By on May 3, 2010

There’s a first time for everything. In this case, being admonished by my wife for “only doing 30.” To which I readily replied, “Babe, we’re still accelerating!” Welcome to the 2010 Prius, loved by owners, hated by many non-owners. I asked Toyota to lend me one for a week so that I might get past the hype and anti-hype.

The original Prius didn’t sell well, at least not in the United States. Part of the reason: it looked like a cheap econobox. People inherently want a car’s uniqueness to be expressed in its appearance, and the original Prius (and virtually all hybrids without unique sheetmetal) have failed singularly in this regard. In contrast, the second-generation Prius succeeded spectacularly on the strength of its now-iconic Kammback shape.

But the second-generation Prius was not an attractive car. The peak in the arched roofline was too far forward, throwing off the car’s proportions. And the wheels were too small and appeared clunky. The 2010 redesign addresses these shortcomings. The peak in the roofline has been shifted rearward, the body is much better proportioned, and the bodyside surfacing is much more refined. Attractive five-spoke 17-inch alloys are part of the top option package. Overall, the car looks much less odd, while retaining a distinctively Prius look. All in all, there’s much less reason to hate the third-generation car from an aesthetic standpoint.

Inside, the new Prius is mostly hard plastic, yet especially with the optional leather upholstery—with wave-patterned perforations–still looks and feels much more upscale than the thwarted challenger from Honda. The Prius’s interior design is perhaps overly sci-fi, but at least this theme is more warranted than in other similarly-affected Toyotas. One missed element from previous generations: the large, prominent, oh-so-entertaining multi-colored power generation and distribution display has been downsized and robbed of its dramatic coloration in the new car.

The Prius remains about as roomy inside as a midsize car, and roomier than the Honda Insight, especially in the somewhat low but otherwise adult-worthy back seat. Perceived roominess in the front seat has taken a hit from a much more prominent center console. I personally like the sportier ambiance this console creates, but some, perhaps even most people would prefer the additional room provided by a less intrusive center console. One ergonomic oddity: the seat heater switches are buried beneath this floating console. More of an inconvenience: the infotainment display automatically defaults to nav after a few seconds even if you want to keep viewing something else, such as the XM radio screen.

Visibility from the driver’s seat is better than the swoopy styling suggests it will be. The header above the windshield isn’t too low, the pillars aren’t too thick, and you don’t feel like you’re gazing across acres of instrument panel. The view rearward isn’t quite so good, since the rear glass is narrow and split vertically.

One packaging feat carried over from the second generation: despite the space taken up by the hybrid componentry—it nearly eliminates the trunk passthrough in the Camry Hybrid—there’s a useful amount of cargo room beneath the rear hatch. Sadly, the front passenger seat does not fold forward to further extend the length of the load floor.

And now, the topic raised in the intro: the car’s performance, or lack thereof. With its Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gas engine now enlarged to 1.8 liters, the Prius is not inherently a slow car. Cast away all thoughts of efficiency and it’ll get to sixty in about ten seconds. Back in the 1980s, when I first started driving, this would have counted as quick, and it’s still quicker than most people need a car to be.

The thing is, the Prius is designed so that even a driving enthusiast will seek joy elsewhere, specifically in maximizing fuel economy. A display located poor man’s HUD style near the base of the windshield offers a wide array of information options, which can be selected on the move using controls mounts on the steering wheel. These include a bar that displays, in real time, the efficiency of your throttle and brake inputs. Keeping this bar within the efficiency-maximizing range becomes an entertaining challenge. To facilitate, an “Eco” mode can be selected to dramatically retard throttle responses. The engine provides further feedback. Employ these tools together and you get acceleration so gentle that my wife was unaware it was happening.

No matter, I was going to find out just how efficient the Prius could be. No crazy hypermiling tricks, but most certainly judicious throttle inputs, taking corners with a minimum of slowing down, and scanning the road well ahead to avoid calling for a more rapid reduction in velocity than the regenerative braking could provide. The upshot: over that particular ten-mile stretch of suburban driving, which included about half a dozen full stops (took advantage of traffic circles and hit some lights just right), the trip computer reported 66.4 MPG even with two adults and three kids on board. Even if the trip computer is, as has been alleged but I did not confirm or refute, a bit optimistic, this was none too shabby.

Over my week with the Prius I experimented with all three calibrations. “Power” quickens the car’s responses dramatically, at the cost of perhaps two MPG as long as you continue to drive with efficiency in mind. Overall I saw about 52 MPG. My wife, who didn’t modify her driving behavior in the slightest, achieved 50. Drive the Prius like you stole it and the MPG drops into the 30s. But it certainly doesn’t ask to be driven that way, not even in “Power” mode. Given the minimal impact of “Eco” mode, and the sluggish feel it imparts, it seems of little benefit as long as you’re able to control your right foot.

The largest problem with “Eco” mode: even if you don’t mind accelerating slowly, and doing so becomes second nature in the Prius, the car behind you does. Expect to be tailgated, even if the light up ahead is clearly red.

The powertrain design does continue to impede traditional sources of driving enjoyment. There’s a decent amount of power, but minimal control over the powertrain. You press on the accelerator, then the car’s computer decides how to apportion the supply of power between the gas engine and a pair of electric motors. The transmission is a CVT, but not the belt-and-pulleys sort. Instead, it’s a planetary gearset that serves to determine how much engine power goes to the wheels and how much into electricity generation in addition to altering the transmission ratio. Unlike in the Honda Insight EX, with a conventional CVT that serves solely to alter the ratio between the engine speed and the wheel speed, there’s no way to hold the transmission at a specific ratio. So get used to having a computer as an intermediary.

What the powertrain does best in typical driving: deliver smooth, quiet acceleration with none of the shifting of a conventional automatic. Push harder, and engine noise markedly increases, and the sensation, typical of a CVT, that a clutch is slipping. Though this noise isn’t too objectionable, consider it one more efficiency-facilitating bit of feedback.

