2010 Toyota Prius Review

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Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
April 26, 2009

The 2010 Toyota Prius ups the ante in the hybrid world with 51-mpg city fuel economy and a finer style.

TheCarConnection.com's editors prepared this review from hands-on experience with the new 2010 Toyota Prius. TheCarConnection.com's resident experts will produce a full review, including opinions from other professional sources, as more road tests of the 2010 Toyota Prius become available.

It's back for a third generation—and now, a decade and 700,000 ancestors rolling around already, the 2010 Toyota Prius brings with it more room, a more refined feel, and the real-world ecstasy (for some) of 51-mpg fuel economy.

The 2010 Prius still is recognizable as a Toyota hybrid, but there's more wedge in its stance, more crease in its profile, catchier cues in its arrow-inflected headlamps and taillamps, and more room under its reproportioned roofline. For sure, it's more dynamic-looking than the outgoing model and a hair longer overall, but it's still more future-appliance than future-chic. It does split the wind more finely; the aerodynamic drag's down to 0.25, one of the lowest figures for any production car, with much of the improvement achieved under the car.

Change you can believe in is found more in the cabin, where a new flying-buttress console adds some visual interest to the Prius' wide, low dash and its digital, distantly mounted gauges. Driving controls are segregated from the passenger by black and silver plastic, which cuts down the sheer mass of the dash panels.

Review continues below

Earth geeks and mileage freaks will spend hours away from World of Warcraft coaxing ever-high fuel economy out of the 2010 Prius. Officially, it's rated at 50 mpg city, 39 highway by the EPA, but TheCarConnection.com's experts teased 69.5 mpg with judicious use of the gas and the Prius' new battery-only EV driving mode—and we've already heard of figures exceeding 75 mpg. In part, the improved fuel economy is due to a lighter, stiffer body. The powertrain's also been reconfigured for less weight, and contrary to expectations, a bump in displacement from 1.6 liters to 1.8 liters for the four-cylinder engine has helped the hybrid system be more frugal overall. The combination puts out 134 horsepower, but the 1.8-liter's better torque helps the Prius run at slower engine speeds on the highway. A hefty lead foot will drop the Prius into the high 30-mpg range, but a light touch, a mindful eye on the "Eco" driving mode indicators, and use of the new EV mode—which allows a mile of pure-electric driving with a well-charged battery pack—will help any driver extract more than 50 mpg in city driving.

Other performance improvements have been directed at the Prius' less than entertaining road manners. The stiffer body shell helps reduce noise and vibration from the engine and continuously variable transmission. Engineers have tried, and are fairly successful, at improving the Prius' steering by angling its wheels slightly. The brakes are now discs at all four corners, and the regeneration that captures kinetic energy, turning it into electricity, has been improved. With more lightweight aluminum in the body too, the Prius' 0-60 mph times are now under 10 seconds. Still, you'll always be reminded of the fact that you're driving a hybrid vehicle with electronic control over the steering, braking, and acceleration feel.

A better body means more comfortable surroundings for the 2010 Prius' five passengers. There is less front knee room, side to side, thanks to the new center console, but the driver's seat is now height-adjustable. Backseaters get the knee room left behind by slimmer front seatbacks and better headroom from the rejiggered roofline. The cargo area expands even more, with a redesigned battery housing and 2.2 inches of extra room creating a few more cubic feet of storage. In general, the Prius' plastics are upgraded and greened up, too—Toyota says they're all carbon-neutral now—and they do look and feel better than in the second-generation car. Fit and finish on pre-production cars is good.

The 2010 Toyota Prius likely will improve on the high safety rating of the most recent version. Seven airbags are standard, including a driver knee bag. So are anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, and tire pressure monitors. Safety options include radar cruise control, a lane-departure warning system, a rearview camera, a "Safety Connect" system that alerts emergency crews after a crash, and the stunt technology of the day—Intelligent Parking Assist, which helps you parallel-park the Prius via the car's cameras, albeit with your foot on the brake to control speed.

