2013 Toyota Prius
2013 Toyota Prius
2013 Toyota Prius. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Tom Sedens

Though the Toyota Prius is no longer a lone ranger on the hybrid frontier, it still tends to be the first one to come to mind for me. Because it blazed these heretofore unknown trails, it forged paths where there were none, and carved out a niche that didn’t exist before.

The real story is and always has been the now-familiar 1.8L four-cylinder hybrid drivetrain, putting out 134 horsepower. As is typical, no torque rating is supplied for this hybrid. The power comes from the gas engine feeding a CVT (continuously variable transmission), as well as an electric motor – all driving the front wheels.

Of course, the point of this exercise is two-fold: to use as little fuel as possible, thereby saving the environment and, in theory, your money (at some point in time, once you earn back the extra you spent on a hybrid). Fuel economy ratings are 3.7 L/100 km in the city and 4.0 L/100 km on the highway. During my week with it, driving normally (mostly slower commuting, minor freeway travel and one highway drive) with no effort to save gas, I averaged an almost unbelievable 5.0 L/100 km.

The Prius has a 45 L tank and weighs 1,380 kg (3,042 lb).

The shape has evolved very slightly from the original, with little details here and there. But it’s basically still the same five-door liftback wedge design that leaves many people out in the cold. And why on earth would Toyota mess with what has now become the most recognizable, iconic hybrid on the market?

It’s not pretty, to be sure, but regular readers will likely not be surprised when I say this: I don’t mind it. I love a wagon/van shape and I love when functionality beats out fashion on occasion.

2013 Toyota Prius2013 Toyota Prius2013 Toyota Prius2013 Toyota Prius
2013 Toyota Prius. Click image to enlarge

The Touring package gives this one some nifty LED headlights, and some nicely integrated fog lights below. Though there are mild hints of aggression in the swept-back headlight pods and in the lower air dam, nobody will mistake this for a car that means business. Toyota has added some details to give the taillights some interest as well.

The 17-inch wheels look quite good (especially versus the wheel covers you see on some Priuses), and wear 215/45-sized tires.

2013 Toyota Prius
2013 Toyota Prius. Click image to enlarge

Inside, you’ll find unique styling again. The dash consists of a simple swoosh all the way across, lifting in the middle for a raised eyebrow over some digital information screens that replace the gauges. The materials are hard plastic throughout and although Toyota has attempted to bring some organic textures to the table, the effect is still “economy car”. Though the fit and finish is good, nothing feels premium, including the mouse-fur trim on the door panels, pillars and roof, and the seat fabrics. In addition, the blandness continues with the 50 Shades of Grey theme they’ve chosen. It’s not nearly as exciting as you might think.

The Prius feels roomy inside, and provides good headroom for my 5’10” size.

Ahead of you is a manually adjustable steering wheel with control pads and buttons. They handle temperature, the driver information screen, the media system, hands-free and phone functions.

That eyebrow bin I mentioned has two sides. On the left is a digital speedo, an instant mileage gauge and the gear selector position. The right side is the driver information screen that lets you cycle through a graphic display of where your energy is coming from, a digital version of the charge/eco/power flow for which many hybrids use a traditional gauge, and a few screens relating to fuel economy.

The manually adjustable fabric seats are actually quite comfortable and are surprisingly well bolstered for a car that doesn’t even pretend to be sporty.

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