Another reason the original Prius didn’t sell well: clunky transitions between the hybrid and conventional powertrain and braking systems. These transitions were considerably smoother with the second-generation, and they’re often unnoticeable in the latest iteration. Don’t try to detect them, and you won’t notice them.

Handling improved from the first to the second generation, and has improved again with the new car. The latest Prius feels more stable and composed than earlier iterations, pretty much like a good conventional compact. Roll in turns has been reduced to the point where only driving enthusiasts will desire less of it. The steering is numb, but this is typical of today’s cars, and it’s not overly light (unlike in the Camry I had the previous week). A larger issue: the Prius has a more ponderous feel than conventional cars this size. It’s only a little over 3,000 pounds, but feels like it’s pushing two tons.

Typical of a Toyota, the 2010 Prius feels especially smooth at low speeds, and it remains quiet at highway speeds, with almost no wind noise and just a small amount of road noise. The ride is more taut than in the past, and with the 17-inch wheel option some Euro-style thumpiness over minor pavement imperfections implies that the tires are overinflated. The Honda Insight rides much more noisily and bumpily, and feels cruder and cheaper. Between this and the interior appearance, it’s as if Honda set out to create a $20,000 car, while Toyota set out to create a $30,000 car.

The problem for Honda: the Prius isn’t much more expensive than the new Insight. Base price to base price, the Toyota is $3,000 more, with a base price of $23,550. But The Prius also includes about $2,400 in additional standard equipment. Adjust for this, and the Prius is only about $700 more. And its advantages are easily worth $700. The tested car listed for $32,720, but it included a large number of features that are not even available on the Honda.

Despite all of the talk of declining Toyota quality, the Prius remains among the most reliable cars you can buy, judging from responses to TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey. Usually the more complex a model is, the more problems it has. So the Prius’s exemplary reliability is especially surprising. Even among older cars—and the 2004s are, on average, approaching the 100,000-mile mark– battery replacements remain rare.

The Prius is certainly not a driver’s car in the traditional sense, and no enthusiast would want one as an only car. But as a commuter, especially if the commute tends to be stop-and-go, the Prius makes a lot of sense. In addition to outstanding fuel economy, the Toyota offers reliability, a roomy, functional interior, the highly refined feel pioneered by Lexus, and, with the latest revision, even a stylish exterior. That Toyota has managed to bundle all of these attributes and leading-edge technology into a package most new car buyers can afford borders on incredible. So I forgive the Prius its numb steering, the prevalence of tailgaters in its constricted rear view, and even the never-before-heard orders from my wife to drive faster.

Toyota provided the vehicles, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online provider of auto pricing and reliability data

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94 Comments on “Review: 2010 Toyota Prius...”

  • avatar

    This thing sounds like the Ultimate Snooze Machine. My Mazda 6 may not be fuel efficient, but I’ll take the bus (and I hate the bus) before I settle for a Prius.

    • 0 avatar

      Let me tell you what riding the bus is like:
      You stand on the side of the road 30-60 minutes waiting for the bus to get there. You get on the bus and find a seat. The seats are hard, and the bus is full of stinky people. The inside of the bus is noisy due to the diesel engine. The ride is bumpy, and the bus rocks back and forth with each turn it makes. Once you’re on the bus, it still takes twice as long for the bus to get to your destination compared to driving.

      Here’s what driving a Prius is like:
      You go directly to your Prius, press the power button, and drive to your destination. The car has comfortable seats and isn’t full of any stinky people. It’s got a radio, air conditioner, power windows, and a gps navigation system. It has a comfortable ride. You get to your destination, complete your task, and then go back to your Prius and drive home. On the drive home you might see the bus that you would have taken that is still going towards your original destination.

    • 0 avatar

      Your description of riding most buses is very accurate.
      Even a used Yaris is like rediscovering fire after a week dealing with the noise, filth, stench and time wasted on the bus.

    • 0 avatar

      I dunno where you live, but here, the buses only run that far apart at the very early and late hours. Otherwise, buses run as frequently as every 7 minutes. And the typical people that ride the bus are not stinky, questionable drug users, or miscreants of society, but middle class people in clean clothes trying to get from point a to point b in a way that’s cheaper than driving.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d ride the bus to work every day if I didn’t have to make a transfer. If you look up the bus schedule, you won’t have to wait very long at all for the bus. The people on the bus aren’t smelly or dirty. When I ride the bus, I bring along a book. Instead of fighting rush hour traffic, when I ride the bus, I get to leave the traffic to someone else. The route that I take when I ride the bus to work only runs about every hour, but if I worked downtown, the bus runs every few minutes.

  • avatar

    ZZzzzZZZZZzzzz…wuh, what?

    Well, it would be fun for techno-types I suppose. This car would be more at home on Gizmodo than TTAC or some other automotive website. I wouldn’t consider it even if I wanted it as a roomy stop-and-go commuter, because of all the political implications and getting sh*t from people who are still quoting the South Park episode like it’s witty. I’d prefer a hybrid that doesn’t look like a hybrid, but apparently I’m a minority.

    • 0 avatar

      I refuse to let others’ perceptions dictate which cars I own.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, it would be fun for techno-types I suppose

      Why can’t you be an enthusiast and like technology? I’m always astounded at how conservative—to the point of Luddism—car people are.

      There was a time when automobilia looked forward, not back.

    • 0 avatar
      John R


      I’m not. I love the techno-powerhouse that’s the complete anti-Prius, Nissan’s R35 GT-R…and if Porsche can deliver on the promise of it’s 918, I’ll love that one, too.

  • avatar

    Perhaps it’s no accident that the rear visibility is lacking. Tailgaters? Out of sight, out of mind.

  • avatar

    While I don’t want to pigeonhole all Prius drivers, I do have to say I *hate* the ones who choose to use “eventual-celeration” from stoplights.

    • 0 avatar

      Why, Bancho? Is that extra few seconds here or there going, on average, to get you somewhere that much quicker – really? ;)

    • 0 avatar

      I assure you, it’s more than “a few seconds”.