New features are meant to woo buyers into spending more on the expensively engineered Prius. There's a Touch Tracer system that mimics your finger-swipes over steering-wheel controls over the gauges, so you don't have to look down to adjust radio stations or climate-control settings. Power windows, cruise control, and an AM/FM/XM/CD player are standard. Major new options include a moonroof with solar panels, powering a fan that draws hot air out of the car without using the Prius' other batteries. A remote air conditioner is also available, along with a navigation system, LED headlamps, Bluetooth, and a backup camera.

6

2010 Toyota Prius

Styling

The 2010 Toyota Prius, though slightly edgier and more attractive, still looks like a Prius.

Although it has been completely redesigned for the 2010 model year, the Toyota Prius is still distinctly Prius-shaped. Whether or not that's a good thing is a matter of personal taste, but as the automotive experts at TheCarConnection.com say, the 2010 Toyota Prius is still "more future-appliance than future-chic."

Although the Honda Insight was the first hybrid sold in the U.S., Toyota’s Prius soon followed back in 2000, and its sales especially took off after its 2003 redesign, which brought with it the current, more aerodynamic exterior and hatchback design. The exterior will be familiar to anyone who has seen the second-generation Prius, but AutoWeek reviewers note it is "almost all-new in almost every department." Autoblog calls the 2010 Prius "the same oddly shaped hybrid that almost two million buyers love, but it...looks sharper" than before. That's largely due to the stronger character lines found on the latest version of the Toyota Prius, which Car and Driver says features "a distinctive design and contrarian appeal." Car and Driver describes some of the more noteworthy styling changes by pointing out that "the fat-foreheaded look of the prior model is reduced somewhat, and the rear end is higher and beefier, with a nifty integrated rear spoiler." The overall effect of the styling changes, aside from making the car look just a bit more aggressive, is an industry-lowest drag coefficient of 0.25, which helps the Toyota Prius achieve over 50 mpg.

Moving inside the 2010 Prius, reviewers unanimously approve of the new styling direction for the interior. Autoblog recognizes all of "those little things that provide the 'Prius experience'...but they're slightly different and noticeably improved." "Improved" is a term used frequently when describing the interior, and Autoblog comments that the 2010 Toyota Prius' "volume and climate controls are redundant with a nifty new feature on the steering wheel called the Touch Tracer Display." Automobile Magazine adds to the praise by declaring that the Prius' "cabin ergonomics and the displays...are top-notch." In fact, the only real complaint about the interior comes from Jalopnik reviewers, who feel that the "heated seat switches...have bizarrely been located down by the driver's feet," an inconvenient location that makes them very difficult—and dangerous—to operate while driving.

9

2010 Toyota Prius

Performance

With better fuel economy, better handling, and a smoother ride, there are now even fewer reasons not to look into a 2010 Toyota Prius.

Everyone knows that the 2010 Toyota Prius sips gas at an absurdly slow rate, but drivers of the newest Toyota Prius will be shocked to find that the new 2010 Prius is actually somewhat entertaining to drive as well.

The Toyota Prius lineup is motivated by a single powertrain option, which The Detroit News says pairs a "1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motors to power the vehicle," adding that the "new model features additional power." Indeed, combined power on the 2010 Toyota Prius is "136-hp total system output," according to AutoWeek reviewers. The Toyota Prius offers a couple different driving modes, and Car and Driver reports that "battery mode allows for up to a mile of electric-only propulsion when driven very gently, but it by no means locks out the gas engine if the weight on the accelerator pedal equals more than that of a feather." The 2010 Prius can be driven in one of three standard modes, which include eco, power, and EV, while a fourth mode is available as a default when none of the primary three are selected. While the eco mode provides the best fuel economy, Jalopnik reviewers find that it doesn't engage the driver very much, and they "quickly got fed up with the poor response in Eco Mode and spent the day in Power, enjoying the transmission's increased willingness to move the revs into the power band."

