2010 Toyota Prius Tech Package
2010 Toyota Prius Tech Package. Click image to enlarge

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2010 Toyota Prius

Ottawa, Ontario – In 2006, when I drove my first Toyota Prius, I remember thinking that it was fine to drive, and awfully good on gas, but pretty boring, and not the kind of thing that I would ever consider buying for myself.

So, either I’m getting old, or this new, third-generation Prius is a lot better than the one it replaced, because while driving the 2010 model, I found myself thinking, hey, this isn’t such a bad way to get around.

Much as I enjoy driving, I’ve always appreciated the technology behind hybrids: the engine runs when it needs to, and stops when it doesn’t. And I won’t say that the car excites me in any way, because despite the improvements Toyota has made to the hybrid that has become a household name, this car is only a wireless internet connection away from being the automotive equivalent of a laptop.

Indeed, the car I drove, fitted with the Technology Package, seems about as close as you can get to driving a computer without spending six figures on a 7 Series or S-Class. The Technology Package includes radar-based adaptive cruise control, which allows the Prius to automatically maintain a pre-set distance between it and the car in front in highway driving, as well as a self-parking feature which will do most of the work involved in parallel parking the car. Somewhat shamefully, I admit that I didn’t try either of these, partly because I like to drive a car, rather than let it drive me, and also because I was concentrating on the improvements Toyota has made to the Prius driving experience.

2010 Toyota Prius Tech Package
2010 Toyota Prius Tech Package. Click image to enlarge

While this latest Prius offers better gas mileage than its predecessor, it’s also better at behaving like a regular car, accelerating about as well as a four-cylinder compact with an automatic transmission. Both of these characteristics could be attributed to the car’s new, 1.8-litre gas engine (replacing the last-generation’s 1.5-litre) and a more sophisticated hybrid drive system.

The driver can choose between four drive settings: normal, eco, power and electric vehicle (EV) modes. Aside from EV mode, which only operates under part throttle, these don’t vary the amount of power available. Rather, they adjust the responsiveness of the electronic throttle. If you’re not in a hurry, eco mode softens throttle response to help the driver save fuel, power mode puts more torque to the wheels sooner, and normal mode falls somewhere in between.

The Prius will motor away from stop signs on electric power alone easily enough, but accelerating at a pace that most drivers would consider normal can’t be done without manually selecting the car’s electric vehicle (EV) mode. I appreciate that Toyota incorporated such a function into the Prius, but I wonder why it has to be driver selectable. As it is, the car’s gas engine will fire up, even in EV mode, if the driver calls for maximum acceleration, so why not make EV mode the default setting?

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