      I certainly don’t drive as if I’ve been shot out of a gun (2006 Fusion with 4cyl/5-speed doesn’t roll like that anyhow…) but I like to get to my cruising speed and enjoy the ride from there. This particular breed of Prius driver thwarts that and aggravates me. They’ll get to their cruising speed just in time to begin decelerating for the next light (which they wouldn’t have had to stop for if they got up to speed a little quicker).

      On the bright side, they aren’t all like this so it’s not like I’m aggravated every day. Thanks for your concern ivyinvestor.

    • 0 avatar

      If fewer people peeled out of stoplights, we’d probably use quite a bit less fuel. It’s not like, in urban crawl, you’ll make more than a few minutes up anyways.

      I used to use the boost gauge in my Saab as a kind of economy-meter. If it hit yellow often, I’d pay for it. It would be good if more cars did this.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m averaging 30mpg in mixed driving with the Fusion (calculated by miles driven/fuel pumped at each fillup). I think my personal consumption is reasonable. I also use the instant fuel readout on the dash. It agrees with me that getting to speed in a reasonable time (but not drag race style) then cruising at 45ish is better for my mileage than a long drawn out accelleration.

    • 0 avatar

      Slow acceleration on city streets doesn’t bug me much. It’s the people who wander up onramps at 40, “merge” going 45, and then spend the next 2 miles getting up to highway speed that drive me insane. And this is not about going fast. I generally cruise at about 60 in the slow lane. It’s about safely interacting with other traffic.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with Bancho. On my old commute route, I had one urban intersection that always seemed to back up. When the light was green, perhaps 8 or 10 cars could get through using moderate and safe levels of acceleration. However, one hypermiler at the front of the line could often mean that only 3 or 4 cars could make it through on a green.

      So, the guy in front may save a 10th of a mpg that morning, but the 5 others who were to wait idling for an additional few minutes… and then the others who eventually had to idle longer as the line grew behind them… would be wasting fuel and polluting needlessly.

      So, I think the argument should be playing well with other traffic so that everybody can drive smoothly and with less wasted idling (of course, the Prius doesn’t “idle” per se as the gas engine shuts off, but I’m referring to the other 98% of the cars on the road).

    • 0 avatar

      I think Bancho has a point. The person who drives slowly in front of me is obviously a worthless layabout whose unemployed ass has nothing better to do than waste time while I am trying to get to work, while the guy accelerating hard behind me and tailgating aggressively is obviously a pretentious asshole who thinks that whatever he has going on is more important than what I do.

      Clearly, the correct speed to drive is the one that I choose, everyone else should take note so they wouldn’t have to drive like idiots all the time.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m generally polite and considerate to other drivers, provided they aren’t weaving across 5 lanes talking on their cellphones.

      However, I make an exception for Prius drivers.  I NEVER let them in, run them off into slow lanes (or off the road completely) if possible, block them from merging, cut them off with inches to spare (just to scare the cr*p out of them), etc.

      If they think using 1 gallon per 50 miles (50 mpg) instead of using 1.25 gallons per 50 miles (40 mpg) is so f-ing important that they have to waste the lives of the people stuck behind them, they can just wait in the slow lane until people who actually have something valuable to do with their time decide to let them get on the road.

  • avatar

    Sorry, but just like the car itself, this review put me right to sleep.

  • avatar

    Guess I’m getting old, I enjoyed the review. Not that I’m planning to buy one, but it’s encouraging to see Toyota continue to refine and improve this unique platform. May not be the car for everybody, but Toyota has found a pretty big niche and they’re treating it right.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. I test-drove a Gen 2 Prius and didn’t like it.

      But the center console on the Gen 3 is a huge turnoff for me. I hate the closed-in sensation it produces; you can’t even reach to the other side of the car to pick up something dropped on the floor.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    I don’t see why Toyota can’t get proper credit for doing something extremely well. Last I heard, no one was forced to buy a Prius. Truth is, it’s a damn clever creation and just right for quite a number of folks. Is that really so bad? BTW, this was an excellent review that really covered all bases. Good work, Michael!

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a good car, and Michael covered all the bases well. That said, it doesn’t automatically merit fawning praise from the commenters.

      I’ve spent plenty of time in the 2nd gen Prius and while it’s a great commuter and has proven very reliable it doesn’t really make me want to own one.

  • avatar

    Has anyone noticed that the Prius owner is the equivalent of Dodge Dart owners 35 years ago?

  • avatar

    “Expect to be tailgated, even if the light up ahead is clearly red.”

    Around here, you don’t have to be driving a Prius for this experience. I’m not a hyper-miler, but seriously, folks, the light isn’t going to get less red if we race up to it instead of coasting up to it. Put down the cell phone and pay attention to traffic.

    • 0 avatar

      Too true. Brakes makes waste.

      If the light ahead is red, I let off the gas. I also do check the mirror to make sure I’m not going to stack people up on the wrong side fo the light but why waste fuel racing to a red light?

      Often enough, it turns green and I won’t have to entirely stop. Accelerating from 10 to 40 or 20 to 40 takes less fuel than 0 to 40.

      Ironically, if I owned a hybrid (and I expect to), I’ll probably get tailgated less. I’ll be able to move towards the red a bit faster and use the regenerative braking to recapture energy for takeoff. It still won’t get me there faster but it will be less stressful for the people behind me who believe you must race to the light.

    • 0 avatar

      KixStart Regenerative braking only gets you about 1/3 of your speed back, so coasting would still be more efficient.

    • 0 avatar

      Are you sure? My understanding is that it’s highly efficient (85%) up to a certain rate (deceleration rate or charging rate depending on which way you’re looking at it) and then if more rapid decelaration was desired, the real brakes were also applied to increase deceleration and you start to lose energy as waste heat.

      If what you say is true, that is unfortunate, as I really wanted those guys off my tail. Driving sensibly seems to really stress many people out.

