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Oct 272009

By Clint Williams
Green Right Now

There is no question the 2010 Toyota Prius is a comfortable compact with enviable fuel economy – we got a smidgen over 50 mpg in a week of driving.

But can you call a $30,000 hybrid an economy car?

2010 Prius

2010 Prius

The iconic gasoline-electric hybrid favored by movie stars is all-new for this model year and the third-generation Prius offers more room, more power and more miles per gallon than its predecessors. It’s a pretty neat trick.

George Jetson would feel right at home slipping behind the wheel of the Prius, even if it doesn’t fly. Yet.

A push-button start replaces the old-fashioned key-in-the-ignition system. Another push-button puts the car in park. The tiny gearshift is mounted high on the center console, which arches between the front seats.

The Prius is powered by a larger and more powerful 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder engine that produces 98 horsepower. Combined with the electric motor, the hybrid system generates a combined 134 net horsepower, 24 horsepower more than the previous generation.

The Prius still won’t snap your head back – the 0-60 mph time nudges 10 seconds – but there is enough power to safely merge onto freeway traffic. And folks don’t buy this car to drag race, anyway.

A feature that allows you to drive on battery power only, although not far and not fast, is pretty cool for driving around the neighborhood.

The cabin is quieter than you typically experience in a compact car, the product of improved sound insulation and improved vibration damping. The interior is classier than most compacts, too. Leather seating. Nicely done fit and finish.

2010 Prius

2010 Prius

You can load the Prius with enough electronics to stock a Best Buy. The moonroof package includes solar panels, located over the rear seating area, that power a ventilation system that helps keep the interior air temperature close to the outside ambient temperature to shorten cool-down time when your start driving.

The solar system is part of a $3,600 option package that includes a voice-activated touch-screen DVD navigation system, a JBL sound system with eight speakers and XM satellite radio capability, USB port with iPod connectivity and a surprisingly handy integrated backup camera.

Other options include dynamic radar cruise control, which adjusts your speed to keep a safe distance from the car in front of you.

Anyone still concerned about the longevity of hybrid technology can find some comfort in the warranty coverage. Toyota’s powertrain warranty is five years or 60,000 miles but the hybrid-related components, including the HV battery, battery control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter, are covered for eight years/100,000 miles. In some states – California and New York among them – hybrid-related components are covered for 15 years/150,000 miles with the exception of the hybrid battery, which is warranted for 10 years/150,000 miles.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

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