The Prius still is definitely not a car for driving enthusiasts, but the latest version introduced last year is better. The stiffer body shell helps reduce noise and vibration from the engine and continuously variable transmission. Steering is limp and lifeless with no real road feedback, but it's responsive enough for quick maneuvers, and the brakes are now discs at all four corners, with smoother brake regeneration. With more lightweight aluminum in the body too, the Prius' 0-60 mph times are now just under ten 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.
The 2011 Toyota Prius became a perkier-performing car last year when it was redesigned, thanks in part to a powertrain that's been reconfigured for better responsiveness and improved efficiency, 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. If you run the Prius hard, you can keep up with the fastest-moving traffic and take on steep curvy grades with tires howling (they do easily), but that's just plain silly; your mileage will drop the Prius into the high 30-mpg range. With a light touch and 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—any driver can extract more than 50 mpg in city driving.
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