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For as long as we can remember, words like "efficient" and "green" went hand-in-hand with "sacrifice." To be efficient you'd certainly have to get by with less, and to be green you'd often need to dig deeper into your wallet. Yes, those fancy light bulbs were shockingly expensive, but they operated on less energy. In terms of cars, green and efficient ran the gamut from low-priced but performance-deficient econoboxes to similarly performance-deficient but high-priced hybrids. Over time, the so-called Green Movement assimilated into the mainstream, and hybrid vehicles morphed into more traditional cars, trucks and SUVs that appealed to a broader variety of drivers. The 2010 Toyota Prius is a prime example. Though its styling still distinguishes it from your everyday family sedan, this hybrid delivers comfort, utility, features, and affordability on par with its gasoline-powered competitors, yet it continues to outclass its rivals with superior fuel economy. Performance could still use a boost, but overall, the new Prius is more about what you get than what you don't.Photos courtesy of Toyota.
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#10. 2010: The Year of the Recall.
Before we dive into our evaluation of the Prius, let's deal with the elephant in the room: Toyota 's numerous safety recalls in 2010. Though not part of the larger unintended-acceleration problem, the redesigned '10 Prius has been recalled for issues related to its anti-lock braking system. As Toyota explains, “Some owners have reported experiencing inconsistent brake feel during slow and steady application of the brakes on rough or slick road surfaces when the anti-lock brake system (ABS) is activated in an effort to maintain tire traction.” Owners of affected models will be notified by mail, and the fix will require a software update performed by your local Toyota dealer. If you own or are considering purchasing one of the 133,000 Prius models in question, make sure to have this quick repair performed.
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#9. When it comes to fuel economy, individual results will definitely vary.
With recalls being the possible exception, the 2010 Toyota Prius is best known for its efficiency. In fact, the Prius is the most fuel-efficient mass-market vehicle sold in the U.S. , outperforming models such as the Honda Insight hybrid and diesel-powered Volkswagen Golf TDI. The EPA suggests that Prius drivers will record 51 mpg in the city, 48 mpg on the highway, and 50 mpg overall. However, as the saying goes, individual results vary. We've tested the 2010 Toyota Prius on multiple occasions and in varying weather conditions, with the final average coming to 45.3 mpg. Granted, our time behind the wheel included some law-bending speeds on the highway and a few quick starts from long-overdue green lights, but most of the miles were clocked slogging around town. Under those circumstances, we were a bit disappointed by the results.
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#8. Prices for the 2010 Prius range from the low $20,000s to about $34,000.
Toyota sells the 2010 Prius in four flavors: Prius II, Prius III, Prius IV, and Prius V. The Prius II, priced from $23,550, is well-equipped with a nice array of power features, stability and traction control systems, and seven airbags. With a starting price of $24,550, the 2010 Prius III tacks on a standard JBL sound system, XM satellite radio, and Bluetooth capability, while adding items such as a touch-screen navigation system and a solar-powered ventilation system to the options menu. Bump up the $27,350 Prius IV, which is the model we tested, and enjoy standard leather upholstery and heated front seats. Finally, there's the $28,820 Prius V, a model that goes to town with standard 17-inch alloys and auto-leveling headlights, as well as options like a lane-departure warning system and intelligent cruise control. Select that fully-loaded 2010 Toyota Prius v, and you'll be looking at about $34,000. All prices include a $750 destination charge.
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#7. The 2010 Prius drives less like a hybrid and more like a traditional car.
With a total output of 134 horsepower, this hybrid isn't exactly a rocket, but with a good goose of the throttle, you won't have any trouble merging into traffic and cruising stress-free in the passing lane. Due to the gas engine's tendency to shut down at slow speeds, there's still a bit of a delay when asking the Prius to sprint from a dead stop, but many of the car's other hybrid-related idiosyncrasies have been dialed down. The regenerative braking system, for example, has been improved, so drivers won't feel as though the brakes are frequently being gently applied. We tested the hybrid system's four modes – EV, Economy, Power, and Normal – and, not surprisingly, found Normal to be the best choice for daily commuting. EV mode only operates at slow speeds, after which the gas engine kicks in. Economy mode swaps readily-available performance for improved mpg, and Power mode offers the greatest throttle response by putting every bit of those 134 horses under the driver's right foot.
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#6. The 2010 Prius offers a mixed bag in terms of ride and handling.
