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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: So?
By icrf on 3/25/2009 8:41:28 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, considering diesel's efficiency over gas, and that the US has had low sulfer diesel for a couple years now, I'm surprised we don't have more diesel/electric hybrids. And by "more" I think I mean "any" unless I missed something.


RE: So?
By SanLC504 on 3/25/2009 8:54:05 AM , Rating: 2
Well, it's not just the low sulfur count, but it's also stricter emissions in the U.S. Mercedes managed to utilize diesel technology through their BlueTec monniker by using urea to break down Nitrogen Oxide into Nitrogen and Water. However, the urea must be "refilled" at regularly scheduled intervals, adding to the cost (plus, it is a Mercedes after all). Honda attempted to bring over an Accord with a 2.2L (roughly) Diesel motor, but the only version that they could get to pass U.S. emissions was the 6-speed manual. And I think we all know how well manual-only vehicles sell in the U.S. (Hint: 10% of drivers can drive a stick shift, less than 5% do on a daily basis)

Diesel is a wonderful idea, but with stricter emissions and a higher price premium (which is stupid, Diesel is all of the crap left over after unleaded gas is produced, so it's actually a form of waste), it makes Diesel technology very hard to come across in the U.S.


RE: So?
By Jedi2155 on 3/25/2009 10:49:21 AM , Rating: 2
The Prius runs on the Atkinson cycle which is closer to the diesel efficiency than a normal gasoline powered vehicle, one of the large factors in its outstanding mileage. I heard that it was one of the primary reasons why a hybrid drive train was introduced into the Prius in the first place as they were trying to produce diesel efficiency with a gas engine, but had the issue of very weak low-end torque, so they fixed with the electric motor assist.

Diesel still has a lot more particulate matter than gas which is why I'm still against it. I live next to LA area and work there, so I'm for anything that will help reduce the smog here...


RE: So?
By Parhel on 3/25/2009 11:13:25 AM , Rating: 5
I lost 30 pounds on the Atkinson cycle.


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