    • 0 avatar

      You know, it’s usually the cellphone people that are puttering up to the next light at 6 mph.  People who are paying attention tend to drive faster.  I’d say driving outrageously slow it a good indicator that someone is chatting away; the cellphone saps concentration from driving, so to compensate, most people subconsciously slow down.  That way, when they only notice the red light 10 ft away from the intersection, they have a greater chance of stopping in time.  People who don’t have bad instincts and are great candidates for Darwinism.

  • avatar

    Nice review, although I was hoping to hear about the feature that causes Prius owners to drive 50 mph in the fast lane of the highway.

  • avatar

    I bought one of these a month ago, to replace my old Camry V6.
    I’m not an eco-weeny, although I feel a strong desire to purchase less gas.
    With that in mind, I have to report something that sounds really hokey, but is simply the truth: this car will teach you a new way of driving.
    Instead of rush, rush, slam, slam, driving is again a source of relaxation, even meditation. I love it. You still get everywhere in time; you just start to notice how wasteful and silly other people are (including myself when I drive my other car). This is not something you realize in advance. You can’t find it out in a test drive, either. During my test drive I was flooring it all the time, trying to find out if the Prius can drive like a little sports car (yes, it can). But now I’ve learned that’s entirely beside the point. So I leave it in Eco-mode all the time and keep my eye on the eco display, to stay in the electric drive and eco ranges as much as possible and enjoy my moment of Zen.
    On the freeway I go 70 MPH. The car says I still get 50 MPG that way, so I can engage in guilt-free speeding again.
    So I’m a happy driver again: comfortable, fast, relaxed and guilt-free.

    A remark about economy: my lease payment is only $190/month (including tax), while I save close to $100/month on gas versus my old Camry V6. So I get to drive a nice new car for less than $100/month!

    • 0 avatar

      I tried to convey this zen-like experience in the review. With “driving is again a source of relaxation, even meditation” you capture it perfectly. Something about the combination of the way the car moves and the tactile and visual, auditory, and visual feedback it provides.

  • avatar

    Excellent Review.

    Why this car is controversial is beyond me. Having had the experience of driving a manual 535i in daily bumper to bumper, the question becomes: why not a Prius?

    America’s days of avoiding highly fuel efficient cars are not gonna last forever.

    • 0 avatar

      I suspect the controversy is generated by the apparent reality that many of them are bought not for what they are, but to make a statement about who the owner wants to be. The huge success of the Prius vs the competing Honda Civic and Accord hybrids gives the impression (rightly or wrongly) that Prius sales are more about being SEEN driving a “green” car than any deeply considered attempt to drive in as genuinely “green” a fashion as possible.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think this is true of the majority of Prius drivers. It’s just that, like sports car drivers, they want the look of the car to fit the character of the car. If the Corvette was somehow packaged inside Impala sheetmetal they’d sell far fewer of them, and not just because of what people want other people to see. It’s also about what the owner sees.

      Anyone who has ever bought a car because they personally liked how it looked should understand this.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    This is the only car I would consider buying nowadays for daily transportation if my e46 5-speed died suddenly.

    The need for internal-combustion pleasure can be fulfilled elsewhere nowadays via the small dirt bikes in the garage, the big old sport-bike and even the local kart track with my young son not to mention the 2X/year weekend vacations to see F1 races,

    • 0 avatar

      Good point Crack, which is why, though counter intuitive, having more land dedicated to off road motorcycles and ATVs can actually make the roads a bit less crowded.

  • avatar

    While this type of car may be fine for some, i personally hate these cars. I’ve driven the 2nd generation on several occasions and couldn’t get out of that car fast enough. It’s like driving an imitation car. The 3rd generation does look a lot better though.

  • avatar

    i have a confession: a few months ago I was commuting home going about 55 (not superfast, but slightly over the posted mph max) and thinking about the days developments and how I was going to put out fires the next day when I glanced in my rearview to see a prius filling the mirror. about 2 seconds later it passed me. normally, I wouldn’t care. but i felt strangely embarrassed by the experience. like i should apologize to my car for allowing that to happen.

  • avatar

    Excellent review Michael.

    Remember all the FUD about the huge expense involved with wholesale battery changes required every 3 or 4 years? They seem to be remarkably resilient units in reality.

    • 0 avatar

      “Lose all your gas savings on one battery change” reminds me of “front wheel drive is unreliable and CV joints will cost more to replace than U-joints” from 30 years ago.

      Gee, if ya design the car properly in the first place, it’ll work! Some of the carmakers still haven’t quite figured this one out…

  • avatar

    Great review Michael! Thanks! Touched on all of the points that I would want to know about. I don’t know if I would want to own one of these right now, but I think Toyota is making steady progress with this car. In 20 years I think we will all be driving sone variation of this type of vehicle, like it or not.

  • avatar

    ‘Prius-hate’ is interesting. There are plenty of slow, boring cars (think Chevy Aveo) but none of them inspire the sort of animosity the Prius seems to garner.

    It’s all the more odd since, unlike the other vehicles, besides aesthetics and being Novocain-numb, the Prius isn’t an otherwise bad car. It’s inoffensive, generally comfortable, and efficiently packaged (well, it was until they stuck that stupid console in there) with interior space that belies its outside dimensions.

    It’s essentially the ultimate Ralph Nader ‘grey’ car, i.e., one for people who don’t like cars all that much.

    • 0 avatar

      I think that is because there is a general feeling the Prius owners feel superior for driving the car, like they are making a HUGE difference in the environment, when there are studies that have shown, with the batteries that need to be recycled, it might actually be worse. It is especially funny to see Prius owners stopping at Starbucks, driving out of their way to pick up coffee in a disposable cup, or loading lots of disposable plastic bags into the back as they leave the mall. South Park says it best when they label it the Pious.

    • 0 avatar

      Disaster – NO ONE I know that has a Prius thinks that. I know at least 5 people with Priuses and all of them bought them because they wanted a mid-size car that sipped gas. Several are right wingers and several are left winger. One falls in the middle.