The 2010 Toyota Prius' transmission also plays a large part in contributing to the Prius' stellar fuel economy. That transmission, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) sending power to the front wheels, is composed of a "complex helical-gearset that...gets even more complicated with the addition of a reduction gear for the traction motor," according to The Los Angeles Times. Suffice it to say that you don't want to perform any maintenance on your Toyota Prius without an advanced engineering degree and certification from Toyota. One downside of the fuel-efficiency-enhancing CVT, according to Jalopnik is that its "ability to quickly turn throttle input into acceleration is somewhat lacking," a feature that is "most apparent when transitioning from maintenance to wide-open throttle mid-corner."

The 2010 Toyota Prius takes what was great about the old Prius—the fuel economy—and bumps it up to 11. AutoWeek states that "the new model is rated 50 mpg EPA combined, up from 46 on the old car," but other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com indicate that those numbers may be conservative. Autoblog in particular notes that, during a relatively benign test drive, they "blew that EPA estimate out of the water by almost 15 mpg." This bump in fuel economy is a bit counterintuitive when one considers that the 2010 Toyota Prius features a larger, more powerful gasoline engine than its predecessor, but Automobile Magazine brings some clarity to the situation by explaining that the bigger engine "actually helps the highway mileage figure because it runs at fifteen percent lower rpm."

By far the biggest surprise with the new 2010 Toyota Prius is the amount of fun that you can have behind the wheel. The Los Angeles Times reports that the new Toyota Prius feels "lacquered with a bit more confidence and esprit," while the driving enthusiasts at Jalopnik claim that the 2010 Toyota Prius is "actually pretty fun to drive, at least when equipped with the optional 17-inch wheels." The improved driving dynamics don't come at the cost of ride comfort, as Autoblog claims that "you don't notice any serious changes from the driver's seat" and the Toyota Prius is still "the same commuter-friendly conveyance you'd expect." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com rave about the Toyota Prius' new steering feel, with Automobile Magazine gushing that the "biggest revelation" on their test drive was the Toyota Prius' "electric-power steering, which was direct and accurate, making the car easy to place in corners." Automobile Magazine reviewers remark that even the braking feel is improved; "four-wheel disc brakes are now standard on all Prius models, and braking feel has lost much of its artificiality."

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2010 Toyota Prius

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Toyota Prius still isn't up to the quality levels found on Toyota's Lexus brand, but the newest generation of Prius is certainly a step in the right direction.

The 2010 Toyota Prius represents an improvement over its predecessor in nearly every way, but few changes receive more attention in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com than those Toyota makes in terms of cabin comfort.

The first two generations of Toyota Prius models were wonderfully fuel-efficient, but unfortunately your body began to tire from the uncomfortable seats long before the gas tank approached empty. In the new 2010 Toyota Prius, reviewers are pleased to find upgraded seating arrangements that include both more room and more livable seats both front and back. Automobile Magazine reports that "the front seats are noticeably wider, more adjustable, and more supportive" on the new Toyota Prius, "addressing a major customer complaint." The Los Angeles Times also notes that the 2010 Prius offers "more room in the front cabin and a little more legroom in the back." Rear-seat room is aided by the fact that "the peak of the roof has been moved rearward for improved rear headroom," according to Car and Driver, while the "front seats have been contoured to increase rear kneeroom."

The Toyota Prius' usefulness for running errands increases for the 2010 model year with the addition of more cargo space throughout the vehicle. Car and Driver takes a ruler to the trunk and reports that the "cargo area is larger," while The Los Angeles Times notes that "more room in the front cabin" offers more nooks and crannies for small-item storage. Car and Driver also observes that "storage cubbies abound" inside the Toyota Prius' cabin, which makes it easy to stow your wallet, purse, iPod, or other accessory out of sight.

