Aside from a prototype PHEV_or_BEV, nothing on the planet can touch it.
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- March, 25, 2009
2010 Toyota Prius-III – Starting at $21,000 and rated an impressive 50 mpgUS combined.
While the market is in shambles and many auto manufacturers are on life support, there is a special vehicle that will very likely transcend the general economic malaise. That vehicle (which will "go before" all others on the road to success) is known as “Prius”.
Improved from front bumper fascia to rear hatch, the all-new 2010 Toyota Prius is not just a fuel efficient, utilitarian appliance anymore. It is now a “driver's car” improving upon almost every attribute that has made it so popular for the last four years.
If you liked the previous generation's bubbly, aero shaped silhouette or its highly advanced HSD technology, you are going to love the Prius-III even more.
If you are one of those who despised the Prius for any number of reasons, have another look because Toyota has addressed nearly every complaint ever voiced. Driving one engenders a new level of respect for the green icon and Toyota's engineering prowess.
For the 2010 Toyota Prius-III’s general overview and specs, you can read the “Leading the pack in more ways than one
” and 2010 Toyota Prius-II specifications
Both the 2010 Toyota Prius-III technical presentation
and 2010 Toyota Prius-III Multimedia and NAVI_update
docs can be downloaded from the files section of CleanMPG
Now however, it's time to take a spin in the all new 2010 Prius-III!
2010 Toyota Prius-III basic competitive comparisons
|Year||Make||Model||MSRP||Passenger Volume (cu. ft.)||Cargo Volume (cu. ft.)||08 EPA combined (mpg US)|
The driver's seating position and control presentation is a vast improvement over the previous generation’s layout. In addition to a longer, adjustable seat track, standard seat height adjustment, tilt and
telescopic steering wheel, and lumbar support in the high end models, the seat itself has been redesigned with greater hip and thigh bolstering to reduce fatigue on longer drives. During a 102 mile highway drive I did not feel the need to adjust my seating position -- an eventuality that cannot be avoided in the Prius-II.
Though still not quite perfect, pedal and wheel positioning in the Prius-III is an order of magnitude better than the previous generation.
The center armrest and driver's door armrest are both well situated and a comfortable height for both of my forearms. Little changes, such as the position of the shift lever on the new center console (adjacent to the location your hand naturally falls) make the 2010 Prius experience even more user friendly. The ability to shift from D to N and back or engage the E-Flashers without having to reach forward is a huge improvement in ergonomics. In fact, just a small movement of the wrist is sufficient to take care of these tasks!
Though the interior trim is not up to Lexus look and feel, it does have a warmer appearance than the materials found in the previous generation.
The new Prius has a Display button located on the steering wheel and all hybrid specific data reporting has been relocated. The standard displays are closer to a normal, forward view out the front windscreen; although there is still an offset this is a significant improvement in safety. Unfortunately, the Prius-III has lost some of its usability convenience in this area. Instead of Consumption and Energy screen toggles handled via the steering wheel Info control button, scrolling though every display via the Display button is now required in order to move between these important information readouts. This behavior is very similar to the 2007 Honda Civic 2.2L iCDTi Turbo Diesel
(and we didn't like it there, either).
An instantaneous Fuel Consumption Display (FCD) is always displayed next to the speedometer but the new Energy screen lacks the level of detail found on a Prius-II’s large Multi-Function Display (MFD). We surmise this is due to its smaller size.
One spectacular addition to the new vehicle is a Hybrid System Indicator. This indicator allows the driver to visually anticipate the threshold between EV and internal combustion use. As the state of charge (SoC) reduces, it is more difficult to maintain cruise or acceleration in EV but the HSI gives drivers the ability to accurately determine limitations moment by moment. This is an extremely useful feature sure to be very popular with owners.
When your power level (not displayed) reaches the center line, EV to ICE-On and reverse transition will occur.
Sight-lines in the 2010 Prius-III are similar to the previous generation with a now familiar rear window blind spot. The hatch functionality is excellent but most customers will never be entirely comfortable with the spit window solution.
2010 Toyota Prius-III Acceleration, Handling and Braking Improvements
Everything from the steering to the brakes has been improved specifically for better performance, ride, feel, and even lower NVH.
The Prius-III’s 1.8L can propel the Hybrid to 60 mph in less than 10 seconds -- nearly a full second faster than its predecessor. When the 1.8L engine is asked for full power however, its quiet and subdued nature instantly disappears in a noisy roar.
The 17” wheeled Prius-III includes a 25% quicker steering ratio than its predecessor while the 15” wheeled Prius-III also bests it by a still respectable 10%. More importantly, the disconnected feel from the previous generation's EPS system has been significantly reduced. Though still EPS equipped, feedback now provides a more natural steering feel than I would have thought possible from any Prius.
Along with more precise steering, handling has been improved thanks to a much needed increase in body rigidity, a 2.6” wider track, and what felt like stiffer yet still comfortable suspension tuning.
Long before reaching limits which will trigger VSC, the previous generation begins to buck and roll, under-steer, and loses any semblance of finesse. The all new 2010 Prius-III is an entirely different animal and holds any path on dry pavement chosen by the driver up to its VSC adhesion limits.
While driving a 15” wheel equipped Prius-III and coming into a 90 degree T slightly hot while DWB, I pointed, she went, we exited, and I smiled.
