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2010 Toyota Prius preview photos

We got our hands on the updated Toyota Prius at a media preview event, and found a car not radically different from the previous generation. Refinements give the car more power and better mileage.

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Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 15 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
Toyota employed more than 2,000 of its engineers on the update to the Prius. Rather than make radical changes, they concentrated on refinements that result in more power and better mileage.
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The headlights on the Prius get this slash effect, which seems to be a popular trend in automotive design, as Nissan adopted the form on multiple models. LED headlights are available as an option with the Prius.
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The nose of the Prius gets Toyota's characteristic bulge, pushing the Toyota badge out in front. Toyota also narrowed the top grille, but widened the one below the bumper, for better aerodynamics.
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Toyota's engineers refined the hybrid components, eliminating 20 percent of the weight. The gas engine has been upgraded from 1.5-liters to 1.8-liters, adding power and performing more efficiently on hill climbs. The new mileage figure is 50 mpg.
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Toyota moved the peak of the roof back four inches for better aerodynamics and to offer greater headroom in the rear. Visually, it's a minuscule change. During our drive, bystanders didn't look twice at the car, probably assuming it was a current generation Prius.
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Toyota added a power mode button, which makes the accelerator more responsive at mid-throttle, but the car's handling is as wobbly as ever.
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The taillights follow the rear lip, which sticks out at a more extreme angle than previously, and works as a spoiler.
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A solar roof is optional, a gimmick that merely serves to run an interior fan when the car is parked, keeping the cabin temperature equivalent with the outside.
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The cabin materials are of similar quality as in the previous generation. Toyota changed the styling somewhat, with a sloping instrument panel that flows toward the seats.
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One design note we like is the floating console, that allows some storage room underneath.
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The steering wheel is very similar to the previous model, with the same circular button sets on left and right.
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Toyota uses a more conventional design for the gear shift than on the previous generation. You can also see the mode buttons for Power, Eco, and EV.
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The purplish display lights up when you put your finger to the steering wheel buttons, giving a visual cue about which button you are pushing. In practice, we didn't find this display useful, as we quickly learned the placement of the steering wheel buttons.
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Adaptive cruise control is a new feature for the Prius, letting you set a cruising speed and matching the speed of slower cars ahead. This display shows that the system is ready. The display also indicates when lane departure warning is active.
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Although the navigation unit incorporates better graphics for the menus along with live traffic, it is not much improved over the previous version. As before, the Prius offers Bluetooth phone support. It also gets Bluetooth streaming as an audio source, but no iPod support.

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