      Enough with the idiotic stereotypes. Turn South Park off and read a book or go outside.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m with Quentin on this. Too much stereotyping. It would be funny if it had the least little grain of truth to it. But it doesn’t.

      So y’all just stop it, or you’ll only embarrass yourselves!

      While driving my Prius, I passed a hummer today. He was just lumbering along in slowly in the left lane. I wondered if gas prices had gone up over the weekend and maybe the driver was still feeling a bit wounded. But then I saw that the driver was… drumroll!)… on the cell phone.

    • 0 avatar

      Gotta disagree. Stereotypes exist for a reason, and like it or not almost all of them have an (often uncomfortable) ring of truth.

      In my experience “South Park” had it right about many hybrid owners. I think it especially applies to those spending more than the $25K a Prius or Fusion hybrid runs, though — when I see someone driving a $60K Tahoe “Hybrid” my thoughts immediately turn to the negative about the person driving it. Then again, I also have a very low tolerance for abject stupidity, so…

    • 0 avatar

      Actually South Park hits it right on with almost all of there stereotypes…(then they take’em to the next level ..or 3) Thats why its funny, cuz its based on some sort of truth and people feel that, and can relate. The ones who get offended are the ones that are being poked at.But hey, shouldn’t we all laugh at ourselves sometime?

  • avatar

    My mom has a second-gen. She didn’t buy one as a political statement. We no longer needed the capabilities of an 18 mpg minivan. It’s a great car for what it is: a small, fuel-efficient commuter. It has some cool features like the backup camera and keyless entry, though the seats are manually adjusted. It’s a very quiet car, though, and the CVT is unobtrusive in regular driving. Not the enthusiast’s car, but the perfect urban commuter one.

  • avatar

    Nice review Michael, although I now have a tremendous urge to see how fast I can accelerate away from stoplights and see how low I can get the mileage in my V8 300C.

  • avatar

    Hell, this aint much slower, if any then my miata.

  • avatar

    How is the 3g in crosswinds? I had a 2nd gen rental and it was horrible on the highway in winds. Other reviews blamed this on the aerodynamics.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t do much highway driving in the Prius, so I’m afraid I can’t answer this one.

      Any owners able to field it?

    • 0 avatar

      I haven’t noticed a problem with cross winds.
      I do think that this redesign is far superior to the 2nd generation. Whatever was kind of clunky in the 2nd generation has been fixed, making this worthy, I think, of wide consideration.

    • 0 avatar

      I had a Gen 2 for 3.5 years and I can tell you the wind knocked it around a bit. The car felt very stable at highway speeds on its own, but crosswinds and other vehicles definitely had a noticeably unpleasant impact. Not as bad as my friend’s super-boxy Jeep Cherokee, but still a world of difference from my current Mazda 3.

  • avatar

    I love sports cars, sports sedans, luxury cars, and off-road cars. Each “type” of vehicle delivers a distinct form of pleasure. I think that hybrids like the Prius add a new category and there’s no merit to the argument that the Prius is a car for people who hate cars. That’s like an off-road lover saying that a Ferrari is for people who hate cars or like a Lotus Exige driver saying that a BMW M5 is a sedate car for people who hate cars. Different strokes for different car lovers. I hate that these things get a bad rap. There’s nothing that I love more than a good hatchback/wagon with toys. Put integrated Bluetooth into a Fit and I’ll be all over it…until then, I’ll take a Prius, please.

  • avatar

    Great review Mike. Very well written.

  • avatar

    I like the Prius, although it’s not my cup of tea. For an economy car, I’d rather have a base Corolla with a stick – or a 323 if I wanted to splurge.

    And as a snowbelt resident, I’m not a fan of the way the Prius handles in the snow. Winter tires may be necessary.

  • avatar

    I haven’t driven one of the newest models yet, but I have driven several of the previous (I guess 2nd gen?) cars, and while I went in hoping to get blown away, I was left unimpressed.

    The biggest issues were the gimmicky gear shifter, the aboslutely horrible quality of interior materials, and the surprisingly small amount of space.

    I’d heard from everyone of how the Prius is really a midsize, but really, that’s a bunch of bull-dookie. It’s a compact plain and simple, there isn’t that much space inside, and what space there is, isn’t in very usable areas.

    The gearshifter, which it looks like they have changed, was awful, like some weird video game control that no one thought out well, and a button to put it into park? please.

    Finally, the steering wheels felt so oily that I had to check my palms after driving to make sure there was nothing coating it. The plastics smell and feel awful, the fabric is horrible and the leather not much better. There is nothing that feels like a world class car inside, a base Focus, Cobalt, or Caliber have nicer materials.

    • 0 avatar

      You should try the new one. I didn’t like the 2nd gen either, but the 3rd gen has won me over.

      The interior design is much improved and to my liking now. My car has cloth which has a very nice suede-like feel.

      The Prius is a few inches narrower than a typical mid-size car, but leg room is about the same as a Camry and cargo space is also pretty good. Plus, with the hatchback style it’s easy to convert the back to a huge cargo space.

      The Prius is much nicer than a Corolla, about on par with a Camry, although narrower. So, if you’re a very big person, a Camry or other wider car might be better for you.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with you.

      There was absolutely no reason to replace the horse-drawn carriages with cars, either.How dare they change the design of the gear shifter and confuse the masses.

      I’ve had the 1st gen and now I have the 2nd gen (2004) Prius, I like the shifter in the second one better. It was especially entertaining to watch valets and lot attendants trying to figure out how to drive it.

  • avatar

    , a base Focus, Cobalt, or Caliber have nicer materials.



    At least try to come up with a plausible argument.

  • avatar
    John R

    This was a good read.

    I’ll have to admit that I do like the way this new Prius looks, I just wish it had the guts to match the exterior. In my mind this Prius LOOKS like it’ll get to 60 in under 8.

    Fat chance of that happening. Makes me want to gut it and stuff a K20 with a 6-speed under there.

