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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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RE: Wow
By twjr on 3/25/2009 6:42:53 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah I saw the and smelled fish. Unless it is running entirely on batteries. But at some point and engine will have to turn on to charge the batteries.

RE: Wow
By Hiawa23 on 3/25/2009 10:46:12 AM , Rating: 2
I was curious, what kind power does the Prius has? I mean, when going up hills or something & you turn on the AC does the engine bog down like some smaller cars? Not that I could see myself buying one, as the body design is not my cup of tea & already own a Honda civic & Mitsu LAncer Ralliart & they seem to be priced too high for average Joe. 50MPG does seem to be impressive, although I am still baffled why gasoline engine technology still hasn't progress enough where the standard is 40MPG or better. Is this just not possible?

RE: Wow
By Screwballl on 3/25/09, Rating: -1
RE: Wow
By martinw on 3/25/2009 11:20:01 AM , Rating: 4
This sounds like you are just repeating an urban legend. The thing is, if you patent something it has to be public - that is part of the purpose of patents. Also patents expire after a fixed time, usually 14 to 20 years. So they cannot be "buried" by these evil companies.

If you have really seen them you should be able to post a link to them, and once they expire they are free for anyone to implement.

RE: Wow
By Mitch101 on 3/25/2009 12:43:50 PM , Rating: 2
Mythbusters did kind of an episode about these and its a bust.

I think its really impressive to take a gallon of gas and go 50 miles in something that's a few thousand pounds especially with me in it.

I want to point out that if oil companies had this ability they would do it. Why? Because their 100 year supply of oil would become a 1000 year supply of oil and they could just jack up the prices to retain making billions. The only thing that hurts oil companies is alternatives especially ones that don't have a 100 year supply limit and can be made from something as simple as algae.

RE: Wow
By Spuke on 3/25/2009 1:38:05 PM , Rating: 2
I want to point out that if oil companies had this ability they would do it.
Oil companies don't build cars. What are you talking about?

RE: Wow
By Mitch101 on 3/25/2009 2:53:37 PM , Rating: 1
Let me rephrase that then.

Oil companies would love 100mpg cars because it allows their 100 year supply to last even longer. The oil industry would not prevent 100mpg cars through patent prevention.

Its not like refineries can keep up with capacity needed so 100mpg cars will be needed.

Demand goes down they slow production and charge more. Demand goes way up we cant keep up with the refining process and the price still goes up. Oil wins until there are alternatives.

BTW spring is here expect gas to be on the rise again recession or now.

RE: Wow
By Spuke on 3/25/2009 3:46:24 PM , Rating: 2
Gotcha. Thanks for the explanation.

RE: Wow
By mindless1 on 3/25/2009 6:25:19 PM , Rating: 2
False, nobody at an oil company is thinking what it will do after everyone there is long dead.

Their goal is make as much profit NOW as possible.

RE: Wow
By shin0bi272 on 3/25/2009 8:29:35 PM , Rating: 1
versus environmentalists who are thinking thousands of years into the future and making everyone change their lives now to possibly maybe slightly effect the environment hundreds of years after they've died.

RE: Wow
By Tsuwamono on 4/2/2009 12:18:47 PM , Rating: 2
oh come on. Don't be ignorant. Its not like driving a nice new Chevy optra with 50MPG as opposed to a beat up old Prelude at 20MPG is hurting you so bad.

Most the stuff they ask you to do is like turn off your light bulbs and dont take 45 minute showers every day. Seriously is that so hard? Jerk off in your room instead of in the shower and turn off the lights when you leave a room. Its saves you money so why bitch about it?

They aren't asking you to start a compost heap in your back yard and wear special clothing and never take a dump.

They're asking you to save yourself money...

And FYI its not thousands of years. The earliest models are only a few decades off and most of the other models are at most 100 years.

RE: Wow
By TedE on 3/26/2009 12:07:37 PM , Rating: 2
Actually oil companies would hate this because demand would drop dramatically while supply wouldn't which would produce dramatic drops in the price of oil.

Of course, as oil prices drop the incentive to use it efficiently disappears so this would never happen. This is one of the major arguments *against* fuel efficiency standards. Fuel efficiency ultimately helps keep oil prices lower thereby *decreasing* the incentive to pursue more efficiency. Perverse but true.

If this seems counter-intuitive then consider that highway building has found the same phenomena that more highway capacity does *not* decrease congestion because the capacity helps reduce the disincentives to drive thereby attracting *more* drivers.

