Why mess with a good thing when your world-famous hatchback dominates with one-quarter the U.S. sales among 45 other hybrids, and none of them come even close in volume?
This thought probably occurred to Toyota as it kept the midsize Prius Liftback it redesigned for 2010 the same in 2014, just like it did in 2013, 2012, and word has it, 2015 or 2016 will be when we see upgrades.
As it is, there remains nothing exactly like the Prius which continues at least another year without so much as a price increase. Gone is the Persona model that came and went in 2013, but the 50 mpg Liftback continues with trim levels II, III, IV and V – with this latter not to be confused with the “Prius v,” a larger wagon sharing the same powertrain.
The Prius is a “full” parallel hybrid and based on engine architecture evolved since its 1997 home-market launch with more power, better mileage, and as the progenitor of every other hybrid Toyota and Lexus model.
The tried and true 1.8-liter Atkinson cycle engine is married to an electric motor with these balancing between power from a nickel-metal hydride battery pack and regular gasoline to drive the car through the front wheels.
Total system horsepower is 134, and torque, as per hybrid practice, is not officially disclosed, but the car is potent enough to break all U.S. speed limits with plenty to spare, and mozies to 60 mph in a little over 10 seconds.
Fuel efficiency on the EPA cycle is 51 mpg city, 48 highway, and 50 combined, and this is one hybrid that can make its number assuming the driver is not overly aggressive with the accelerator.
Not only is the Prius famous for its like-it-or-dislike-it profile, but its Corvette-Stingray beating coefficient of drag at 0.25 also lets it slice through the air. In this case, speed has little to do with its arrow-like aerodynamics, and this is all about saving fuel.
Wind noise is also relatively subdued with the slippery shape, and noticeable on the highway is how well the car will coast, in part due to minimal drag from the driveline, as well as from the air on the body.
The Prius fits most people pretty well with a fair degree of adjustability and with room for five. Its “flying buttress” center stack is kind of mod, and all buttons and controls are easy to identify and reach.
Cargo capacity is 21.4 cubic feet in the hatch, or fold the 60/40 split rear seats down, and 39.6 cubic feet is available. As for optional connectivity, depending on trim level, Toyota makes available its Entune infotainment system and an Head Up Display (HUD).
Entune pairs your smart phone via Bluetooth or a USB cable. The features are then operated using the vehicle’s controls or, for some services, by voice recognition. Mobile apps for Entune include Bing, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, and Pandora. Entune data services include a fuel price guide, sports scores, stocks, traffic and weather.
On the Road
We hear it all the time by auto writers and other random individuals who love to take jabs at the Prius for its tame road manners and CVT transmission that does not shift through distinctly stepped gears.
People wanting a sports car need not apply, but the Prius is a very functional car that does what it is supposed to do.
It plies through traffic or along any route with appliance-like effectiveness. Its main raison d’être is saving money at the fuel pump, and that it does while returning acceptably competent road manners.
The market speaks louder than marketers – such as those at Ford proffering the C-Max Hybrid – but while the Prius does the highest sales numbers, other cars do offer alternatives. And one of these is in fact Ford, which last year eroded Toyota’s market share while significantly growing its own.
The C-Max is quicker, has a nice interior, is roomy, and styled differently while functionally similar. Fuel economy has not proven a match, but it may be worth having a look.
Others include a plethora of hybrids – be they positioned similarly or not. These could include the more mainstream Camry Hybrid which can overlap in price, and does not especially stand out from non-hybrid variants. Really though, the Prius is in a class by itself, and the car preparing to ultimately beat it in every respect will be its own replacement that could be here in 2015.
The new Prius may exceed present fuel economy by 10 percent, more or less, is supposed to be a bit more sporty, and will use a lithium-ion battery along with a more thermally efficient gas engine. It appears it will continue to be imported from Japan, and not assembled stateside as others have reported.
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