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

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2010 Toyota Prius

San Francisco, California – The name Prius means “to go before” in Latin, and that seems appropriate for a car that has become the poster car for all gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles, and indeed a symbol of environmentally-friendly automotive technology in general.

Whether the third generation 2010 Prius, which goes on sale in June, 2009, can maintain this leadership position as a new wave of hybrid vehicles enters the marketplace in the next few years, remains to be seen. Toyota is certainly trying hard to keep the Prius ahead of the pack: the new 2010 Prius has been completely redesigned and offers better fuel economy, more power, improved stability and handling, better brakes, more interior and cargo space, a quieter cabin, and more features such as a solar-powered ventilation system and Pre-Collision crash avoidance.

And if rumours are correct, Toyota will introduce a plug-in version of the Prius by the end of this year.

The 2010 Prius is based on the same platform as the Scion Xb (not yet sold in Canada). It has the same wheelbase as the current model, but it is slightly longer by 15 mm (0.6 inches), and wider by 20 mm (0.8 in.). The windshield and cowl have been moved forwards to create a bigger passenger cabin, and the top of the rear roof line has been moved rearward by 99 mm (3.9 in.) to increase rear headroom and vehicle aerodynamics. There is considerably more rear legroom and headroom in the new Prius than in the current one (good news for Canadian taxi drivers!)

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

The new Prius remains a hatchback with a large cargo opening, generous cargo area, and that useful vertical rear window for better rear visibility. Notable styling differences include its wider, irregularly shaped headlight covers, a redesigned bumper with fog lights relocated to the outer bumper, a bigger Toyota logo in the hood, larger front quarter windows, sharper body creases, a new character line from nose to tail, and redesigned LED taillights. The Prius’ wider track also gives it a more planted, stable appearance. Aerodynamics have also been improved to a class-leading 0.25 coefficient of drag (CD) from 0.26. This was achieved in part by new front fender and wheel designs, and underfloor covers that reduce air turbulence under the car.

The Prius’ hybrid powertrain, which Toyota calls “Hybrid Synergy Drive”, remains a “full” hybrid system – ie. it can run on electric-only, gas-only or both at the same time – but it now includes three driver-selectable operating modes: EV-Drive Mode allows electric-only operation at low speeds for about two kilometres if the battery is fully charged; Power Mode provides improved throttle response for a sportier feel; and Eco Mode helps the driver achieve better fuel economy.

The revised Hybrid Synergy Drive system is now 37 per cent smaller and 36 per cent lighter than the current one, and nickel-metal hydride battery voltage output has increased to 650 volts from 500 volts. The electric motor/generator is 33 per cent lighter and output is now 60kW, up from 50 kW.
A larger and more powerful 1.8-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine replaces the previous 1.5-litre unit. You might well ask, doesn’t a larger engine use more fuel? Well, according to Toyota, the increased torque means the 1.8-litre engine can run at lower revs on the highway, thereby improving highway fuel economy. Other fuel-saving innovations are an electric coolant pump and a new exhaust gas recirculation system. The 1.8-litre engine is the first Toyota engine with no belts to run accessory drives (which are now all electric) which also improves fuel efficiency. Net horsepower (gas engine and electric motor output combined) is now 134, up from 110 in the current model.

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