2010 Toyota Prius Preview

FAST FACTS
  • Completely redesigned, third-generation model for 2010
  • Built on a new platform
  • Increased passenger and cargo capacity
  • Three selectable driving modes: EV, Economy and Power
  • 50-mpg fuel economy
  • Reduced CO2 emissions
  • Quicker and more powerful than the previous model
  • Uses plant-based "ecological plastics"
  • Available moonroof with solar panels
  • Remote air conditioning system
  • Standard multi-information display panel that monitors fuel and energy consumption

Introduction

Since its North American debut for the 2001 model year, the Toyota Prius has become the poster child for the "green" movement among U.S. new-car buyers. Toyota proudly states that the Prius was the first mass-produced gas-electric hybrid vehicle available for sale in the U.S. Honda, makers of the gas-electric hybrid Insight from 2000-06, might dispute that claim, but the Prius was the clear favorite among new-car buyers at the time, outselling the Insight by a large margin. And unlike the stillborn GM EV1 electric car that first hit the market in the late 1990s and was handicapped by its limited range and 2-door/2-passenger design, the Toyota's 5-door hatchback/5-passenger design and extended range appealed to buyers. Following its initial success, the second-generation Prius debuted for 2004 and introduced Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system. Larger and offering more creature features than the original, the second-gen Prius also provides increased economy and, by most accounts, better driving dynamics. Continuing to build a loyal following, the Toyota Prius is now among the top 20 best-selling models in the U.S.

Upping the hybrid car ante once again, the all-new 2010 Toyota Prius was unveiled at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The next-generation Prius is built on a new platform, which enables improved handling stability and collision safety, along with quieter operation, according to the company. The new car features a gas-electric hybrid powertain consisting of a 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder gasoline engine and an 80-horsepower electric motor. The new 2010 Prius is also larger and features more advanced technology than the outgoing model.

Design

In designing the new 2010 Prius, Toyota engineers were careful to refine existing systems while adding significant new technological features. With regard to exterior design, the goal was to create a beautiful silhouette while not compromising function, according to the company. Designers preserved the dynamic triangle form of the current model but made alterations to the overall profile, pillar position and angle. The front pillar was extended forward, helping to refine the form and give it a more sporting appearance, the company says. The overall height of the Prius is the same, but the peak of the roofline has been moved 3.9 inches rearward. This, according to Toyota, emphasizes the car's wedge shape and also allows for enhanced rear head room and improved aerodynamics. The wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axles) is unchanged, and overall length is up by a mere 0.6 inches.

Not surprisingly, aerodynamics played a key role in the design of the new 2010 Toyota Prius. According to Toyota, the new Prius received more wind tunnel hours of testing than any other model in the company's history, resulting in the cleanest aerodynamic profile of any mass-produced vehicle in the world. By focusing on the shape of the body and airflow under the car, the designers of the new Prius were able to reduce the coefficient of drag (Cd) value to 0.25, compared to 0.26 for the previous model.

Just as critical as aerodynamics, keeping overall weight in check was also a goal of the new Prius design team. According to Toyota, weight was saved through the use of aluminum and super high-tensile steel in various areas of the vehicle.

The interior of the new 2010 Toyota Prius is enhanced with a center cluster that flows smoothly from the instrument panel to the console. Simple, fin-type air vents are consistent with the cabin's efficient appearance, and judicious use of silver accents adds a finished, technical feel, according to Toyota. Proving that small changes add up to big gains, the cargo area of the new Prius was expanded 0.4 inches in length and 2.2 inches in width by using a new and improved layout of the battery cooling unit. Rear-seat leg room is enhanced by a new space-saving contoured front-seat design. Also, storage space has been added under the shift lever thanks to the Prius' shift-by-wire system.

Hardware

Although Toyota claims that the powertrain in the new 2010 Prius is 90-percent newly developed, they've kept the approach the same: combine a small-displacement 4-cylinder engine with an electric motor to achieve class-leading fuel economy-in this case, a claimed 50 mpg in combined driving.

