2010 Toyota Prius Expert Review

You'll Like The 2010 Toyota Prius If...

If getting the most mileage out of each tank of gas is high on your list, the 2010 Prius is a stellar choice. With EPA-estimated city/highway fuel economy ratings of 51/48 mpg, your fill-ups will be few and far between no matter the road you take.

You May Not Like The 2010 Toyota Prius If...

Fully loaded, the Prius may not be what you consider a bargain at $32,500, even with potential future fuel-pump savings in mind. Those who are leaning towards a hybrid but want to save more upfront may be interested in the somewhat similar-looking (but smaller) Honda Insight, which starts in the $20,000-range and maxes out just under $24,000.

What's New

For 2010, the Toyota Prius enters its third generation, with a thorough revamping that includes new styling inside and out, a larger, more powerful engine and, as expected, even better fuel economy.

Interior Features

The interior of the Prius has been significantly updated for its third generation, and is best appreciated in the lighter interior color choices, which create more of a two-tone effect. The new contoured dash is the most notable of these changes, imprinted with a "swirl" pattern of sorts and housing a vehicle information cluster that shows a variety of fuel-usage related displays accessible through Touch Tracer Display "wheels" on the steering wheel. These touch-sensitive button wheels control the radio volume, station, information display and air conditioning temperature and, to help drivers keep their eyes on the road by not having to look down when making a selection, the information is repeated in the vehicle information cluster. In a nod to using more ecologically sound materials in the cabin, plant-derived (and recyclable) resin plastics are used in various forms, most notably the driver's-side seat cushion and door scuffs.

Exterior Features

The now-familiar aerodynamic profile first introduced on the second-generation Prius returns for 2010, but changes have been made to further enhance its energy-saving design. Visually, these modifications include new energy-efficient LED taillights and sharper, more squared-off edges that improve the vehicle's coefficient of drag. And, in order to allow for more rear headroom, the apex of the roof has been moved back, giving the hybrid a windswept look from the side. As in the previous generation, the base Prius rides on 15-inch wheels, while buyers wanting a sportier-looking hybrid can opt for the Prius V and its 17-inchers.

Driving Impressions

Like all hybrids, driving the 2010 Toyota Prius is a remarkably quiet experience. The transition between gasoline engine and electric motor (most commonly felt while idling at a light), is even smoother in this generation, making it almost imperceptible. The new "EV," "Eco" and "Power" buttons are welcome additions, allowing the driver to exercise a little more control over the vehicle's fuel consumption and throttle response. While pressing "EV" operates the car in ultra-quiet electric-only mode (battery power, speed and distance permitting), choosing "Eco" modifies the throttle response so that no matter how lead-footed or determined a driver may be, the vehicle won't rapidly accelerate. This mode also affects the air conditioning operation and shuts it off when the vehicle is left idling. On the flip side, the "Power" button, when pushed, increases throttle response, allowing for more lively acceleration akin to a regular gas-powered four-cylinder vehicle. We can say that after considerable time driving in all three modes – on a healthy mix of both road and highway – our fuel economy numbers easily trumped those of the EPA without much effort.

Pricing Notes

The base 2010 Toyota Prius II has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of a little under $23,000 – which is in line with the last generation's base-model price in 2009. Each trim adds slightly to that price, with the Prius V ringing in at just over $28,000. Adding the Advanced Technology and Navigation packages will up the total to nearly $32,500. To find out what the Prius is being sold for in your area, be sure to peruse our Fair Purchase Prices to see what others have paid. The compact Honda Insight ranges from $20,500-$24,000, while the midsize Fusion Hybrid goes for nearly $28,000-$32,000 and Toyota's own Camry Hybrid stickers in from $27,000 to $32,500. The Prius has historically retained an above-average resale value regardless of fluctuating gas prices, and we expect this new model year to be no exception.

Notable Equipment

The base 2010 Toyota Prius II comes equipped with a wide variety of standard features, including a tilt/telescopic steering wheel with A/C controls and Touch Tracer Display, height-adjustable driver's seat, auto up/down on all windows, push-button start, two 12-volt power outlets, a tonneau cover and auxiliary input jack. Moving up to the Prius III adds an upgraded JBL AM/FM/CD changer with satellite radio, Bluetooth and eight speakers, while the Prius IV trim is enhanced with a leather interior, heated front seats with driver's lumbar support and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The top-of-the-line Prius V adds 17-inch alloy wheels and energy-saving LED headlamps and foglamps.

Notable Options

Techno-savvy Prius shoppers will likely be interested in the optional power moonroof with solar-powered ventilation and remote A/C operation to help keep the vehicle cool. A number of advanced safety systems are also available for the top-of-the-line Prius V, including Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, the Pre-Collision System, Lane Keep Assist and Intelligent Parking Assist, all offered in the Advanced Technology Package - which includes the Navigation Package.

