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Toyota Prius: Superior fuel economy
It’s hard to believe a decade has passed since the Toyota Prius hit the roads in the United States with innovative hybrid design and technology. The Prius has delivered superior fuel economy and ultra-low emissions to more than 1.2 million owners worldwide proving that hybrid gas-electric powertrains are practical and reliable.
The third-generation 2010 Prius is now on the market offering even better mileage ratings, enhanced performance, and new design features. The new Prius is instantly recognized as a Prius, but there are a few changes that make it more aerodynamic. The length is increased by a little over half an inch and the overall height is the same as the previous model. The roof profile is altered by moving the top of the roof almost four inches back creating a sharper slope to the windshield and increasing headroom for the rear passengers. By focusing on the shape of the body, underfloor, wheelhouse liner and shape of the wheels, the designers of the new Prius were able to reduce the coefficient of drag to a super low 0.25.
A larger and more powerful 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine along with the electric motor, the hybrid system in the new Prius will generate a combined net horsepower of 134, an improvement of 24 horsepower over the previous generation. This new combination provides improved acceleration and increased fuel economy. The 2010 Prius is EPA rated at 51-mpg city and 48-mpg highway.
The Prius offers three performance modes that the driver can select: EV or electric only, ECO for economy and POWER for a sportier feel. The EV mode allows driving don battery power alone at low speeds. The ECO mode was my choice and I found the “instantaneous fuel consumption meter” and the new “hybrid system indicator” graph on the dashboard display to be very helpful providing feedback for lower fuel consumption. Many drivers are able to obtain over 60 mpg in the 2010 Prius by using a technique that involves pressing the gas pedal for a few seconds to bring up the speed and torque efficiency of the gasoline engine, then gently taking your foot off the accelerator for a few seconds to bring the maximum benefit from the electric motor. I’m certain my mother would have achieved 100 mpg in a new Prius as this was her driving style in a gasoline-powered vehicle. The drawback is that the jerky motion causes carsickness!
Prius comes in one grade with four different standard equipment packages named II, III, IV and V, each with varying levels of exterior and interior features. An expanded list of options including leather seats, navigation system, and an option that allows the driver to turn on the air conditioning remotely. When a sunroof is added, it comes with a solar panel that powers a fan to cool the interior when the car is parked. Radar guided cruise control, a lane departure warning system, and the Intelligent Parking Assist are also available.
I drove a 2010 Prius IV, which is priced at $28,909. I would definitely suggest a test drive to anyone who questions the performance capabilities of a hybrid.
Long-time Kirklander, Sally Hanson is a freelance automotive journalist.