2012 Toyota Prius
Starting MSRP $24,000–$29,805
Toyota calls its Prius an "Eco-Icon," and the latest generation should have plenty of available gadgets for technological and environmental die-hards. Among them are a solar-panel moonroof that powers modest air conditioning in hot parking lots and LED headlights that use less energy than conventional halogen lamps. The five-seat Prius competes with Honda's 41-mpg Insight, and indirectly against Volkswagen's 34-mpg Jetta TDI diesel.
To avoid confusion with the new Prius V wagon, Toyota now designates regular Prius trim levels as Two, Three, Four and Five instead of using Roman numerals. The Prius V is covered in a separate report in the Cars.com Research section.
New for 2012
Toyota's Entune multimedia system becomes available on Prius Three, Four and Five trims, and option package content is juggled. Entune provides three years of free service to a variety of applications and services available through smartphones using Bluetooth connectivity or a USB port, including Bing, iHeart Radio and Pandora. In addition, a new standard stereo has a 6.1-inch touch-screen and an integrated backup camera. The optional self-parking system is no longer available.
The Prius receives minor styling changes for 2012, including revisions to the headlamps, front bumper and taillights. Overall styling, particularly from the rear, looks similar to that of the previous-generation Prius, complete with a bar that splits the hatchback window widthwise. Exterior features include:
- Standard 15-inch wheels; 17-inch wheels optional
- Standard LED taillamps use less power
The dashboard has instruments mounted high atop the center portion, two glove compartments and a nublike shifter. The shifter itself sits close to knee level. The dash and doors have a matte-style finish, and the steering wheel has tilt and telescoping adjustments.
The steering wheel has touch-sensitive audio and climate controls that display a replica of the actual controls and highlight the driver's choices in the instrument display. Toyota calls it Touch Tracer, claiming it helps drivers keep their eyes on the road. Other information on the display includes fuel and energy consumption meters, as well as a depiction of power flow between the drivetrain's gasoline and electric components. Interior features include:
- Standard fabric upholstery; leather optional
- Optional heated front seats
- Optional navigation system
Under the Hood
The 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine in the Prius is augmented by a number of high-efficiency tricks — among them an electric water pump, exhaust gas recovery, an efficient automatic transmission and optimized regenerative braking. Coupled with an electric motor, the drivetrain makes a total 134 horsepower. Mechanical features include:
- Can drive on electric-only power, gasoline power or a combination of the two
- No need to plug car into a wall outlet
- Electric motor draws power from a trunk-mounted battery that recharges using braking friction
- Four driving modes: regular Drive; Eco mode, which optimizes settings for better mileage; Power mode, which increases gas-pedal sensitivity for better acceleration; and EV-Drive mode, which attempts to stay in electric mode as long as possible, provided the battery has enough juice
Safety features include:
- Seven standard airbags, including a driver's knee airbag, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and front and rear side curtain airbags
- Standard active head restraints for the front seats
- Standard all-disc antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system
- Optional radar-based adaptive cruise control
- Optional lane departure prevention system
- Optional precollision system
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