For the 2012 model year, the Toyota Prius receives a slight visual refresh.
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Our Prius Four model features gloss-black trim on its lower grille opening and projector-style headlamps with an auto on-and-off function.
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Under the Prius' hood breathes the same 1.8-liter version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system that has been there since the third generation's launch in 2010. This is a good thing.
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Inside, the Prius' cabin features a layout that is best described as unique.
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All of the areas of interaction seem to wrap around the driver thanks to the Prius' floating center console.
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The dashboard directly behind the steering wheel is clear of gauges.
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Soft, rubber buttons for volume and skip can be found on this side of the wheel along with a bank of voice command and hands-free calling buttons.
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The other side of the wheel is where controls for the instrument cluster and climate systems can be found.
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The Prius' instrument cluster has been pushed back to the base of the windshield, beneath this low plastic brow.
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Half of the instrument cluster is a configurable display that can show a visual representation of the hybrid system.
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Additional readouts include this Hybrid system status screen and a histogram of fuel economy that can be displayed in 1- and 5-minute intervals.
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The Prius uses a continuously variable transmission that is commanded with this very sci-fi shifter.
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Place the car into reverse gear and the 6.1-inch screen at the center of the dashboard will display video from a rear-view camera.
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The Prius Four features a basic navigation system as a standard feature. This system doesn't feature traffic without the assistance of Entune and your Internet-connected smartphone.
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In addition to traffic, Entune also features Bing destination search, Pandora Internet radio streaming, weather forecasts, stock prices, and sports scores.
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During setup, you'll need to pair a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone and log in to the Entune server.
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In addition to acting as an Internet connection, your smartphone can also be paired for hands-free calling and audio streaming.
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Users can direct-dial contacts using this virtual keypad or search their contacts list for phone numbers. Contacts that feature addresses can also be set as navigation destinations.
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Tapping the Car button to the right of the screen brings up this historical fuel economy graph.
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Likewise, there is an energy monitor screen that shows yet another visual representation of the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive system.
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SiriusXM Satellite Radio is standard on the Prius Four, with 90 days of trial service included with your purchase.
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AM/FM radio, a single-disc CD player, and an analog auxiliary input round out the available audio sources.
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Toyota's first hybrid is now just one of many and only one of four vehicles to wear the Prius badge.
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The Prius Four comes standard with heated SofTex seats and a driver's bucket that is eight-way power adjustable.
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The rear seat offers decent leg- and headroom.
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LED taillights are now standard on the Prius and draw less battery power than the incandescents they replace.
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The liftback design of the Prius affords it plenty of rear storage space. There's even a hidden storage nook beneath the falsely flat floor.
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Fold the rear seats flat, however, and the Prius can seem downright cavernous.
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET
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