  • avatar

    Nice review Michael. I can’t stand those cars. But that’s just me. I try to be kind and not bust anyone’s balls about what sort of car they chose for themselves.

    I drive a ’94 Crown Vic LX. A big, dual-exhaust, chipped and tuned 4.6L, gas-suckin’ Detroit tank. Think I’ve received a little abuse about my ride over the years?

  • avatar

    First off, great review Michael.

    I just got into a 2010 Prius from an MKV GTI. Oh yes, I don’t have mid 6’s on 0-60 time, tight handling, and bolstered seats. I even had an APR stage 1 tune in my GTI, so I was getting some serious power out of that little guy. And you know what, I love the Prius.

    I get mid 50’s MPG on my 70 mile round trip commute, have enough room for a couple of bikes with the seats down, or even a full drum set. I can road trip in comfort and spend about half on gas that I once did. It is roomy, solid, and as Michael can prove with his data, reliable. One of my co-workers joked that it is probably cheaper for me to drive the 70 miles a day in my Prius than for him to commute 10 miles a day in his Trailblazer.

    And when I sit in traffic, and the car is quiet, and the MPG’s go up, I just relax. I don’t get mad like I used to do. So I am glad you like your V6 Mazda 6, or your 3 series. Good for you. Now keep your “I will drive anything but a Prius” smugness to yourself.

    • 0 avatar

      well put. i’m a fan of the “there’s no point to a fast car if you can’t drive fast” philosophy myself. so i see little value in a 500 hp monster with a 150+ top end. the gti though, I’ve been looking into for a while. I’m seriously considering a 2010 (i’ll get one a year used prob), so you’ve got an interesting perspective.

      you never miss the handling or torquey engine in the twisties? I’ve got a short winding road on the way to my daughter’s school that I take every day. it always puts a smile on my face. i think i’d miss that.

    • 0 avatar

      Think of it this way: A Prius would encourage conservation of momentum while driving.

      I know I’d have fun seeing how long I could keep the engine off, if I was heading in a general downhill direction.

  • avatar

    I haven’t “driven” a Prius, but just this past weekend had occasion to move a 3rd gen that belonged to my wife’s elderly great-uncle up the driveway a few yards. So just sitting in it and getting it to go a short distance, plus not fiddling with seating position etc, probably didn’t give me the full experience.

    The header above the windshield isn’t too low, the pillars aren’t too thick, and you don’t feel like you’re gazing across acres of instrument panel

    From what experience I did have, everything quoted above is dead wrong. I felt as if I was sitting in the rear seat – more than half the car was in front of me, my head was mashed into the headliner, I had to tilt my head down to the side to see through the windshield, and the A-pillars both looked larger than life and too far away to touch if I wanted to. It inspired a tunnel-vision complex. I’m 6′-3 and I didn’t fiddle with the seat that was set for the owner who is about 5′-11 and normally this isn’t a huge problem for me. My wife is also 5′-11 and we drive both our cars without adjusting seats or mirrors on each other.

    Personally the forward-hump roof looked better to me, plus it must have been a boon for front seat head room. It’s also aerodynamically more efficient, which Toyota must have compensated for with the superior detailing (both aerodynamic and aesthetic) elsewhere in the design of the 3rd gen.

    • 0 avatar

      “I’m 6′-3 and I didn’t fiddle with the seat. . .”

      Isn’t complaining about (the lack of) head room without adjusting the seat just a little whack, even including your explanations?

      “I drove a 427 Cobra the other day, it wasn’t very fast. Of course, I didn’t bother stepping on the gas very much. . .”

      Maybe you’ll get a second shot at trying one out, I’m honestly curious being 6’3″ myself!

    • 0 avatar


      I’ve driven one. I’m just under 6’4″ and I thought the Prius had as much headroom as any other contemporary sedan I’ve tried.

      It does NOT have SUV-like spaciousness, so people who’ve been driving such might be disappointed. However, for me, it was just fine.

  • avatar

    “The huge success of the Prius vs the competing Honda Civic and Accord hybrids gives the impression (rightly or wrongly) that Prius sales are more about being SEEN driving a “green” car than any deeply considered attempt to drive in as genuinely “green” a fashion as possible…”

    No, it succeeds because it gets better mileage than the others and the hatchback is a lot more versatile. In fact, I really wish the Ford Fusion Hybrid was offered in a hatchback in addition to the sedan. I haul two large dogs and other stuff around and that would be ideal for me because most of my driving is urban.

    Plus, how nice is it that you can drive normally, meaning no hypermiling, and still get 50 mpg?

    Honestly, this “smug Prius driver” stuff is based on a cartoon people. Do you base your world view on a cartoon?

    • 0 avatar

      CV wrote: “Honestly, this “smug Prius driver” stuff is based on a cartoon people. Do you base your world view on a cartoon?”

      Haha! I guess I should shut off the Spiderman reruns then. That’s okay, I’m more of a Speed Racer type anyhow.

    • 0 avatar

      Hatchback Fusion Hybrid = Ford Escape Hybrid

      If you can find one, that is.

  • avatar

    Did Spiderman create the “smug Prius” meme? No? Then you’re safe. Watch as many reruns as you like.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I finally got rid of that horrid ’01 Highlander I married into so it will be a long time(probably never) before I buy anything from Toyota. However, you can’t argue that the Prius can pull some pretty respectable fuel economy numbers in a decent sized car that offers good reliability. And the 3rd iteration looks pretty good IMO. Sure it may not be the most fun thing to drive but who cares? Load it up with a good factory sound system! Still for a second car I’ll wait for a Volt.

  • avatar

    This article, like so many other articles about the Prius, is like reading comments from people as to why they prefer lite beer.

    I like to drive. I like cars. I like the experience of driving. I have no “guilt” driving my cars.

    What I have any guilt about would be knowing that my car was built with two modes of power, assembled on the other side of the world, put onto smoke billowing auto transport ships, shoved across the Pacific Ocean, unloaded in Long Beach, transported 3000 miles across North America, destroying American jobs within the auto industry, wrecking havoc on our trade imbalance with Japan, and advertising itself as something “economical”.

