The Toyota Prius is unchanged for 2007; this gasoline/electric hybrid is available in a single trim line, with two available option packages. The base price rises $550 to $31,280 for 2007.

The Prius uses Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive; it features a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine combined with an electric motor and battery pack, along with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The system uses regenerative braking to help recharge the battery and does not need to be plugged in. The electric motor works with the gasoline engine to boost power when needed; the Prius is also able to run on its battery for short periods, and features an idle-stop that shuts the gasoline engine off when the vehicle is stopped, for extra fuel economy in traffic.

Standard features on the Prius include 15-inch alloy wheels, 60/40 fold-down rear seat, fabric upholstery, automatic climate control, CD with six speakers, power windows, power locks with keyless entry, cargo net and cover, cruise control, rear spoiler, variable intermittent wipers, intermittent rear washer/wiper, heated mirrors, and tire pressure monitoring system.

Available options include side and curtain airbags, premium JBL audio system, vehicle stability control, Smart Key proximity entry and ignition, fog lamps, auto-dimming rearview mirror and DVD navigation system with backup camera.

The Prius was Toyota’s first hybrid and was designed from the ground up to use the gasoline/electric system; while many hybrid vehicles are now based on existing gasoline models and are almost indistinguishable from them, the Prius retains its offbeat styling and tech-heavy interior. The horsepower numbers look miniscule on paper, but acceleration feels up to the standard of most comparable gasoline-powered cars, thanks to the low-end torque provided by the electric motor.

On the down side, the variable power-assist steering feels numb, and the narrow tires follow every road imperfection, especially on highway ruts. Like all hybrids, the Prius returns its best mileage in urban travel, and its higher purchase price means it takes longer to recoup the difference at the gas pumps; do your research and assess your driving habits before taking the plunge.

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