The 2010 Toyota Prius, with a base price of $22,000 and a fuel efficiency rating of 51 mpg city and 48 mpg highway, is the third generation of the gas-electric hybrid which the automotive world is still scrambling to overtake. "Prius," which is Latin for "first," does not rest on its laurels, satisfied that being first will be enough to keep it on top. Replete with some of the most sophisticated technology around, the 2010 Prius, with an optional photo-voltaic roof solar panel, has a new bag of tricks with which to dazzle us.
The Hybrid Synergy Drive System in the Toyota Prius allows the power plant to operate at maximum efficiency and minimum emissions regardless of engine speed by using either the electric motor alone, in combination with the gasoline engine, or gasoline engine alone. An inside and out redesign, the Prius also swapped out its 76 hp 1.5 Liter gas engine for a 98 hp 1.8 Liter, jumping the net horsepower from 110 to 134. The 2010 model offers the ability to choose among three Performance Modes: EV which only engages the electric motor, ECO for economy and POWER for those times you may need 0-60 performance in under 10 seconds.
The optional photo-voltaic solar panel powers the ventilation system, which can keep the interior temperature close to the outside temperature by drawing air inside and venting it to the outside when the cabin temperature exceeds 68 degrees Fahrenheit. It does not operate the air conditioning.
The styling of the 2010 Toyota Prius continues to address aerodynamic issues such as modifying the roof arch, sharpening body corners and smoothing underbody panels and elongating the spoiler. By making those adjustments, lightening the transaxle 20 percent and dropping in a smaller nickel-metal-hydride battery, Toyota was able to increase the car's crash protection, add more leg and shoulder room while increasing its fuel efficiency by 5 mpg compared with last year.
The new Prius will come in four trims: II, III, IV, and V, with more features, option packages and higher prices. A fully-loaded Prius V will run in the vicinity of $30,000. In addition, Toyota is planning to trot out numerous stand-alone options such as: GPS systems, pre-collision automatic braking, radar cruise control, lane departure alerts and parking assist.
On the road, the Prius has a more stable, centered feel, riding on the new Camry platform. With 1.2 million of the hybrids sold in the U.S. so far, Toyota plans to achieve sales of one million units per year over the next few years. Competitors like Honda Motor Co., which will introduce the Honda Fit gas-electric hybrid next year, plus three other hybrids by 2012, will help keep Toyota on top of its game as the world's foremost authority on fuel efficiency, low emissions and automotive innovation.