2010 Toyota Prius
2010 Toyota Prius. Click image to enlarge

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2010 Toyota Prius

Oshawa, Ontario – It’s every automaker’s dream to produce the vehicle that, in the public’s perception, defines a segment. Toyota has pretty much done that with the Prius; for many people, it has become a generic name for a hybrid, much like Kleenex or Aspirin have come to define tissues and tablets. Other hybrid manufacturers are aiming their big guns at it, while Toyota counters with an all-new version for 2010, the third generation of the model.
Overall, it retains the same iconic shape, but it’s completely new, with an improved and roomier interior, new engine, stiffer body and better fuel economy. It’s going up against full hybrids such as the Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima, and mild ones such as the equally all-new Honda Insight, but it also faces competition from within: the Prius may be the car people equate with hybrids, but in Canada, it’s outsold by the more mainstream-looking Toyota Camry Hybrid.

2010 Toyota Prius
2010 Toyota Prius. Click image to enlarge

The 2010 Prius starts at $27,500. It comes in a single trim line, but packages can be added that will take it as high as $36,565. The base model includes such features as automatic climate control, stereo with auxiliary input, cloth seats, auto up/down windows, cargo cover, heated mirrors, cruise control, electronic stability control, and seven airbags, including one for the driver’s knee.

Various packages add such items as six-CD stereo, backup camera, navigation system, heated leather seats, 17-inch wheels and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Also available are several technology items new to the Prius: radar cruise control that automatically adjusts for vehicles in front, a pre-collision system, LED headlamps, and an Intelligent Parking Assist system that I haven’t tried, but which I hope is better than the cumbersome system that debuted on the Lexus LS 460.

There’s also an available power sunroof containing solar panels. Their job is solely to power a fan when the car is parked in direct sunlight, bringing down the interior temperature and so reducing the need for more aggressive air conditioning. The a/c can also be started remotely so it runs off the battery for a few minutes prior to the driver getting in. I’m guessing that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and in future, I could see such power-producing panels playing a larger role in the vehicle’s operation. (I’m also hoping that no one thinks they can safely leave tots or pets locked in the car, thinking that the fan will prevent the hyperthermia that kills several unattended children every year in warmer parts of the U.S.)

2010 Toyota Prius
2010 Toyota Prius. Click image to enlarge

The Prius uses a 1.8-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine, up from the 1.5-litre in the previous model. That may sound odd for a hybrid, but according to Toyota, the larger engine runs at a lower r.p.m. on the highway, reducing fuel consumption. The transmission is a continuously variable (CVT) unit. The official fuel numbers are 3.7 L/100 km in the city, and 4.0 on the highway, and yes, that’s correct: because of their battery use, full hybrids are the opposite of conventional cars and get better mileage in the city. In combined driving, I averaged 4.6 L/100 km, or 61 mpg Imp. Dedicated urban-dwelling hybrid fans will undoubtedly do much better than that, but I live in the country, and I also tended to drive it the way many buyers will: gently, but not to the point where I was holding up a line of traffic. For hybrids to make it in the mainstream, they’ve got to work closely to the way conventional cars do. For the most part, the Prius does.

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