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TOYOTA’S All New 2010 Prius Hybrid
More Powerful, Better Looking

by Keith Burton

Even at first glance the new 2010 Toyota Pruis Hybrid is all new, but you can still tell it is a Prius, that super-thrifty gas saver that everyone says the world should drive. Toyota wisely decided that their third generation Pruis would keep the somewhat quirky "hybrid" styling, but moved the car more mainstream on some of its styling elements, which to this editorial eye was just what the car needed. After all, even when the auto industry as a whole is suffering from the global economic doldrums, styling still matters.

Prius' designers still kept the car's teardrop shape, but moved the rise in the roofline toward the rear, which gives the car a bit shapelier style. But as the Prius has become a kind of technological green icon, the company did keep the family resemblance intact. The new front fascia and rear styling is sleeker and more aggressive, and the new available larger wheel diameters have a way of filling out the wheel wells more substantially.

Inside, the new 2010 Prius is a high-tech designing delight. A sweeping line containing the air-conditioner vents and the center stack are the high points. The design is pleasing to the eye and makes the interiors of many other cars, some costing much more than the Prius, look downright old fashioned. Remarkably, while the design of the dash is high-tech looking, it still has a pleasing look and works well.

The dash display is still at the center at the base of the windshield, as per previous Priuses, but now has a cleaner look and more information. For example, the display includes a neat popup window showing what buttons you pushed on the steering wheel. Computer geeks will love it.

Seating is typical Toyota, very comfortable if your are not too tall. But there is an improvement here too. Past Prius versions, and many other Toyotas suffered from seat bottom cushions that are too short, leaving your thighs without enough support. The new Prius has longer lower cushions, which should mitigate that issue for taller drivers.

On the road, the new Prius drives quite well. It is slightly more powerful, and gets underway with adequate verve with sufficient acceleration to make highway on ramps more confident inspiring. Toyota challenge auto writers on its preview to see what kind of mileage they could get, which was an excellent way to keep heavy-footed journalists from speeding tickets. The EPA rates the new Prius at 50 mpg. We all did much better, ranging from 53 to over 70 mpg. Uh, my car got the worse in our group. But even so, 53 mpg is impressive and an improvement over the low 40's of the previous version. So, if you drive the new Prius without regard to fuel mileage, it is still impressive.

The utility of the 2010 Prius is also impressive. There are storage bins and cup holders all over the interior. Women will like the recess in the center console for purses. The rear seat also fold down to make an expansive loading area for large items. A station wagon the Prius isn't, but for many folks, it is almost like one in utility. U.S. auto consumers are not generally enthusiastic over hatchbacks, but that hasn't been a big turnoff for previous Prius owners. Toyota has kept the hatchback design, but have slightly modified the vehicle's stern to lessen the effect. We think it works.

The Prius has never been a "handling" car. A sports car it isn't. But for regular folks looking for an affordable, comfortable hybrid with terrific fuel mileage and the latest in technology, the Prius stilll answers the call better than any other vehicle. And this latest version is satisfying to drive. Okay, it is also fun to drive solely on electricity and sneak up on folks. The new Prius can go farther now than before on batteries alone, but we think most of you will be less juvenile and drive the Prius as a real car. You will enjoy it.

As mentioned earlier, the 2010 Prius is powered by a larger and more powerful 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder engine produces 98 horsepower at 5,200 rpm. Together with its 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, which is quite a bit. Toyota rates the zero to 60 acceleration taking 9.2 seconds, which we don't dispute, but it feels faster than that around town.

The new Prius is the first Toyota vehicle to eliminate belts on the engine. Everything from the air conditioner compressor, water pump to power steering is electrically powered.

Of course there is also all the new electronic toys onboard, such as navigation and a high-zoot stereo. This time though,  you don't have to engage the view screen to operate the air conditioning controls.

