Bottom Line: For those who want to be seen in a smart, high-mileage hybrid but prefer to pinch pennies at the dealership, the 2010 Honda Insight is the way to go.
2010 Toyota PriusEnlarge Photo
The basics: A 98-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is packaged as part of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive; both electric and gasoline power sources transmit variably through a planetary gearset, altogether producing 136 horsepower and powering the front wheels.
Price: $22,750 and up
Fuel economy: 51/48 mpg
2009 EPA Estimated Fuel Cost: $732
Rating: 8.2 out of 10
The new 2010 Toyota Prius might look much like the version it replaces, but it’s been extensively upgraded inside and gets a host of powertrain upgrades.
Toyota has massaged its Hybrid Synergy Drive in the new Prius to be even more frugal, extending its use of electric-only mode and For fuel economy, there really is no better than the 2010 Toyota Prius. Fuel economy ratings of 51 mpg city, 48 highway might already seem unrealistically high, but they’re right on the mark, if not a bit conservative. TheCarConnection.com’s editors have seen figures around the 50-mpg mark—along with 54 mpg in typical commuting conditions in a recent drive—plus mileage exceeding 75 mpg when driving very gently and minding the electronic guides.
Most significantly, back-seat passengers get significantly more space than in last year’s model, thanks to a slightly raised roofline and a slimmer front-seat design. Compared to the Insight, it’s our pick if you plan to carry adults back there. But at the same time, those front seats aren’t very supportive, and if the driver even somewhat tall his or her knee will rest on the hard plastic edge of the center console.
And that remains TheCarConnection.com’s most significant complaint regarding the Prius; while it wows in nearly all other respects, its interior smacks of cheapness when you look at some of the details. It’s not too surprising though; after all, Toyota had to budge somewhere to accommodate that affordable sticker price, right?
The bright side is Toyota has both lowered prices on the base Prius II model and made available a slew of new tech goodies to those who are willing to pay extra; geeking out on extras like Lane Keep Assist, smart cruise control, and a ventilated solar roof are all within the realm of possibility.
Bottom Line: The 2010 Toyota Prius ups the ante in the hybrid world with 51-mpg city fuel economy and a finer style.
The Prius isn’t perfect. Despite improvements, it still doesn’t handle particularly well, and its interior shows signs of cost-cutting. But when you look at what matters to most buyers in this class—ultimate fuel economy, high-mileage cachet, and available technological wizardry—the Prius reigns king in this Mileage Match-Up.
Strictly going on base models of the two, if you’re an average commuter and drive about 15,000 miles a year, it would take close to 14 years for the Prius to save you the money you could have saved with the Insight in the first place. However the base Insight doesn’t include electronic stability control, and we recommend it; if you would have upgraded to the Insight EX, which includes the feature, the Prius would be the pick to save you money after just five years.
Although we like Honda’s nav system a bit better overall, Toyota’s includes a more attractive map screen, easier Bluetooth pairing, and the potential to get live traffic information.