The last Toyota Prius flipped the automotive world on its head, changing the purchasing priorities of American car buyers seemingly overnight. Attracted to its sky-high fuel economy, practical body style
A quick look at the 2010 Prius will reveal a familiar shape, but it's a little sleeker and a tad (dare we say) sportier than its predecessor. Visually, it looks smaller, but it's an optical illusion that creates a more streamlined appearance. Indeed, the 2010 Prius is less than an inch longer and wider than last year's model.
Under the hood resides a revised version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive. There's a larger and more powerful gasoline engine now, but instead of providing quicker off-the-line acceleration, it allows more effortless highway cruising. A smaller electric motor contributes less torque to the overall powertrain dance, but it improves efficiency. There are other mechanical changes, too, but the end result is a jump in fuel economy, from last year's EPA-estimated 48 mpg city/45 mpg highway to this year's 51/48 mpg.
Toyota has also addressed other previous Prius faults. A more rigid chassis and a revised electric-assist steering system help to improve steering feel and driver confidence - the old Prius' steering had a disconnected, video-gamelike feel. While the Prius still isn't exactly fun to drive, its straight-line stability is a lot better now, and in general, it feels more like a normal car.