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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 Sahrin on 3/25/2009 7:39:01 AM , Rating: 5
Most hybrids (I think all - the only exceptions may be the GM "mild" hybrids which just have a bigger starter motor) get better fuel economy in the city; it's because at city speeds the vehicle requires less power and has more opportunity to regenerate free power (that is the battery is constantly being regenerated through braking and rolling) whereas on the highway, there is one very large continuous drain on the battery with very little regeneration at all.

RE: Wow
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 3/25/09, Rating: 0
RE: Wow
By Kuroyama on 3/25/2009 9:11:22 AM , Rating: 2
While that is widely reported, it's wrong. The Prius gets excellent mileage at moderate speeds with occasional stops. I don't know what the EPA test involves, but I'm guessing that's what they call "city driving." For instance I get around 55mpg when I drive around 50mph with a stop only every mile or so. When driving 75mph on the highway it drops to around 45mpg. However, when I am in stop & go traffic my fuel economy drops to around 30mpg. Far better than what a regular car would get in stop & go traffic, but not what most people expect.

RE: Wow
By shin0bi272 on 3/25/09, Rating: -1
RE: Wow
By 67STANG on 3/25/2009 10:32:41 AM , Rating: 5
Instead, you're in a different ugly heap.

RE: Wow
By shin0bi272 on 3/25/2009 8:12:22 PM , Rating: 3
granted its not as elegant as a 67 mustang but compared to a prius its a hell of a lot better looking. And apparently raw numbers and my opinion on the ugliness of the prius garner a -1 rating... ahh the eco freaks strike again.

RE: Wow
By martinw on 3/25/2009 8:47:49 PM , Rating: 2
So everyone who disagrees with your opinion of the design of the vehicle is an "ecofreak"? Perhaps you could try fewer ad-hominems and put more thought into your post? Sometimes a worthless comment is just a worthless comment and it is rated down for that reason and not because some external group is out to get you.

RE: Wow
By invidious on 3/25/09, Rating: -1
RE: Wow
By AnnihilatorX on 3/25/2009 10:01:01 AM , Rating: 3
The op you replied to used the word regenerate, not generate. I don't get the point you are saying the op is dumb.

Regenerative braking works by storing back, with a efficiency hit, the kinetic energy back as electrical energy. Of course everyone knows it's not 100% efficient. And energy is not created but obtained from the kinetic energy, which had to be transferred from either the battery or gas/petrol in the first place.

At city driving it is the battery that do most of the work towards efficiency. (A major reason for a electrical system in cars anyway is its ability to recoup energy from braking, and so act as a source of energy input). In highway the efficiency is determined solely by the efficiency of the engine itself.

That's the point of hybrid car. Improve city mileage by lessening impact of start and stop traffic, which petrol engine is not efficient at because of the lack of ability to regenerate from braking, and auto equally important, inefficient due to accelerating at a suboptimal engine rpm.

RE: Wow
By shin0bi272 on 3/25/2009 10:12:33 AM , Rating: 1
the law of conservation of energy that energy can never be created or destroyed only change forms...

RE: Wow
By invidious on 3/25/09, Rating: 0
RE: Wow
By JazzMang on 3/25/2009 11:07:25 AM , Rating: 2

Yes... and what was your point exactly?

RE: Wow
By Starcub on 3/25/2009 11:13:29 AM , Rating: 3
Energy that would otherwise be lost to heat can instead be converted in electricity.

RE: Wow
By chrnochime on 3/25/2009 11:14:39 AM , Rating: 3
Thank you for enlightening us with that nugget of knowledge that every HS kid knows.

And it's braking, not breaking damn it.

RE: Wow
By AnnihilatorX on 3/25/2009 6:52:07 PM , Rating: 2
the law of conservation of energy that energy can never be created or destroyed only change forms...

Do you guys read what people post really except maybe the first line.

RE: Wow
By Mortando on 3/25/2009 1:03:07 PM , Rating: 2
Im not sure I could handle explaining everything wrong with your understanding of physics.

I, for one, would love to see you attempt to do that.

RE: Wow
By mindless1 on 3/25/2009 6:32:52 PM , Rating: 2
That is completely backwards. There is not 100% regeneration efficiency, it takes more power to speed up and slow down continually, MUCH more even if braking recaptures some. Coasting, or rolling without power input regenerates nothing, that would be a constant drag causing even more power loss due to higher engine duty cycle.

Perhaps what you meant was they suffer less fuel economy loss in city driving than ICE counter products, but they all get much better MPG when "there is one very - continuous drain on the battery", running at a constant speed without speeding up or slowing down, so long as that speed isn't excessively high.

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