For a car with funky looks and that's perceived by many to be a four-wheeled appliance, the redesigned 2010 Prius is actually slightly fun to drive. No, we're not talking about sports-car dynamics here, but the suspension does a decent job of controlling body roll and the steering offers a nice heft at highway speeds, even as it fails to translate the road surface to the driver's hands. Prius pilots can feel comfortable along twisty roads while traveling at a moderate pace, something many may not expect from this boxy hybrid. Around town, there's nothing to complain about, and we were actually very pleased with the tight turning radius, making the Prius a snap to park. On the down side, the Prius's ride is a little on the stiff side, the steering requires a fair bit of correction on the highway, and the broad flanks make the Prius susceptible to strong cross winds. Visibility is another issue; the rear spoiler creates a barrier directly in the driver's line of sight, and since the rear wiper only clears the upper glass, the lower window can quickly become useless in foul-weather conditions.
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#5. Count comfort among the 2010 Toyota Prius's accolades.
While perhaps not in the same league as a La-Z-Boy recliner, there's no denying that the five-passenger 2010 Toyota Prius is a comfortable rig. Thanks to doors that open wide and seats positioned close to the door frames, getting into Toyota 's most popular fuel-sipper is an easy affair. Once inside, we enjoyed the spacious driver's seat with ample thigh and back support, a power lumbar feature, and a manual height adjustment. With the seat lowered, the Prius delivered abundant head room. The comfort ante was pumped up a bit more by the tilting and telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel and center armrest (though the latter could use more padding). Rear-seat passengers are greeted with the same level of hospitality, as evidenced by generous amounts of foot and leg room, soft front seatbacks, and the comfortable, if firm, bench seat. Rear head room is somewhat limited by the Prius's sloping roofline.
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#4. Big interior storage is a little-known Prius secret.
Though some shoppers may find it hard to believe, the 2010 Toyota Prius is considered a midsize car by the EPA, meaning it falls into the same class as the Camry, Chevrolet Malibu, and Volkswagen Passat. But unlike those more mainstream vehicles, the Prius delivers about 22 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, which allowed us to carry a large, overstuffed suitcase and a couple of smaller carry-on bags. Remove the retractable cargo cover, fold down the split second-row seatbacks, and the Prius ponies up gobs of room and a long, flat load floor. Under the cargo area is a cubby that, as we found, is great for storing snow-covered items while traveling during the winter. Other storage provisions include front door pockets that are disappointingly small, but serve double duty as cupholders; there are also dual gloveboxes, a dual-level center armrest storage unit, and a spacious cubby below the instrument panel. Put it all together, and you have a car that's great for road trips…or pack rats.
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#3. Thoughtful ergonomics make the 2010 Prius's controls easy to navigate.
For the novice, operating the 2010 Toyota Prius can be plenty intimidating. From the gauge cluster mounted atop the center dash to the unique shifter configuration and Park button, there's enough uniqueness to keep you in that rusty ol' Camry. Familiarize yourself with those few unusual features, though, and you'll find that the Prius is remarkably similar to your run-of-the-mill family car. The climate control system and base radio unit are controlled by large, well-labeled and illuminated buttons, and the simple touch-screen navigation system proves to be less of a headache than the centralized technology offered by many high-end brands (think Audi's MMI and BMW's iDrive). Offsetting those positives are a few nitpicks. We noticed that the navigation screen washed out in direct sunlight, and the heated seats were controlled with buttons that were somewhat hidden in the lower front console.
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#2. MPGs sell the 2010 Toyota Prius, not mediocre interior materials.
As we've documented several times over the past few years, new Toyota models don't exactly rival Volkswagen or even some Fords in the area of interior refinement. Our 2010 Toyota Prius test car was yet another reminder, filled with a plethora of hard plastic panels and bits, stiff leather upholstery that felt low-grade, and padded vinyl inserts on the doors. While not the most egregious offender we've encountered, the materials used to create the Prius's cabin would definitely benefit from an upgrade. To its credit, our $27,350 2010 Prius IV did offer little touches like fabric-covered visors and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, while all the plastic parts felt durable and secure.
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#1. Though not perfect, the Toyota Prius is still the hybrid to beat.
Safety recalls. Real-world fuel economy that doesn't measure up to EPA estimates. Boxy styling. We could go on and on with reasons to discount the 2010 Toyota Prius, but the fact remains that this model retains its ranking as the hybrid king. Even with our as-tested average of 45.3 mpg, the Prius is uber-efficient, and behind that boxy shape is a spacious and comfortable interior with enough nooks and crannies to store an entire year's worth of organic nuts. Sure, the gearhead in us longs for quicker acceleration and more agile handling, but try carpooling to work with four overgrown adults in a Mustang. Morning breath in a confined space is not a pleasant thought, people. After ensuring that any safety recalls have been addressed, we'd suggest checking out the Prius III, which delivers desirable amenities like XM satellite radio and Bluetooth capability at the best price.
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