The Bottom Line
- Innovative styling with a triangular silhouette replaces the old "bubble look"
- More total interior volume and crisp handling
- More total vehicle power with better fuel economy
- Even better Hybrid Synergy Drive
- Transition from engine off/on/off almost completely undetectable
- Over-the-shoulder rear visibility still a bit of a problem (use that camera)
- Suspension damping a little weak on choppy roads
- Very aerodynamic with a Coefficient of Drag of only 0.25
- New 1.8-liter DOHC 16-valve VVT-i Atkinson cycle engine
- Electronic Throttle Control with intelligence
- High output Nickel-Metal Hydride hybrid battery
- New compact motor/generators (MG1 and MG2) operate at 650 volts
- New chainless gear drive continuously variable transmission (CVT)
- Beltless all-electric accessories (A/C, power steering, water pump)
- Exhaust Heat Recirculation for reduced engine warm-up time and quicker engine-off time for EV operation
- Cool Exhaust Gas Recirculation for reduced exhaust heat and better fuel efficiency
- SULEV (with AT-PZEV) emissions rating
Guide Review - 2010 Toyota Prius Driving Impressions
To stave off the challenge from Honda’s brand new Insight, the trusty Prius has received a boat-load of upgrades and improvements. Yes, the face is prettier, the interior is roomier, but the meat of the enhancement is in the make-it-go hardware. Toyota’s engineers redeveloped more than 90 percent of the Hybrid Synergy Drive components. A brand new 1.8-liter engine replaces the old 1.5 for more low-end torque. The all-new transaxle is lighter and reduces torque losses by 20 percent. Both the NiMH battery and Power Control Unit are more compact and powerful, and finally, a set of three switches on the console lets the driver choose among EV (electric only at 25 mph for up to a mile), ECO and POWER modes to custom tailor the drivetrain’s response to changing driving conditions.
OK, so the hardware is better across-the-board, but what’s it like to get behind the wheel and hit some curves and hills? This car is just flat-out fun to drive. It’s not a pocket rocket by any means (nor is it intended to be), but handling is tight and predictable and straight-line stability (never a Prius hallmark) is much improved over previous generations. And finally, yes, four-wheel disc brakes--thank you Toyota! All of that under-body cladding and aero tweaking appears to help handling as much as does efficiency. Come to a steep grade where you need a little more umph and push the PWR MODE button. Instantly the 4-banger belts out extra mid-range torque. And when you crest that hill, go back to ECO MODE for thrifty driving.
I need my normal week of extended seat time to really get to know the third generation Prius. When it finally hits the press fleet later this spring I’ll give an in-depth test drive and review. For now, let's just say I am initially impressed and can't wait for my week-long-try-every-button-and-push-every-curve test drive.