    But that’s just my priorities because I’m a little more aware of what it took to make, ship and deliver every Prius.

    Toyota Priuses are not organically grown on Kansas hashish farms and harvested by elves. Their manufacturing process is more wasteful than Prius champions want to admit. How much less gas are you supposed to not use to counter the environmental damage created by getting your Prius onto the Toytota dealer’s lot in Boston?

    I hope you folks enjoy your “guilt free” driving, because there are an awful lot of hydrocarbons fouling the atmosphere to make your driving “guilt free”.

    I’ll stick with a domestic car manufactured five miles north of me, because doing so is much better for our environment than a Prius.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting line of thinking, there, VanillaDude. But wait! There’s more!

      The amount of energy used in building a car is going to be somewhat proportional to the amount of car that is being built. A Malibu (similar interior room) tips the scales at 3415 lbs and the Prius checks in at 3042 lbs. As they exit the factory, the Prius probably has an advantage.

      Further, the Japanese have a national mania for saving energy. What are the odds that they’re using every trick they can to keep energy consumption low in the manufacturing process? Good, I’d say.

      Then there’s vehicle longevity. The car that requires the least amount of energy to build is the car that doesn’t need building at all. The last time I checked the DesRosiers report, Toyota had a huge advantage in vehicle longetivity over Chevrolet. You’ll likely need 1.5 Malibus over the life of that 1 Prius.

  • avatar

    A Malibu (similar interior room) tips the scales at 3415 lbs and the Prius checks in at 3042 lbs. As they exit the factory, the Prius probably has an advantage. Since we do not know the amount of energy required to process the extra 300+ pounds, and we are talking two differing manufacturing process, your statement is quite speculative – but I will grant you that unless reducing the weight difference requires additional energy to achieve, your statement could be accepted. It is quite possible that the weight difference is the result of additional energy necessary to produce it. These aren’t similar cars.

    Further, the Japanese have a national mania for saving energy. A free market rewards efficiencies whether it is in the US or Japan. We are not discussing domestic energy consumption, but competative energy usage within a free global market. Your statement makes an assumption based on a speculation about cultural domestic energy consumption, not manufacturing. The fact that the average US home is four times larger than the average Japanese home doesn’t mean that the global free market auto manufacturer within each country is similar in energy consumption. Just as we cannot say that a Prius factory is smaller than a factory producing Malibus, (and the fact that the same factory produces other vehicles, while the Prius plant only manufactures Priuses), we cannot assume that the country the plant is located in, reflects the energy consumption habits of the average domestic nationalist. So, does the Ford Fusion plant in Mexico use less electricity being located in Mexico, than it’s counterpart in Beligium? Unlikely.

    Then there’s vehicle longevity. Right. Every Prius owner will keep their car until it is needed to be recycled – is that what you are claiming? Both the Malibu and the Prius will eventually need to be recycled. What happens to the batteries within the Prius when it arrives at an auto junkyard fifty miles north of Boise Idaho? Do you actually believe that every place that ends up with a junk Prius is going to recycle those batteries safely? What percentage are going to end up leaking and abandoned, spilling poisons into the environment? Prius junking is going to cost more in energy than Malibu junking, even if it is handled correctly, which a vast number of the million+ cars will not be.

    The Prius is not guilt free driving. It is only to those who are only concerned about themselves and their fuel costs while the car is in their driveway. Not before it appeared, nor after it is gone.

    • 0 avatar

      Excellent comments, VanillaDude. The “green halo” that surrounds the Prius is very much an illusion. Sure, it’s a nice gesture to try to be more environmentally-conscious about our purchases and our energy consumption, but the difference between a Prius and any other mid-sized car is probably negligible.

  • avatar

    Strange about the reliability. Many folks I have talked to that own one of the second generation models have had to take there cars in for several issues including cooling woes, failed sensors, interior trim problems like silver paint wearing off knobs and storage compartment doors that won’t stay closed and a few other things so I would not say this car is golden for problems/defects. I also seem to recall this generation having issues with stalling out on the highway and battery fires but that may have been early run cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Right, I’m sure you and your “many folks” are better authorities on automotive reliability than Mr. Karesh, know…actually collects data on this type of thing.

  • avatar

    “Why this car is controversial is beyond me.”

    Allowing the Prius drivers in the HOV lanes with a single occupant contributes to the ‘controversy’. There are some many of them they clog the HOV lanes and destroy the incentive for carpools and vanpools, the original purpose of the HOV lanes. So the sanctimonious Prius drivers can break their arms patting themselves on the back while they are actually diminishing the greater societal good. The Prius symbolizes the unique triple threat of sanctimony, hypocrisy and enhanced cynicism about ‘the green movement’. Dunno what’s controversial about that?

  • avatar

    The Prius itself isn’t quite sporty enough for me, but I’ve been super excited for Lexus to come out with their compact, sporty, Mazda3 hatch-shaped hybrid, the CT200h. This was to be “the performance Prius.” But I went on the Lexus website and they’re not giving it the 2.4 liter powertrain from the HS hybrid, but rather, it appears, the very same 1.8 liter powertrain as the Prius. It’s hard to see how that could be sufficiently sporty. Bummer, it coulda replaced my Mazda3 otherwise.

    • 0 avatar

      2010 Prius Numbers: 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine is rated 98 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 105 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. The electric motor is rated 80 hp, 153 lbs.-ft. Combined, 134 hp maximum combined. Toyota doesn’t give combined torque figure. If you add the torque figures of both gas and electric motors together you get 105+153=258 lbs-ft. I know it may not really max out to this number but it’s an indication of what you possibly get when you floor it. Notice that the 153 lbs-ft of torque from the electric motor is available from 0 mph, very good for acceleration from stand still. My own experience? I floored it once with a Mustang and he could not out run me starting from a red light. He ended up giving me the thumps-up before he turns away.

