The 2010 model of the Toyota Prius is the third generation of the car in the U.S. It follows the highly successful second generation that became an icon for hybrid cars. This new version is radically different than the previous, but it incorporates important power-train updates.
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The styling of the headlamps has changed for the 2010 model, with a boomerang shape where the casings wrap around the fenders. The thin grill and big skirt help maximize the car's aerodynamics, giving it a 0.25 coefficient of drag.
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The 2010 Prius gets a bigger engine (at 1.8-liters) than the previous generation's 1.5-liter engine. However, fuel economy is better, at 50 mpg compared with 46 mpg for the previous version. Toyota claims 9.8 seconds to 60 mph for the new Prius.
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The Prius remains in the midsize car segment, with seating for five adults. The peak of the roof has been moved back, helping the aerodynamics and creating better headroom in back.
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The solar-sunroof option doesn't add electricity to the car's battery pack. Instead, it powers a fan that activates when the car is parked on sunny days. This fan keeps the cabin a little cooler than it would otherwise be.
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Handling isn't much improved over the previous version. The car is wobbly in corners and is not at all tuned for sport driving. Ride quality is acceptable, considering the car's price.
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The hatchback makes for plenty of luggage room. The Prius still incorporates the odd horizontally split rear window, which slightly hampers the driver's rear view.
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The cabin faced a serious redesign. Toyota went to a floating console, making buttons and shifter easily accessible on top while leaving a space underneath, potentially useful for more storage.
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Interestingly, Toyota used a flat-bottom steering wheel on the new Prius, providing a little extra room for thighs. The steering-wheel button layout, which we've always liked, is little changed.
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The shifter gets a new treatment, looking a bit more conventional. Buttons labeled Eco and Power, next to the shifter, map the throttle sensitivity.
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The digital display, just under the windshield, is bigger, and includes fuel consumption and power usage information on the right.
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Although the navigation system remains DVD-based, Toyota incorporated traffic information, one of the newest features in the cabin.
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With the navigation system present, a four-disc changer sits hidden behind the LCD. Without the navigation option, you get a six-disc changer. These changers can read MP3 CDs.
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There aren't many new audio sources, although Toyota did include stereo Bluetooth streaming. This picture shows an iPhone streaming music to the car.
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XM satellite radio is also available in the Prius. An optional eight-speaker JBL stereo system sounds surprisingly good.
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Another improvement, the Bluetooth phone system now can automatically ingest a phone's contact list, making it possible to find people by name on the car's LCD.
Photo by: Corinne Schulze/CNET
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