By Cars.com EditorsAugust 29, 2012
About the video
The Toyota Prius is still pretty hard to beat compared with other hybrids like the Honda Insight and Honda Civic Hybrid, says Cars.com Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder.
<v Narrator>Cars.com auto review. Hi I'm Joe Wiesenfelder with cars.com and unless you've been stuck under something heavy for more than 10 years, you know what this is. It's a Toyota Prius Hybrid. This one happens to be a 2012.
It, for a long time, was the most efficient car on the American market. Currently with 51 miles per gallon city, 48 highway. Now it has competition in the form of the Prius C, smaller, more affordable version of the same car. Now we'll take a look at a few changes for 2012 and also some of the pros and cons in today's market. There have been a few subtle changes to the exterior for 2012, slightly re-sculpted front bumper and headlights. This is a level two trim level. They are all numbered and it has new wheel covers. Weird thing about this. These are substantial metal wheels. What you usually wouldn't cover up, there's plastic over them. It's supposed to be more aerodynamic. Also some changes to the tail lights. They still have a lot of the blingy chrome stuff, which I never thought looked very good. Just more of a vertical orientation to the lenses. Another change for 2012, the level two gets a 6.1 inch touchscreen. It is not a navigation system, but it does allow you to adjust the Bluetooth, do some vehicles settings, stuff like that. And one of the things it does is it mitigates a shortcoming and that is the instrument panel. I actually like having it in the middle of the dashboard up high. Some people don't. The problem with it is, the resolution. There are a lot of hybrids out here with really high quality, high resolution, colorful displays. This one is monochrome and it looks like a game of Space Invaders could break out at any minute. You remember Space Invaders. There are a couple other shortcomings in the Prius and the interior materials here are one of them. They're not gonna win any awards. That's gonna be hard to swallow in a car that's almost $25,000 to start with the destination charge, but for what it's worth, you compare it with other cars of its type, like the Honda Civic Hybrid, about the same price. That one gets 44 miles per gallon, city and highway. There's also a Honda Insight, which is around $19,000, but it's 41 city, 44 highway. Both of those are compact cars. And the Prius technically is a mid-sized car. It makes it a lot harder for cars like the Insight and the Civic Hybrid to compete. You can put more people, more stuff. This thing is just a little bit more of a family car. Along with the larger interior comes pretty large covered storage spaces. You've got double glove compartment. This is pretty deep in the center console about a hand, deep, not bad, two respectable cup holders. And this cutaway space is good for purses and such. There's also a nice big back seat and it's helpful to have a hatchback body style like this. Unlike the Civic Hybrid, the Civic is a sedan, so you don't get the folding back seat and the versatility of a hatchback. The regular Prius, like the C and the larger V, all hatchback designs. Now, when I speak to Prius owners, there are a few recurring complaints that I hear. One is, seat comfort isn't great. Especially people who've owned the second generation went to the third generation, which this is, they say the seat isn't as good. Another is the rear view. The lift gate is bisected. So there's a window below the window and that's intended to help you see what's behind you. And to some extent it works, but also that bar, not a perfect solution. People don't like it. Another big complaint is the noise level. Hybrids, they need to be light. They tend not to have too much extra noise control in 'em and that tends to make 'em a little bit louder inside. My objections to the Prius are all about the driving experience. The acceleration zero to 60 in 10 seconds, you can live with it. But there's some of that delay in response when you step on the accelerator. Braking also not real smooth, and these are pretty common problems with hybrids. You gotta just accept it, but the ride quality in this car is quite choppy. And that is not a necessity when you have a hybrid. Lots of cars hybrid or not ride much better than this one. And then there's the issue of the different modes. There's an EV mode, eco mode, power mode. EV is supposed to be electric vehicle mode. The idea is you push it and you can drive around on electric power. You cannot. Arguably, if you stay really light on the throttle, you can, you know, accelerate without turning the engine on. In reality, if you drive slowly enough for that to work, you deserve to be pulled from your car and beaten with a soy burger. Now, calm down Prius owners. I know you love your cars. Believe me they drive well enough, certainly. Well enough for more than a million sales in the US. They make up more than half of the hybrids sold in this country. Why? A lot of people say it's because they're distinctive looking. Nonsense! It's because they've always been exceptionally efficient and reasonably affordable. If you want the formula for a successful hybrid, you're looking at it. <v Narrator>For more car related news, go to cars.com or our blog KickingTires.net.
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