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In writing this definitive review, TheCarConnection.com's editors researched a wide range of road tests covering the 2009 Toyota Prius. TheCarConnection.com's resident experts also have extensive experience driving the Toyota Prius and added their observations and comments to help you make sense where other reviews might differ.
Even though the 2009 Toyota Prius has a design that's anything but fresh (a new Prius is due for 2010), the Prius has continued to gain popularity because of its combination of excellent fuel economy, five-passenger seating, and versatile hatchback design. The fact that fuel prices have gone through the roof over the past several years hasn’t hurt either.
The current Prius looks more mainstream than the original, but inside, the dashboard and instruments communicate that this is not an ordinary hatchback. The speedometer and other gauges are at the top of the dash, and a large information display resides in the center stack, displaying fuel economy, climate control, radio settings and if so equipped, the optional navigation system. To start the vehicle, you push a button—there is no key slot—and the transmission lever might as well come from a video game.
The 2009 Toyota Prius is powered by Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy drive—a fancy name for the company's gasoline-electric powertrain that can operate in pure electric mode at low speeds and while the vehicle is at a full stop. The gas engine is an economical 1.5-liter four-cylinder that runs on regular unleaded and works in synergy with the electric motor when extra boost is needed. Power transferred to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission keeps the Prius humming in its ideal operating range and helps it achieve 48 mpg city, 45 mpg highway. The battery pack is under the cargo floor and recharges via the engine and by regenerative braking.
Performance isn't the primary reason consumers choose the Prius, but the instant torque from the electric motor allows for good power in city driving. On the highway, the 2009 Toyota Prius can cruise and pass safely. Steering feel is artificial, the regenerative brakes are only average, and the ride can get bumpy and noisy. Blame the low rolling resistance tires and the lack of sound deadening to save weight.
The interior of the 2009 Toyota Prius is well laid out, and it offers exceptional roominess compared with other cars in its class. The hatchback design has good room for four adults and a versatile rear hatch for cargo. Seating is comfortable, but the seats themselves and much of the interior are finished in lightweight, inexpensive plastics.
Front, side, and curtain airbags are now standard on the 2009 Toyota Prius, and crash-test scores of mostly four stars are pretty good. The Prius also earns "good" ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.