      Not sporty enough? I don’t think so. I’m not saying the Prius will win every race, but its aceleration is absolutely respectable when using the power mode. Of course you won’t get the 50+ mpg consumption but you still get around 40mpg in power mode. The Prius gives you the ultimate flexibility: you want performance, you got it; you want fuel economy? You got it too. It all depends on how you drive. For all other sporty cars, you don’t have fuel economy, period.

  • avatar

    I am a proud owner of a new 2010 Prius. Last year I took advantage of GM’s troubles and bought a Pontiac G5 @ unbeleivable low price to replace my Dodge Caravan. Last month my son’s 14 years old Honda Civic died, I gave him the G5 and shopped around for another. Why did I decided to buy a Prius? According to my calculations, the price…er…cost of a new Prius is the same as the G5…in the long run.

    I calculated using real gas consumption of the G5 and the Prius, the Prius is going to save me around $1000 a year of gas, which is $10,000 in ten years, which is exactly the amount I paid for the Prius more than the G5. Comparing with the Caravan, gas savings will be @2000 annually. If I compare the Prius with a new Caravan, I’d be saving $20,000 in ten years, almost the price of the whole car!

    I’ve experimented with the Prius’ different power modes and found that the ECO mode is absolutely unbearable and deserves the hate stares of other drivers; the standard mode is just like the G5 and it still yields between 45-50 mpg, way better than the G5’s 24-26 mpg city; but the power mode is a totally different beast! It blows the ordinary cars away execpt those really sporty ones like the mustang, porche, etc. Yet, the gas consumption is still a very respectable 40 mpg. I’ve also developed my own Pulse and Glide technique, that is to keep the power mode on and accelerate from the red light like a racing car, when up to speed then set it on cruise control no matter how short the run to the next red light, which most of the time will run the electric motor only even if it was 40+ mi/hr. Guess what? This way my gas consumption is a very surprising 52 mpg! I guess when I attain the target speed much quicker, I can then cruise the Prius on electric mode for a much longer time, thus compensate more than enough for the gas I wasted when gunning it.

    So, people with sporty-cars-only mentality, give the Gen 3 Prius a shot. You’d be really surprised.

    I didn’t buy the Prius because I’m a rich celebrity trying to make a statement. I bought it because it make sense, both economic and practical. I did not “hate” the Prius and/or the Prius owners because it was used by some filthy rich hypocrites making a statement. If you reject the idea of owning a Prius because of this sterotypical viewpoint of Prius owners, you are missing a gem of the leading edge technology.

    As for the environmental effect of the used up battery, because of the expensive rare metals in it, Toyota is offering the scrap car companies $300 to buy back the battery back so they can recycle the rare metals. This pretty much garantees all the car wreckers will not throw them away, or they will be throwing money away.

  • avatar

    I have driven a 2nd generation Prius (2005)for 5 years including trips in Canada from coast to coast to coast. Until it was demolished by an ancient pick up last week it was overall my favorite vehicle (Morris Oxford, Beetle, Honda Accord, Volvo DL, borrowed Datsun 2400Z, Camry)
    I loved the way the vehicle handled on ice, way better than my 4×4 SUV – the weight distribution gave it excellent balance. In town acceleration was just OK but if I needed to pass the kick from the electric engine was great.
    After a 3755km trip in a 4×4 truck this summer drinking $100 of diesel a day I truly appreciated my $26 fill up after 900km in the Prius.
    My one complaint about the 2005 was that the thermometer only went down to -30C which tended to be misleading when it was -40C in Whitehorse last winter and the CVT got quite thick at that temperature and I would find myself actually using gas to go down hill until it warmed up.

    I am testing the 2010. So far, I don’t like the changes that Toyota has made to cater to the unimaginative US & Canadian average driver. I liked the weird shift leaver – it worked very well and left more space for humans; the new “ordinary” shift position takes up knee space and is irrelevant since you only need to shift when you start or from forward into reverse. I liked the touch display – it was clear, informative and easy to use (with the exception of heater controls). The front door post appears to have moved aft to provide more head room in the rear and has created an unnecessary blind spot.
    The EV and Econo mode switches seem to be in response to consumer demand. However, I think they are irrelevant except as a marketing gimmick. I am able to get the same performance in power mode as in econo mode simply by driving responsibly. EV mode is handy for sneaking up on roade side critters.

  • avatar

    I rented a 2nd generation for a weekend and the best part about it was the amazing mileage and vast amount of interior room.  It is a real car and nicely enough done, just not very exciting but 100% usable for a lot of people.

    Most owners here in LA drive them hard so it appears that they may be killing their potential mileage in so doing, sort of defeating the purpose.  Better they do that than drive an inefficient car that way I guess.  Then again, most drivers here piss away loads of fuel by racing up to stoplights and tearing away from them.  I catch up to them at the next signal in my well-maintained ’95 Miata, with which I usually get 31-33 mpg out of each tank.  And it’s fun.

    I don’t get all the hysteria about the negation of all that efficiency when the batteries have to be replaced.  How could that possibly outweigh all the gas not used over many years?


  • avatar

    There is some truth in all these comments. I have a Gen 2 – I think it’s made me a better driver. I think the technology is great. Some Prius drivers take things too extreme. I try to be respectful of others, but those of you racing to the next light – you’ll get there about the same time I do, seriously. I bought my prius to stop the hold oil companies have over my wallet, and for a little more space and safety for my kids (I had a 14 year old corolla).

    I rarely use the fast lane, if I do, I know I need to go fast. If I notice people behind me trying to get on the highway I punch it more than I would otherwise, but the car only has about 100hp, its not built to accelerate like a typical car. I’ve had a lot of family/friends say “maybe I’ll get a hybrid.” I usually suggest unless they can get a great deal (I did) to buy something that gets in the 30-40 mpg range. You have to have the right personality to love the car. If you have a conventional car – slow down, accelerate gradually, anticipate. You’ll lower gas costs for everyone.

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