Despite shelling out extra money for the option package that includes the JBL CD player with nine speakers, the audio on our review car sounds muddy with booming bass. To our chagrin, the Prius has no options for satellite radio, a DVD player, or an emergency communications system such as OnStar. The really bad news is that the radio is not a standard design and can't be replaced unless you go to a custom car shop.
Safety is the Prius's strong suit with air bags up front as well as front and rear-side curtain bags. All told, it scores impressive five- and four-star ratings for the driver and passenger, respectively, and a four-star rollover rating. Should you be in an accident, the Prius has been designed to crumple on impact, and it has a black-box crash recorder that saves data on speed, braking, seat belts, and more. In addition to the car's three-year/36,000-mile warranty, the hybrid parts are covered for six years or 60,000 miles and three years of roadside assistance--appropriate for a hybrid, although Honda covers parts for eight years. Toyota's Web site has a lot of information for Prius owners, including specs, technology primers, FAQs, and even an application that tells you what service is needed. While the era of the backyard mechanic has gone the way of dollar-a-gallon gas, Toyota offers service manuals at reasonable prices and runs a 24-hour toll-free help line. We took the support service out for our own spin, and after about a minute on hold, a technician answered our question correctly.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|0 to 60mph acceleration||30mp to 50 mph lane-pass test||Braking distance||Noise||Fuel economy|
How we test performance
To gauge how well the car performs in real-world situations, we put it through a battery of instrumented tests that simulate actual road maneuvers. With an Escort's GT2 Vehicle Performance Computer monitoring the action, we start from a level stopped position, calibrate the device before each run, repeat each test at least three times, and average the results.
0 to 60mph
From a dead stop, we smoothly press on the accelerator to the floor as we lift off of the brake pedal to accelerate as quickly as possible. While moving, we take note as to whether the car veers right or left or loses traction.
30mph to 50mph lane pass
To simulate the car's ability to accelerate at speed, we time how long it takes to go from 30mph to 50mph.
From a steady speed of at least 65mph, we firmly press on the brake pedal to slow the car down to a complete halt while noting if the car veers either way, the level of ABS shutter, and if there is any fading. The computer starts recording the braking distance at 60mph.
Starting with a full tank of 87 octane or greater fuel, we drive on a variety of roads for at least 350 miles and compute the vehicle's gas mileage based on what's consumed and the odometer reading. While duplicating the driving route and conditions is impossible, we strive for a real-world mix of city (frequent stop and go), suburban (midrange speeds with occasional stops), and rural driving (steady highway speeds).
Driving at a steady speed of 60mph, we set a RadioShack sound-level meter on the passenger seat. We record an average the measurement over a 15-second period.