Some consumers have been disappointed with the interior materials on previous generations of the Toyota Prius. Fortunately, Automobile Magazine notes that the interior of the 2010 Toyota Prius is "an upgrade over the previous car's." Car and Driver agrees, pointing out that the "interior materials have taken a marked step up in quality from those of the previous Prius." Automobile Magazine loves the "nicer materials" that debut on the 2010 Toyota Prius, while Car and Driver feels that "there is plenty of Lexus influence in the interior design" and construction.

The 2010 Toyota Prius features improved construction quality and better sound-deadening materials, which makes for a significantly quieter ride. The Los Angeles Times reviewers note that the new Toyota Prius is "quieter, with noise attenuation materials wadded into every crack and pore." Car and Driver agrees, reporting "the only significant sound we noted on our drive was some wind noise coming from the mirrors at highway speeds."

9

2010 Toyota Prius

Safety

With improved safety features and better overall visibility, the 2010 Toyota Prius is a safe bet for drivers and their families.

The 2010 Toyota Prius comes from a long lineage of safe, dependable Toyota vehicles. While the Toyota Prius has not yet been crash tested by either of the major testing authorities, it boasts enough cutting-edge safety features to warrant a high score from TheCarConnection.com in this category.

The 2010 Toyota Prius is the first of the third-generation Toyota Prius models, and as such it features a lot of new engineering and styling when compared to the previous models. The newest 2010 Prius hasn't been crash-tested yet, but both previous-generation vehicles scored quite well in both government- and industry-sponsored tests. By comparison, last year's Toyota Prius earned the highest possible rating in IIHS tests, scoring a "good" rating in both the frontal offset and side impact tests. In NHTSA tests, the 2009 Toyota Prius earned four out of five stars in the front impact categories while also scoring a perfect five-star rating in the side driver impact test. Stay tuned to TheCarConnection.com for the latest updates on the 2010 Toyota Prius' crash-test scores.

Inside the new Toyota Prius you'll find a wealth of technology, spanning everything from creature comforts to the powertrain to the safety equipment. On the safety side, the 2010 Prius includes "a more sophisticated stability control system" as standard fare, according to Automobile Magazine. Cars.com adds that the 2010 Toyota Prius "comes with seven airbags, including front-seat-mounted side airbags and side curtain airbags for both rows." Reviewers at Autoblog point out that "two new features on the 2010 Prius [are] Lane Keep Assist and Intelligent Parking Assist," both of which work hard to keep you out of trouble. The new Lane Keep Assist system uses cameras to monitor lane lines on the road and alerts drivers if they begin to stray outside of their lane. Meanwhile, Autoblog says that Intelligent Parking Assist on the new Toyota Prius "makes quick work of parallel parking" by controlling the steering action of the Prius and guiding the vehicle into the driver-designated parking spot. The only complaint regarding safety features on the new 2010 Toyota Prius comes from Jalopnik, which warns that the "over eager stability control system that can't be fully defeated" can put a premature end to spirited driving.

Autoblog attests that, for the 2010 Toyota Prius, "rearward visibility is vastly improved over the outgoing model," while Automobile Magazine appreciates that "forward visibility once again is excellent."

10

2010 Toyota Prius

Features

The high-tech 2010 Toyota Prius offers something for everyone and adds to its already impeccable green credentials with a new solar-panel option.

In addition to having a technologically marvelous powertrain, the 2010 Toyota Prius gets plenty of high-tech gadgets and conveniences inside—including some you won’t find on other cars in its price range.

Reviewers at Cars.com contend that "Toyota has showcased a lot of technology in the new Prius because of the high-tech halo the hybrid holds in the market," and buyers of the 2010 Toyota Prius will not be disappointed with the features available on their green machines.