The 2010 Prius is on sell at your local Toyota dealerships. Prices range from around $24,000 to nearly $30,000 for a super loaded version, which can include a solar cell roof that powers a fan to help keep the interior cool on hot days.

The 2010 Prius comes with Toyota's excellent warranty. That includes 3-year/36,000-mile Comprehensive. 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, 5-year/unlimited-mileage Corrosion Perforation, 8-year/100,000-mile Hybrid-related Component Coverage, and for owners in CA, MA, NY, NJ, VT, CT, ME, NM and RI, a 15-year/150,000-mile Hybrid-related Component Coverage.

Specifications:

HYBRID POWER SYSTEM

Hybrid System Net Horsepower 134 horsepower

ENGINE 2ZR-FXE (Atkinson cycle)

Type, Materials 4-cylinder aluminum block and head, double overhead cam (DOHC) 16-valve VVT-i Valvetrain 4-valve/cylinder with VVT-i

Displacement 1,798 cc

Bore x Stroke 3.17 x 3.48 in.

Expansion Ratio 13.0:1

Horsepower (SAE Net) 98 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm

Torque 105 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Recommended Fuel 87-octane unleaded

Emission Certification SULEV (with AT-PZEV)

Tier 2 Bin 3

EPA Estimated Fuel Economy*

(city/highway/combined MPG)

51/48/50

MOTOR GENERATOR TWO

Function Drives front wheels, regeneration during braking

Type Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor

Max Voltage DC650V

Electric Motor Power Output 80 hp/60 kW

Torque 153 lb.-ft.

HYBRID BATTERY PACK

Type Nickel-Metal Hydride

Nominal Voltage DC201.6V (168 x 1.2V cells )

Capacity 6.5 ampere hour

Battery Peak Horsepower Rating 36 hp/27kw

System Voltage 650 volts maximum

* 2010 EPA MPG estimate. Actual mileage will vary.

DRIVETRAIN

Transmission Type Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT)

CHASSIS AND BODY

Suspension - Front Independent MacPherson strut suspension with stabilizer bar

- Rear Torsion beam with stabilizer bar

Steering - Type Electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion

- Turning Circle

Diameter (curb to curb)

17.1 ft. (15-inch tires) 18.0 ft (17-inch tires)

Brakes - Front Ventilated front disc (hydraulic with power assist) with standard

Anti-Lock Brake (ABS) system and integrated regenerative brake

system

- Front Diameter 10.0 in. rotor

- Rear Solid disc (hydraulic with power assist) with standard Anti-lock

Brake System (ABS)

- Rear Diameter 10.2 in. rotor

- Parking Pedal brake

Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) Standard

Wheel Size 6J x 15 in.

7J x 17 in. (available)

Wheel Type and Material 5-spoke aluminum alloy

Tire Size P195/65 R15

P215/45 R17 (available)

Tire Type All-season

Spare Tire/Wheel Temporary

EXTERIOR DIMENSIONS

Overall Length 175.6 in.

Overall Width 68.7 in.

Overall Height 58.7 in. (with 15-inch and 17-inch

tires)

Wheelbase 106.3 in.

Tread Width (Front/Rear) 60.0/59.8 in. (15-inch tires) 59.6/59.4 in. (17-inch tires)

Front Overhang 35.6 in.

Rear Overhang 33.7 in

Ground Clearance 5.5 in.

Coefficient of Drag 0.25

INTERIOR DIMENSIONS

Seating Capacity 5

Headroom (Front/Rear) 38.3/37.6 in.

Legroom (Front/Rear) 42.5/36.0 in.

Shoulder Room (Front/Rear) 56.1/53.1 in.

Hip Room (Front/Rear) 52.7/51.2 in.

EPA Passenger Volume 93.7 cu. ft.

EPA Cargo Volume 21.6 cu. ft.

WEIGHTS AND CAPACITIES

Curb Weight 3,042 lbs.

Fuel Capacity 11.9 gal.

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