The most important thing to remember about the much-anticipated 2010 Prius model update is that Toyota is, at its heart, a conservative company. Add to that Toyota's desire not to spoil the continued success of the previous Prius model, and you get a new car that isn't radically changed from its predecessor.
The Prius still uses Toyota's Synergy hybrid system, a full hybrid system that propels the car under electric power at low speeds. It's still shaped like a speed bump, with a hatchback and a quick drop-off at the back. And the cabin tech still uses a DVD-based navigation system, and lacks a USB port or iPod integration for the audio system.
However, Toyota did give it a slightly bigger engine, a 1.8-liter four cylinder, increasing the power, and at the same time increasing the fuel economy. Some reshaping around the grille and hood brings in Toyota's new design language, while the roof peak has been moved back a bit to increase rear head room and create better aerodynamics. The cabin now includes a floating console and a shift lever with a more traditional layout than the previous one. And Toyota gives the Prius some new tech tricks, such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and automatic parking.
We got our hands on the new Prius during a preview event, and found that it drives very similarly to the previous generation. The net horsepower from the new power train comes out to 134, over the older model's 110, which you can feel during hill climbs and acceleration at speed. Toyota claims a 0 to 60 mph time of 9.8 seconds for the new model. It's hardly a drastic change in power over the old car, but it is usable. … Read more