Comfort and Quality » 8
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QUALITY | 8 out of 10
The new center console that houses the shifter is slick looking but robs some width.
remarkably quiet, more like luxury models than mainstreamers
Hard plastic dominates, with very few padded surfaces, including the dash, which was padded in the last-generation Prius.
Under the center console, there's room to hide a purse
the ride is calmer and quieter
Car and Driver
Inside the 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid, there's plenty of room for four adults. Five will fit in a pinch, but rear-seat passengers will have to stagger their shoulders. Slim front seatbacks provide good rear kneeroom, and there's more headroom in the rear than in front, thanks to the curved and domed roofline. Up front, it's not quite as pleasant; the "flying buttress" center console limits knee room, and the front seats could use a touch more padding. The driver's seat can be adjusted for height, though, which isn't the case in every car.
Otherwise, the five-door Prius hatchback is practical, versatile, and offers a space-efficient layout. You'd never know the battery pack was buried horizontally below the load deck, and storage cubbies, trays, and the like provide plenty of space for personal items--though the tray below the console is awkward to get to. The hard plastics look good, with textures and patterns you won't see in any other car, and they're carbon-neutral to boot.
Most of our editors noted the Prius's relative quietness under most driving conditions, with improved insulation and lower wind noise. That's shattered by engine noise when the car is driven hard, though This is a chronic fault, or feature, of Toyota's hybrids, which downsize the engine for maximum efficiency. The tradeoff, though, is that it has to work very hard to deliver the needed power on hard acceleration--and you hear it.
The 2012 Toyota Prius pulls off a tough trick: It is both versatile, spacious, and comfortable, and it delivers a real-world 50 mpg.