The Toyota Prius is the best-selling hybrid off all time, with more than 1.2 million sold in the United States since the year 2000. It is offered as a hatchback that Toyota calls a liftback, and has given rise to the larger Prius v and smaller Prius c. Toyota also offers a plug-in variant that runs on electricity for up to 15 miles at speed up to 62 mph.
The Prius is sized between a compact and a midsize, so its competitors vary. They range from midsize cars like the Chevrolet Volt, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid, and Toyota's own Camry Hybrid, to more purpose-built hybrids like the Ford C-Max Hybrid and Honda Insight.
The Prius is designed for fuel economy and its exterior shape plays a significant role. The Prius' 0.25 coefficient of drag is one of the lowest on the market, and that is especially helpful to highway fuel economy. The rear spoiler and squared off edges front and rear also aid airflow. Standard exterior features include automatic-off headlights and P195/65R15 tires on alloy wheels.
The Toyota Prius comes standard with cloth upholstery, height-adjustable driver's seat, automatic climate control, interior air filter, tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio and climate controls, cruise control, split-folding rear seat, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, keyless access and starting, AM/FM/CD stereo, auxiliary input jack, USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, trip computer, rear cargo cover, and a theft-deterrent system. The Prius Plug-in also gets a navigation system with voice recognition, rearview camera, heated front seats, heated power mirrors, satellite radio, high-definition radio, and Toyota's Entune infotainment system.
Equipment increases by model. The Prius III adds a navigation system with voice recognition, a rearview camera, Toyota's Entune infotainment system, JBL sound system, satellite radio, and high-definition radio. The Prius Persona Special Edition gets SofTex vinyl upholstery, unique interior and exterior trim, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The Prius IV comes with leather upholstery, heated front seats, 8-way power-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar adjustment, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a universal garage door opener. The Prius V adds LED headlights with washers, fog lights, and P215/45R17 tires. The Prius Plug-in is also offered as an Advanced model with Toyota's Safety Connect assistance system, a pre-collision system, SofTex upholstery, 8-way power driver's seat with lumbar adjustment, adaptive cruise control, head-up instrument display, JBL sound system, universal garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic LED headlights with washers, and fog lights.
A Solar Roof Package adds a sunroof with a solar-powered ventilation system, remote air conditioning control and Safety Connect. An Advanced Technology Package includes the pre-collision system, lane-departure warning, lane-departure prevention, Safety Connect, hands-free parallel parking, adaptive cruise control, and a head-up instrument display. Also available separately are remote engine starting and satellite radio.
Under the Hood
The 2013 Toyota Prius is powered by Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system, which pairs a 98-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine with two electric motors, a 42kW (56 horsepower) motor that acts as a generator and a 60 kW (80 horsepower) motor that supplies motive power. The Nickel-Metal-Hydride battery puts out a peak 36 horsepower. Toyota quotes total output at 134 horsepower.
The Prius Plug-in Hybrid replaces the Nickel-Metal-Hydride battery with a 4.4 kWh lithium-ion battery. It can be charged in 2.5 to 3 hours on a 120-volt outlet or 1.5 hours on a 240-volt outlet.
Fuel-economy estimates for the 2013 Toyota Prius as rated by the EPA are:
Toyota Prius hybrid: 51/48/50 mpg (city/highway/combined)
Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid: 51/49/50 mpg, 95 mpge rating electric plus gasoline
In addition to the government-mandated safety features, the 2013 Toyota Prius comes standard with front side air bags, curtain side air bags, driver knee ai rbag, antilock 4-wheel disc brakes, brake assist, electronic brake force distribution, brake override, and front-seat active head restraints.
In crash test conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety, the Toyota Prius received 4 stars (out of 5 stars) in the frontal crash and rollover tests, and 5 stars in the side crash test, giving it a 5 star overall rating. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing, the Prius received the highest rating of "Good" for moderate front overlap, side impact, roof strength, and rear crash protection, making it a Top Safety Pick. It was not subjected to the small overlap front test, however, so it could not be named a Top Safety Pick Plus.
The Prius' parallel hybrid system can run the car on the engine alone, electricity alone, or a combination of the two. When the driver presses the EV button and uses a light throttle foot or simply uses a light foot, the standard Prius can run on electricity up to 25 mph for as long as one mile. In the Prius Plug-in, the EV mode keeps the car running on electricity provided there is enough battery charge and the speed does not exceed 62 mph. In both models, the engine shuts off at stops to save fuel. The Prius also has an ECO mode that dulls the throttle response and runs the air conditioning more efficiently.
The Prius is available with Toyota's Entune infotainment system, which pairs with owners' smartphones to provide access to mobile apps, including Pandora and iheartradio music streaming, Bing local search with navigation, OpenTable dining reservations, and movietickets.com. It also provides XM data services, such as stock quotes, sports scores, fuel pricing and locations, and live weather and traffic. The Prius Plug-in adds smartphone applications for battery charge management, remote air conditioning system control, charging station map, vehicle finder and an Eco dashboard.
Toyota's Safety Connect system includes Emergency Assistance, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Roadside Assistance and Automatic Collision Notification. It comes with a 1-year trial subscription