Review: 2010 Toyota Prius – Take Two

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer
review 2010 toyota prius take two

Let’s get one thing straight: There are very few inanimate objects which inspire my personal appreciation, respect, and interest as much as the 2010 Toyota Prius does. It’s a happy-faced, slick, aerodynamically-optimized, practical, comfortable and dead-reliable vehicle which exists for the sole purpose of letting concerned Americans feel like they are making a small but genuine difference in their efforts to reduce their consumption of the world’s finite resources.

I will go to my grave believing that Toyota made an incredible corporate gamble to spend a billion of their hard-earned dollars against all odds to commit to the development and production of the Prius in the mid-nineties right during a period of historic low oil prices for the sole purpose of arming Toyota with the advanced technology for a global future of ever-scarcer oil, and

that the Prius began to make a profit years sooner than is often rumored, in a way that no automotive nameplate that does not begin with “Toyota” would consider even vaguely possible. Over time, the Prius has opened the eyes and minds of many of its most ardent detractors. In my perfect world, it would extend the same service to the few remaining narrow-minded, mouth-breathing, blinders-wearing, right-shoulder-passing mullet-mobile owners.

A little harsh, lacking in punctuation, and yet strangely familiar? My rant is a word-for-word mirror image of an anti-Prius diatribe heard here at TTAC recently. Well, the Prius does tend to generate highly polarizing points of view. Which evoke less-than stellar memories of my high-school hallways and the Vietnam War era. Back then, the rant was “America, love it or leave it”. And now we’re wishing death to . . . owners of a certain car?

But Jack Baruth’s editorial moves on to the more mundane question of how we at TTAC should rate cars (in the number of stars sense). Your vote in the poll is overwhelmingly clear: 86% prefer Option #1 — Rate the car in accordance with how well it performs its particular intended mission. I hear you, and Jack and I actually agree on something.

From the beginning, the Prius was conceived of and designed to be one thing only: an ultra-efficient, economical and practical compact car ( here’s an interesting story on its origins). So I’ll leave the critique of the Prius’ Corolla-like interior appointments, steering feel and handling and the Prius’ limitations in flying up long mountain grades to others. Anyway, my feelings about the Corolla have been made quite clear here. And the 2010 Prius and current Corolla are more alike then ever, both having been “rationalized” (rationed?) by Toyota in the pursuit of cost control and higher profits.

I tested a stripper 2010 Prius II with a price of $22,000 (plus $750 delivery) bought by my neighbor. A comparably equipped Corolla

XLE lists for $19,489. The “hybrid premium” amounts to $3261. Ownership costs for both vehicles are very similar except for fuel. At $3 gas, and 15k miles annually, the Prius saves $652/year; at $5 gas, it’s $1100/year thriftier.

My neighbor is replacing a Corolla she bought new twenty years ago (and still looks great). She expects to keep the Prius equally long. Given the likely twenty-year trend of gas prices, she’s going to come out way ahead with the Prius. In fact, if gas averages only $5, the Prius will repay its entire purchase cost in fuel cost savings. Pious or practical?

I took the Prius on a sixty-mile drive of back roads with winding and hilly sections as well as long straights and returned via the freeway. It did not come as a big surprise to me that response was quicker in the Power mode than in the Eco mode Nor should it to you or other test drivers. And the “OM” emitted by the engine on acceleration and hills would be highly appreciated by certain meditative sects. They would also undoubtedly rate the Prius’ serene highway manners highly for Zen Driving Meditation.

I’m not a practiced Prius hypermiler, but with a little sensitivity to the pedal formerly known as the throttle, I found myself in pure EV-only operation for some extended periods on winding, undulating stretches at around 40-45 mph. The Prius felt like it was coasting with the engine off . . . even uphill. A new challenge for engaging driving that doesn’t shred tires.

But no test of the Prius is complete without some freeway shenanigans. No attempts to break the 300km/h barrier here. But drafting behind a semi at 61 mph shot the economy meter into the 100+ mpg range (see photo for proof). And then the

ultimate Prius test: holding up traffic in the right lane. On a thirty-mile level stretch in the valley, cruise-controlled 65mph yielded 55+ mpg. Being even more obnoxious, at 60mph the meter was well over 60 mpg. Unfortunately, traffic was so light that I couldn’t really create a traffic jam or inspire right-shoulder passing, despite my best efforts. My trip total was just a tick over 50 mpg, despite forcing the Prius to chant lots of OMs.