While from an investment standpoint this kind of market equilibrium is desirable, from an emissions standpoint it is not. Ultimately, if you want to control emissions (CO2 for example) you need to tie a disincentive directly to the emission. That means a carbon tax.

RE: Wow
By William Gaatjes on 3/28/2009 4:41:10 PM , Rating: 2
You are forgetting the manager that is only capable of short term thinking. He or she does not want a hundred years of profit. He or she want's it now so he or she can "live large".

RE: Wow
By Spuke on 3/25/2009 11:57:35 AM , Rating: 3
Is this just not possible?
I think we'll be seeing some 40mpg+ gas engines with the addition of tech like HCCI and the inclusion of Direct Injection in non-performance engines. My performance oriented Direct Injection engine already gets 28 mpg hwy (EPA). The smaller displacement DI engine in the new turbo Mini Cooper S gets 34 mpg (EPA). An engine tuned for fuel economy WITH a slippery body could get 40 mpg IMO. With the addition of HCCI, I think that over 40 mpg gas engined cars are possible. DI isn't expensive to add and you'll see more cars with it in the near future. The new Chevy Cruze is supposed to get 40 mpg with a DI 1.4L turbo (140hp too).

RE: Wow
By dubyadubya on 3/25/2009 4:38:08 PM , Rating: 3
There are two main reasons newer gasoline powered vehicles are not getting the MPG they could or should. First the fuel in the US is oxygenated. 10% of each gallon is alcohol or a derivative of it. An engine burning alcohol gets about 1/2 the fuel economy that it would burning gasoline. So using 10% oxygenated fuel knocks 5% of the fuel economy right off the top.

The bigger culprit is the emissions standards in the US. First you must understand that a internal combustion engine is a air pump. To run correctly and have a chance of meeting the emission standards the air fuel ratio must be maintained at or near 14.7 to 1. To get maximum MPG a vehicles engine needs to pump as little air per mile as possible. This means anything that increase the amount of air pumped will lower the MPG.

Things that can increase an engines MPG. decrease its displacement, turn less RPM's, run a leaner air fuel ratio and or run more ignition timing. Leaner air fuel ratio's will raise emissions so will running more ignition timing. Anything that can keep the throttle plate as close to closed as possible will increase MPG because less air in means less fuel used.

In the past emission standards were loose enough that many engines ran ignition timings of 40-60 degrees BTC when cruising at a steady speed. To a point the more timing you run the less you have to open the throttle to maintain speed. Most newer engines run very little ignition timing because doing so raises cylinder temperatures increasing NOX emissions.

I have a 1991 Ford Crown Victoria with a 302 V8. I average about 18-20 MPG round town. On the open road can get 23-26 MPG. Last summer I made a road trip and got 26 MPG on the way there and 24 MPG on the way home. This was driving 70 mph with the AC on. Now how is this possible? Ignition timing and tall gears. The gears keep the RPM's down and the timing keeps the throttle near closed.

I would guess new cars are loosing 20-30% or more of their potential fuel economy do to poor fuel and tight emission standards. The only way I see around this problem is to build small high torque engines that are under square aka small bore and a long stroke. DI and turbo charging should help get some performance back but I'm sure we will loose the 6 seconds to 60 grocery getter's for good.

RE: Wow
By FITCamaro on 3/25/2009 9:43:47 PM , Rating: 2
Yup. As I said in another article, the 2004 GTO had a lean cruise option in Australia. But here in the US it wasn't enabled because it's NOX emissions were too high. Gotta love those insane emissions standards that put a fake environmental problem before better mpg which would decrease gasoline consumption (another thing they whine about).

RE: Wow
By Tsuwamono on 4/2/2009 12:09:44 PM , Rating: 2
Its certainly possible. Canadian versions of the Chevy Optra I believe is 50MPG and the Ford Focus is 49. Look around. There are plenty of examples of gasoline cars getting better mileage then hybrids.

I wont be buying a hybrid EVER unless its in the form of the Chevy volt. If not its just another thing to break that doesnt help me.

If i want to save money on gas most likely its because my current car costs me alot of MONEY in gas. So why would i go spend 35,000 on a car that has the same or less fuel economy then one that costs 9,999?

If I'm hurting that bad for fuel economy because it costs me money then why would I pay triple the price for the same size car basicly but alot heavier and with a ton more stuff to break?

I would think that if gas is breaking the bank for you, Hybrids aren't really the greatest idea.

Hell my 97 Ford Ranger gets better gas mileage on the highway then the Prius and thats where I do all my driving.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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