In the new 2010 Prius, a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine produces 98 hp at 5200 rpm and 150 lb.-ft. of torque at 4000 rpm. Toyota points out that the engine is beltless, which, the company says, means better fuel economy and less potential maintenance. Also helping motivate the Prius is a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor that produces 80 horsepower and 153 lb.-ft. of torque. Total power output for the 2010 Prius is 178 horsepower.

The Prius can be operated in all-electric mode, can run on the gas engine only, or a combination of the two. The battery module in the new 2010 Prius carries over from the current, 2009 model. In addition, Toyota says the new powertrain offers reduced CO2 emissions. Use of an electric water pump and a new exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system also contribute to the engine's efficiency. In internal tests, the new Prius was able to travel from 0 to 60 mph in 9.8 seconds-over a full second faster than the previous model.

To allow for a wide range of driving conditions, the new 2010 Toyota Prius can be operated in one of three driving modes: EV (battery power alone) at low speeds for about a mile; Economy, which helps drivers to obtain optimal mileage; and Power, which increases sensitivity to throttle input for a sportier driving feel.

The suspension setup (front strut/rear intermediate beam) on the 2010 Prius is carryover, but with refinements. According to Toyota, handling stability was improved by enhancing the stabilizer layout and re-tuning the bushing characteristics. Disc brakes are now used on all four corners, replacing the front disc/rear drum brakes in the current model. The 2010 Prius comes standard with 15-inch wheels; 17-inchers are optional.

Safety

Toyota says that the new 2010 Prius was designed to comply with the strictest current and future government collision safety requirements for each global region in which the car will be sold. In addition to advanced driver and front passenger air bags, front and rear side curtain air bags will be standard, as well as driver and front passenger seat-mounted side air bags and a driver's knee air bag. Active headrests are used in both front seats to reduce the possibility of whiplash in a collision. Toyota's Star Safety System-anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, electronic traction control and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC)-is standard on every 2010 Toyota Prius.

A Dynamic Radar Cruise Control system, which uses advanced millimeter wave radar, is an available option on the 2010 Toyota Prius. The system also enables Lane Keep Assist, which helps the driver stay safely within the lane, and the Pre-Collision System, which retracts seat belts and applies the brakes in certain conditions when a crash is unavoidable. A back-up monitor, which provides a view of rear obstacles when reverse is engaged, is available with an optional voice-activated navigation system. Finally, Safety Connect, Toyota's first wireless safety and security service, includes automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle locator service, and an SOS call button. Safety Connect will be available a few months after launch, Toyota says.

Technology

Similar to the new , Toyota will use plant-based, carbon-neutral "ecological plastics" in the manufacture of the 2010 Prius. According to the company, ecological plastic emits less CO2 during the vehicle's product lifecycle, and it also helps reduce petroleum use. The newly developed plastics will be used in the seat cushion foam, cowl side trim, inner and outer scuff plates, and deck trim cover.

The solar-powered moonroof ventilation system in the new 2010 Prius uses an electrically powered air circulation fan that does not require engine assist. The system prevents the interior air temperature from rising while the vehicle is parked, making the cool-down time shorter when the driver returns to the vehicle, thus reducing the use of air conditioning, the manufacturer says. The remote air conditioning system found in the new 2010 Prius is the first system in the world to function on battery-power alone, Toyota claims. According to the company, the system has been re-engineered to increase efficiency and cool-down performance. And as an added convenience, the system can be operated remotely, so the driver can adjust the interior temperature for comfort before getting in the vehicle.

Reducing the vehicle's power consumption, available LED (light-emitting diode) lamps are used for low beams and also in the tail and stop lamps. In addition, an exhaust heat recirculation system reduces heat waste by warming the engine coolant during cold startup, for improved performance. It also heats up the passenger cabin more efficiently, the company says.

Finally, the new Prius features Toyota's next-generation Intelligent Parking Assist, with simplified settings to help guide the car into parking spaces. Utilizing sensors in the bumpers and the backup camera on the rear of the vehicle, onboard computers process the angles needed to park the vehicle. Once the system is activated by the driver, it operates in a completely hands-free manner, however, the driver is still responsible for braking.