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PERFORMANCE | 9 out of 10
We quickly got fed up with the poor response in Eco Mode
New model is rated at 50 mpg EPA combined
Ride is calmer and quieter
Car and Driver
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."
With better fuel economy, better handling, and a smoother ride, there are now even fewer reasons not to look into a 2010 Toyota Prius.