With Ed Kim of Auto Pacific (my driving partner for the day) behind the wheel of a 17” wheel equipped Prius-III on a mountain road performance segment, we came into a decreasing radius downhill hairpin curve at approximately 50% over the suggested road speed. I thought he was going to be into the binders as under steer would surely have pushed a Prius-II into the oncoming lane. The much improved suspension and steering, as well as improved cornering stability and traction allowed significantly enhanced cornering confidence. With VSC engaging sporadically, he pointed, we entered, then exited and afterward, both of us said, “Wow”!
After that hairpin, I would not have believed I was in a lightly sprung Toyota compact of any sort -- it felt much closer to the edgier 09 Corolla XRS
or Civic iCDTi
sedans. Though not meant to be a performance oriented automobile, the 2010 Toyota Prius-III impresses with better than “normal” cornering aplomb.
Braking is another area of substantial refinement. Toyota engineers worked overtime to remove some of the previous generation’s inconsistent feel. Now fitted with rear discs, braking performance will be improved... though we were not in a position to test that aspect of the Prius-III. Still, the braking action was much more linear and less “programmed” when compared to the previous generation's transitions from regen to mechanical braking. This was a definite improvement.
Although the 2010 Prius-III sounds quieter than its predecessor, some of the rougher back roads revealed an inordinate amount of interior noise. This was not evident on smooth pavement or the Interstate.
2010 Toyota Prius-III Performance including Fuel Economy
Fuel economy is by far the most important performance measure of the all new Prius-III, though acceleration, braking, and handling improvements are all welcome.
The Prius-III offers fuel economy that should please most. That said, it will not offer everyone what looks to be (from EPA ratings) an almost 10% increase in Fuel Economy compared to the previous gen Prius-II.
Competition and joy riding around the beautiful Napa Valley
FE Challenge drive pulling out the stops------------------------------------
Std. drive including City and Country roads.
Though still capable of 100+ mpg in a standard P&G routine, average speeds needed to achieve the numbers above are cause for concern. Temps in the low 60’s were slightly problematic as this was a brand new vehicle with placard pressure, but it did not have the same 100+ mpg “pop” that the previous generation Prius has at any speed between 22 and 37 mph. Forced Charging appeared to stop at 6 bars of SoC during a warm-up period and it did match the previous generation Prius in allowing moving to 7/8 bars at will.
At this point, if I was entering a max FE competition today, I would ask for the Prius-II. The new generation may well be more capable but I need more time in a prepped Prius-III to determine its full potential.
Poor Ed Kim... he had to endure an hour and a half of everything I had during the FE Challenge segment. In his defense, he achieved 77.x mpg during his first drive of a city/country segment as laid out by Toyota.
On the mountain road segment he was at WOT more times than I care to count, but he still achieved the following by the time we arrived back at the driver/vehicle swap out point:
“On it” best describes this 52.5 mpg segment with a 39 mph average speed drive.
In keeping with the Prius’ “Real World” capabilities, 27 Journalists taking on the 31 mile FE Challenge Course averaged an impressive 69.2 mpg. Not bad at all!
Here is an area where the Prius has improved for the average driver just exactly as the EPA numbers indicate. Some caveats appear however...
In mid to high 30 degree temps while DWL and maintaining a 50 mph average speed, I drove from near Napa Valley on I-80 to Sacramento and back with the following result:
102.3 miles is too short a distance for fuel consumption display baseline comparisons but 59.33 mpg actual compared to the 65.3 mpg displayed is somewhat worrisome. We did use the same station but there was a slight slope to the pump pad which may have contributed to the large offset. We were facing in on initial fill and out on the final. Until the 2010 Prius hits the streets in mass and is run through entire tanks, it appears that the pre-production OEM FCDs were over reporting FE by almost 6 mpg!
Thank goodness the infamous bladdered fuel tank from the Prius-II is history. With two top-offs performed, we can attest that this is truly a bright spot in the Prius-III design.
My partner (Danny of PC) in this late night drive took a higher speed run by setting cruise at 65 mph and "just driving." During the turnaround before heading back into San Francisco, we had to cover some inner city routes and in 37 degree temps, 65 mph driving (with some slower speeds in that city turn around) resulted in 48.6 mpg.
65 mph on cruise in 37 degree temps yielded the above.
2010 Toyota Prius-III Conclusions
Simply stated, all the improvements discussed above make the Prius-III the best hybrid on the planet. This smallish, midsized platform offers advanced technology not available in any other vehicle (Touch Tracer and Exhaust Heat Recirculation) while including a more attractive interior and exterior than its predecessor. Even if the new 2010 Prius was a conventionally powered vehicle it would still
be worth purchasing because it is that good! The next generation HSD and the highest fuel economy rating of any new vehicle available on the North American Continent is much more than just frosting on the cake. It should make most new vehicle purchasers think long and hard about choosing anything else... at any price
Finally, I want to extend a huge thank you to Ming-Jou Chen for setting the long lead preview up and having all of us out, Bill Kwong for taking care of all my questions with Japanese engineer responses to each and every one over the last month, Akihiko Otsuka for leading the team that designed and is currently building Prius-III’s for the world as I type, and Masahiko Maeda for offering answers to some very detailed questions about MG1 and MG2 interactions. Included in this list would be my driving partner Ed Kim who was immersed in Hypermiling 101 whether he liked it or not and kept an even keel while having to endure the pain.
2010 Toyota Prius-III Slideshow
Akihiko Otsuka -- Ming-Jou Chen -- Bill Kwong -- Masahiko Maeda-----------------------------
Ed Kim of Auto Pacifica-----------------------