you who own one that was affected in the recall have returned to your dealer and gotten this taken care of. During my week behind the wheel I attempted to replicate some of the driving conditions drivers were listing as times when the Prius would “misbehave.” I was never able to detect any braking problems (or any problems for that matter) in my Prius tester.

And yes, for the 2010 Toyota Prius, there’s an app for that.

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