Every so often, a car comes along that changes the industry. The Prius was launched in 1997 as the most practical full hybrid from a major manufacturer. Now in its third generation, we were given a week to spend with a Prius Three.
Toyota builds the Prius in a few different flavors. The original sedan is their bread and butter and represents a majority of sales. The Prius Plug is based on the sedan, built with a Lithium Ion battery, versus the NiMH battery on other models, and comes with a 230v home charging station.
The Prius V launched in 2012 as an extended wheelbase hatchback. The Prius C, for City, also launched in 2012, featuring a scaled down powertrain and subcompact body intended for urban drivers.The four option levels are the Two, Three, Four and Five, with pricing from $24,200 for the Two, up to $30,005 on the Five. We found the Three Model Sedan to be well equipped for a midrange offering.
Infotainment is handled by a 6.1” touchscreen. It comes preloaded with a navigation system and the Entune® App Suite. We like that it includes Bing, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Yelp, Facebook and other popular programs which keep your eyes on the road, not your phone. While not a brand-name audio system, the factory system sounds great.
Other than the infotainment system, there were no frills to be found. The interior layout is symmetrical, with ample head and legroom. Storage abounds with upper and lower glove boxes, a deep center console and pockets in the door panels. There is even a cubby hole under the forward end of the center console. Gauges and drivetrain information are handled by an LCD display located in the center of the upper dash.
Toyota has done a great job at disconnecting the driver from any outside input. Aside from the changing scenery, you would have no indication of movement. We were expecting a utilitarian electric box, but this is a well refined vehicle. With a full charge, the combined torque of gas and electric is more than adequate for highway merging.
We really liked the EV mode, which allows for up to one mile of pure electric car travel with a full battery. Steering is completely numb, and a tad overpowered at highway speeds. Seating position is optimal, and the seat covers are made from natural plant fibers in order to keep your carbon footprint to a minimum. Body roll was negligible, as the heavy battery pack is mounted low in the chassis. All things considered, piloting the Prius is a very calming experience.
Toyota has hinted that big changes are in the works for the next body style. We expect the plug-in ability to extend across the Prius lineup, along with an increase in range. Until that happens, if you are in the market for a 51 mpg comfortable sedan with great resale value, consider the Prius. You will be pleasantly surprised.