On the way back through town, I made good use of the 2010 Prius’ most significant new feature, the EV Mode. It allows speeds up to about 15mph for as long as a mile, absolutely perfect for sneaking up on and scaring unsuspecting pedestrians and bikers.

Cars are kind of like people: they’re happier when they stick to their intended life mission and are judged accordingly. The Prius knows its mission and carries it out well. It’s a practical, comfortable, reliable and u;tra-efficient transportation device. It’s earned a bit of smugness along with its five stars.

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  • Priamprius Priamprius on Jul 30, 2010

    Until Tuesday I had a lovely 2005 Prius. On Tuesday it was destroyed by a very large old gas guzzling pick-up truck. The 2005 has driven Canada from Coast to Coast and north all the way to Dawson City in the Yukon. Mileage claim 4.2l/100km, realized in my driving 4.5/100Km but that probably is a result of switching the OEM low rolling resistance tires for Noikian WR all weather radials. Comments: Acceleration - it isn't my old 240Z, but I have never felt any lack of power. A little slow from a full stop, but passing on the highway is truly elegant as the electric motor has enormous torque and sends you zipping past the 15m long campers. Handling - the well distributed weight gives sports car like handling and with the Noikian radials the car handles better on ice than my RAV4 or the company Ford 4x4. It isn't a snow plow and can get challenged by really deep snow, but so would any small car. Comfort - better than my Volvo DL, better than my Camry Repairs in 5 years - NONE Cons - the thermometer in the dash only goes down to -30 Celsius which is really not good enough in the Yukon and at those temperatures the electric heater struggles to keep your toes toasty. Fuel consumption goes up by about 1l/100km when the temperature drops below zero but I had no problems with cold weather starts. In fact, since the big battery gets you rolling before the gas engine starts it goes when other things stop dead. At -40 C some strange things started to happen with the regenerative braking, but it settled down as soon as brakes warmed up a bit. So despite the loss of my 2005, I look forward to seeing if the 2010 is indeed a better vehicle. PS - I wouldn't compare the Prius to the Corolla. In fit, finish and size I would compare it to the Camry.

  • Tonyyyyyyy Tonyyyyyyy on Mar 25, 2012

    This article is old, but worth put in a comment. Three weeks ago, I bought me a used 2010 Prius. I thought it was well equiped although I would love to have a few more bells and whistles just for bragging rights. No complaints here. One thing I noticed is the fuel consumption. The rated fuel consumption (48 mpg city, 46 mpg highway) is poorly measured. City number is somewhat acceptable, but the 46 mph highway is grossly wrong. I got 53.7 mpg and the number was still climbing as I continued driving it over the past 3 weeks, 1200 miles since purchased. My intention was to stay green as much as I could, and this car does it beautifully: Less pollution to the air, and more money in my pocket. The car does look girly but I don't mind. I don't complain about the somewhat noisy ride, because I turned the music much louder to share it with the other drivers in the traffic jam.

  • Dusterdude @SCE to AUX , agree CEO pay would equate to a nominal amount if split amongst all UAW members . My point was optics are bad , both total compensation and % increases . IE for example if Mary Barra was paid $10 million including merit bonuses , is that really underpaid ?
  • ToolGuy "At risk of oversimplification, a heat pump takes ambient air, compresses it, and then uses the condenser’s heat to warm up the air it just grabbed from outside."• This description seems fairly dramatically wrong to me.
  • SCE to AUX The UAW may win the battle, but it will lose the war.The mfrs will never agree to job protections, and production outsourcing will match any pay increases won by the union.With most US market cars not produced by Detroit, how many people really care about this strike?
  • El scotto My iPhone gets too hot while using the wireless charging in my BMW. One more line on why someone is a dumbazz list?
  • Buickman yeah, get Ron Fellows each time I get a Vette. screw Caddy.