Green rides took the 2009 North American International Auto Show by storm this year. Every automaker wanted nothing more than to prove just how committed it is to the green movement – showing off an array of fuel-stingy rides. Few vehicles embody that mindset more than the Toyota Prius. The best-selling hybrid on the planet bears a lot of expectation on its shoulders when it comes to the new generation, and judging from the car Toyota unveiled at the show, the 2010 Prius will more than meet them.
The Prius has always boasted nearly unsurpassed fuel economy, and the 2010 model looks to be no different. Thanks to improved aerodynamics, a larger 1.8-liter Atkinson Cycle engine and neat tricks like an electric water pump, the newest Prius will deliver 50 mpg combined. No matter how you feel about hybrids, it’s hard to argue with numbers like that.
Toyota has also done a considerable amount of work updating the exterior of the new hybrid – moving it farther from the quirky looks we’ve come to associate with the car and closer to the rest of the Toyota family. Up front, the Prius has grown a handsome face in the same vein as the Corolla, Camry and Yaris. The nose abandons the dated headlights on the previous generation for more modern “checked” examples that lend a bit of motion to a car traditionally associated with the slow lane.
Toyota also drew a hard eye on the Prius’ interior, exacting a series of changes that have resulted in more space all around. Where the out-going model wasn’t exactly a thrill to ride in, especially if you wound up in the back seat, the new model delivers an overall wider interior that allows for more hip and elbow room for everyone inside. Other less visible tricks include a glass moon roof with integrated solar cells. Instead of powering the car’s battery, those cells drive electric fans that ventilate the cabin. By moving hot air out of the car while its parked, the Prius requires less energy to cool down. Now that’s smart.
Toyota’s keeping its lips sealed on the 2010 Prius’ price tag, but we’re guessing it will stay fairly close to the current model’s $22,000 MSRP. Any higher and the company runs the risk of running off otherwise interested consumers, especially with competition from virtually every other manufacturer on the rise.
Fuel prices may have come down in recent months, but that doesn’t mean families aren’t still looking for ways to save cash. We can’t think of any better way to do that than to cut fuel consumption in half – something the 2010 Toyota Prius could do without breaking a sweat. More than just an update, Toyota’s newest hybrid is a re-evaluation of the company’s commitment to providing the best fuel economy possible.