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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 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".

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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