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Edmunds test drives the new Prius

Toyota is just now finally getting some stiff competition in the hybrid market after holding on to the "High MPG Crown" for quite some time. On the lower end, the Prius is being assaulted by Honda's relatively affordable second generation Insight which starts below $20,000. That vehicle is rated at 40 MPG/43 MPG (city/highway).

On the other end of the spectrum, Ford's $27,270 Fusion Hybrid brings more conventional styling to the table and a vastly improved driving experience compared to the appliance-like Prius. In addition, the Fusion Hybrid still manages to maintain EPA ratings of 41 MPG/36 MPG (city/highway), although Autoblog editors were able to extract 43 MPG combined from their test vehicle.

With the stakes in the hybrid market getting higher, Toyota is ready to dazzle with its third-generation Prius. We first got a glimpse of the new model back in mid-October and the Toyota official announced the new Prius at the Detroit Auto Show in early January. Now, Edmunds has gotten a chance to fully track test the model ahead of its scheduled rollout for American consumers.

First and foremost, Toyota should be able to consolidate costs a bit with the new Prius as it no longer rides on its own platform. Instead, the vehicle is based on the current MC platform that underpins the Toyota Corolla, Matrix, and Scion xB -- presumably, the MC platform will also be used for the upcoming Lexus HS 250h hybrid sedan.

Toyota also addressed both power and NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) with the upgrade to a larger 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine (up from the 1.5-liter unit used in the previous model). The new engine not only allowed Toyota to improve the Prius' acceleration and increase fuel economy, but it also reduces the cacophony inside the cabin when the gasoline engine is running.

Other improvements include a smoother ride, more natural steering and brake feel, and an even more advanced set of features and options. The Prius can now be equipped with such features as solar panels on the roof to power the A/C system and a self-parking system for those that either can't be bothered with or are inept at parallel parking.

Most importantly, the new Prius definitely puts up impressive numbers when it comes to fuel economy. The new vehicle is rated a 50 MPG combined (city + highway). However, Edmunds was able to achieve 52.2 MPG combined during 115 miles of driving with 60% weighted towards highway miles. Edmunds figures that the numbers would creep up a few more MPG if the percentages were reversed seeing as how the Prius excels in around town situations where the electric motor can handle more of the propulsion duties.

Toyota hasn't yet announced pricing for its third-generation Prius, but expect the new vehicle's base price to hover around or slightly higher than the current $22,000.

Updated 3/25/2009
Autoblog's road test of the 2010 Prius shows that the vehicle is capable of much more than just 52.2 MPG:

The Prius' chief engineer, Akihiko Otsuka, drove a 33-mile route in and around Napa and averaged 62.9 mpg. During the drive week, he levied a Beat-The-Chief challenge to anyone who wanted to take him on. AutoblogGreen was able to get the in-dash display to read in the mid- to low-70s for most of the route, but the last ten miles on a busy 55-mph road dropped that to 64.5 mpg. Not bad, but only good for a standing near the absolute bottom of the rankings among other journalists. Overall, the best score was 94.6 mpg, although that involved some less-than-real-world driving behaviors and conditions. The best "honest" score was 75.3 mpg. In all, about half of the journalists were able to get over 70 mpg, while the rest, save two, were able to get more than 66 mpg.

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still Uhhggleee
By pandatech on 3/25/2009 4:15:50 AM , Rating: 3
still ugly and will cost 25k.

RE: still Uhhggleee
By shin0bi272 on 3/25/2009 10:03:17 AM , Rating: 1
While youre at it why dont you (or we) discuss the disparity in the price. You pay 25k for an 85 or so HP gas engine and some batteries so that you can get better gas mileage. I can go right now and get a 4 door saturn for 15k with power windows, locks, cd player, onstar, and several other options (i think even a sun roof) and still save 10k.

If it costs me 20 bucks a week to fill up the saturn thats $1040 for a years worth of driving. So in the 5 years I will be paying off my saturn (at a much lower monthly payment btw) I will still have only spent 5200 to fuel it up... So even if someone were to buy a prius and never drive it anywhere I'd still have to drive my saturn for over 9.6 years before I would have spent $10,000 in gas.

So either gas has to go up to 5 dollars a gallon to make a hybrid worth it or the hybrid price has to come way down to be competitive with those of us who live and work in the real world.

RE: still Uhhggleee
By Jim28 on 3/25/2009 10:15:48 AM , Rating: 1
Isn't it obvious that due to both politcal(damn democrats) and economic(damn all of government) reaons gas willl soon be going up.

RE: still Uhhggleee
By shin0bi272 on 3/25/2009 8:37:55 PM , Rating: 2
Oh yeah there was talk about a 3 dollar per gallon gas tax last month wasnt there? I think it was part of obama's cap and trade program in his 2010 budget that congress is voting on right now so we'll have to wait and see.

I have a question for the environmentalists (you know the ones of you who love to vote all of my posts down)... If we are the ones heating up the planet with our evil cars why did the last ice age end 10,000 years ago?

RE: still Uhhggleee
By shin0bi272 on 3/25/2009 8:41:29 PM , Rating: 2
to put that in better terms. The last Ice age ended 10,000 years ago before we had cars and even enough people on the planet to do anything and yet the planet still warmed up and the ice melted... so how can you prove we are the ones causing the planet to warm with our evil cars?

RE: still Uhhggleee
By Spuke on 3/26/2009 2:51:47 PM , Rating: 2
so how can you prove we are the ones causing the planet to warm with our evil cars?
Cars are just an easy target cause everyone owns one. The goal is to get all of us to sell all of our stuff to third world countries, quit our jobs and live in caves bartering with our "neighbors" for "clothing" and "food".

RE: still Uhhggleee
By Parhel on 3/25/2009 11:10:32 AM , Rating: 3
I can go right now and get a 4 door saturn for 15k

The Astra? No thanks. At that price the Astra doesn't even have air conditioning. Even if it could be optioned out to compare with the Prius, it would cost more than $15k, and still be junk. Why not just do a cost comparison with the Tata Nano?

RE: still Uhhggleee
By shin0bi272 on 3/25/2009 8:21:05 PM , Rating: 2
No the ion I own was 13k for a base model with onstar and an upgraded stereo. So for 15k I could have gotten power windows and a sunroof and possibly other things.

Point is there are much cheaper and better looking cars out there rather than getting a prius. Which as the math shows is not economical and is not going to save the planet by increasing gas mileage from 35 to 55 highway.

RE: still Uhhggleee
By shin0bi272 on 3/25/2009 8:39:27 PM , Rating: 2
oh and I have AC in my Ion

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