Favorite Features

Solar Roof Package

Opting for the Solar Roof Package nets you a power moonroof that self-ventilates (thanks to solar cells mounted on top) to help keep the car at a constant temperature. And, just to be sure the interior is at a comfortable temperature upon entering, using the A/C button on the key fob allows managing the interior temperature for up to three minutes from afar, provided the vehicle's battery is well charged.

Power Button

Although the Prius is a lean, green, gas-saving machine, sometimes a little more power is warranted. For those situations, putting the car into "Power" mode gives you some extra oomph to get where you need to go.

Under the Hood

The 2010 Toyota Prius is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine matched with an electronically-controlled continuously-variable transmission. It is rated at 98 horsepower, and is a step up from the previous generation's, which was a 1.5-liter powerplant that offered only 76 horsepower. The total hybrid system horsepower (gasoline engine and electric motor combined) for 2009 was only 110, but for 2010 it's up to 134. The 2010 Prius' fuel economy ratings of 51 city/48 highway eclipse those of the previous generation, and individuals wishing to max out their mileage can make use of the vehicle's "Eco" button, which modulates throttle responses and air conditioning operation to improve fuel efficiency. On the other end of the spectrum is the "Power" button, which increases throttle response to allow for faster acceleration, a boon to anyone trying to get up to freeway speed quickly.

1.8-liter in-line 4 with 60-kilowatt Permanent Magnetic Synchronous Electric Motor Atkinson Cycle Hybrid

98 horsepower @ 5200 rpm (gasoline engine); 80 horsepower (electric motor); 134 hp net total hybrid system

105 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm (gasoline engine); 153 ft.-lb. of torque (electric motor)

EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy: 51/48

Editors' Notes

The Latin word prius means "to go before." Used as a vehicle name, it certainly fits the world's first mass-produced and best-selling hybrid, with well over a million sold to date. The Toyota Prius, now in its third generation for 2010, has gone from being the quirky vehicle of choice for those wanting to live a greener lifestyle to a mainstream and fuel-thrifty mode of transportation appealing to families and empty-nesters alike. And, along the way, it has inspired other car companies to increase their efforts in the hybrid market. However, when it comes to covering the most ground using the least amount of fuel, the Prius handily takes the cake from its competitors with its EPA-estimated 51/48 city/highway mpg ratings.

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2010 Toyota Prius Owner Reviews

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The Prius is great in snow as it is a front wheel drive vehicle.

2010 Toyota Prius III

I love my Prius. It is fun to drive. I can pass trucks in the mountains so has plenty of get up and go. It gets 42 miles to the gallon. The only things I have had to replace in 160,000 miles are tires, one battery and windshield wiper blades. Checked my brake pads the last oil change and they are still like new as the way a Prius is designed is to use the system as brakes. It charges the big battery when I brake somehow also. It is not real comfortable on long trips but the mileage makes up for the less comfortable seats. I do need to get the headlights buffed as they are scratched looking and the dealership said they could do that for $100 I think to make them look new again. I have been told the big Prius battery should last 400,000 miles or more and I will keep this Prius for as long as it runs and then buy another one. You only change oil every 10,000 miles and rotate tire. I was told that it is the least expensive vehicle on the road today. Costs $.07 a mile to drive it. I love it when I fill it up. Has a 11 gallon tank and goes 400 miles without a fill up. I love the money I save with my Toyota Prius.

- Debbie K

Toyota Prius: excellent for roaming the heart of la.

2010 Toyota Prius

My Toyota Prius is a fine little car. Compact and easy to drive, especially on a casual basis without needing to worry so much about fuel economy. It performs just right I feel for an urban vehicle and can easily get you around a crowded city with, once again, great fuel economy. Performance has never been an issue with me, even with an older model (2010), and was able to maintain a very steady 90 mph for the whole duration of a recent 50+ hour road trip across the country. Once again I have to mention the great fuel economy for this hybrid, because for only $20 at the pump in the middle of la I can get a full tank and still outlast most tanks twice that size. I have never really had any problems with my Prius outside of wear and tear that would be typical for any vehicle, although sometimes, when the car is off the horn will beep 7 times out of the blue and I still haven't been able to figure out why it does that. It is a great car, very economical and plenty of power to get by.

- Matthew P

Older Prius still performs and is fantastic value.

2010 Toyota Prius

Absolutely love it. This compact hybrid is surprisingly roomy and offers lots of utility. I have had this car for about three years, put about 40, 000 miles on it and have had no major issues. The fuel economy is the main attraction, pulling 45 mpg highway, and slightly better in town. If I really baby it I can get 53 mpg in town. The back seats fold down and have enough room to fit plenty of whatever you need to carry. Fantastic work vehicle and every day driver. My only gripe is the driver's seat is not vertically adjustable and I am a tall guy, so my rear view mirror is sometimes in my way when I need to make a sharp right. I found out recently I couldn't jumpstart another car with it. Tried to help a stranded motorist about a week ago and I ended up having to give him a ride home because the 12 volt battery on board just does not have the juice to jump another car.

- John B

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