The new Toyota Prius comes in just one trim level, in the sense that all the vehicles will feature identical Toyota Prius exterior badging, but there are four different versions available. Cars.com notes that "the names Prius II, III, IV and V will be used on window stickers to differentiate models." The Los Angeles Times says that "the standard-issue Prius [the Prius II] will be decently equipped," featuring standard power accessories, cruise control, and audio controls mounted on the steering wheel. Moving up to the Toyota Prius III, Cars.com notes that "an eight-speaker stereo with XM Satellite Radio and Bluetooth" comes standard, while the Prius IV adds "leather upholstery and heated front seats" and the deluxe 2010 Toyota Prius V "comes with 17-inch wheels, fog lights and LED auto-leveling headlights with washers."

Aside from the standard features you'll find on the 2010 Prius lineup, TheCarConnection.com's research shows that the automaker will also present buyers the choice of three different options packages. Jalopnik notes that Toyota is "offering a variety of options like the solar sunroof, Lane Keep Assist, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and automatic parallel parking systems" for consumers with money to burn. Car and Driver reports that one of the available packages on the 2010 Prius is the "Navigation Package with Bluetooth connectivity and a backup camera," while the "Advanced Technology package [comes] with radar cruise control, a precollision braking system and a new lane-departure system." Finally, in one of the more unusual packages offered on any vehicle today, Car and Driver highlights the availability of a "Solar Roof package" on the 2010 Toyota Prius which, as its name implies, "includes a solar panel (packaged with a sunroof) that powers a ventilating fan that helps keep the cabin cooler, thereby reducing the need for air conditioning."

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February 21, 2016
For 2010 Toyota Prius

The best car I ever owned

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Great mileage and very comfortable to drive long distances all around a great car
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February 15, 2016
2010 Toyota Prius 5-Door HB III (Natl)

great car, confortable best mpg

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best car i ever owned, reliable, with many extras. Great performance with comfort on long highway trips
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February 14, 2016
2010 Toyota Prius 5-Door HB III (GS)

Like a Hybrid Cadillac

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Very fuel efficient, smooth quiet ride. I appreciate the addition of the Overdrive button (Power) as compared to the previous version which did not have it. Of course going into overdrive takes extra power... + More »
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October 12, 2015
For 2010 Toyota Prius

Reliable with great mpg;s

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After 5 years, we find that the reliability is near perfect. Don't leave it alone for more than 3 weeks though because the 12 volt battery (not the traction battery) will let you down. It's a good enough drive... + More »
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September 11, 2015
For 2010 Toyota Prius

Wonderful for Mileage and Reliablility everthing else lacks

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Wonderful for Mileage and Reliablility everthing else lacks
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September 6, 2015
2010 Toyota Prius 5-Door HB III (Natl)

Wonderful trouble free car.

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Been maintance free for the past 90,000 miles other than brakes and tires. Gets 55 mpg summer, about 49 winter. Nice improvement over the 1st generation pruis.
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August 28, 2015
2010 Toyota Prius 2010 Toyota Prius

A reliable car that is enjoyable to drive and at a very good cost per mile to operate.

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We purchased our used Prius in 2012 as our second car. The cabin is a bit more noisy than our previous Taurus when driving on rough pavement, but otherwise is a fairly quiet on smooth pavement. It is a great... + More »
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August 6, 2015
2010 Toyota Prius 5-Door HB III (GS)

Excellent car for gas mileage.

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This is an excellent car for gas mileage. Not a lot of pick up but does what it is supposed to do. No repairs in the entire time I have owned it. Just new tires. I would buy another one.
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August 5, 2015
2010 Toyota Prius 5-Door HB IV (SE)

First hybrid - love it!

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I will definitely buy another hybrid. Cons: *I had to choose between leather (V) and sunroof (IV). I picked sunroof and had to do without leather. *Dash light too dim. Often have to turn on overhead light to... + More »
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July 12, 2015
2010 Toyota Prius 5-Door HB III (GS)

Love my car ready to change for an electric car.

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it is still a very economical car today. Easy to drive fairly silent good job
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