in 2009 Affordable Midsize Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $10,850 - $11,792
Original MSRP: $22,000 - $24,270
MPG: 48 City / 45 Hwy
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2009 Toyota Prius Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Anyone who hasn't driven a Prius has the same question: Does it drive like a conventional car? For 2009, the answer is yes. It's nothing spectacular, but it feels like a typical midsize car. The Prius also has industry-leading fuel efficiency.

The Prius uses a four-cylinder gasoline engine and two electric motors. The electric motors carry the car to 30 mph, after which the gasoline engine takes over. A continuously variable transmission transfers power to the front wheels, but it has built-in artificial shift points to make it feel like an automatic transmission. It offers electronically-assisted steering -- but that is increasingly common. The car's regenerative braking -- which uses braking energy to recharge the batteries -- is a little more foreign to most drivers, but doesn't take long to get used to. 

  • "The Prius makes a fine highway companion, but it is particularly well-suited to the city, where its light electric steering, tight turning circle, excellent visibility and available rearview camera make it easy to park and maneuver through traffic." -- Edmunds
  • "In performance, the latest Prius takes the lead over Honda's Civic Hybrid. Acceleration from a standstill and for passing and merging is enthusiastic, though it's weaker at higher speeds. Ride comfort is another bonus; though occupants can feel rough spots, they're largely subdued." -- Cars.com
  • "For bragging rights, the Prius can crawl its way through three-hour long border line-ups without ever needing to idle its ICE, which is priceless. Try that in a Civic Hybrid." -- Automobile.com
  • "The Prius's acceleration won't cause tunnel vision, but the steady stream of power from the two sources and the continuously variable planetary transmission call for little compromise on the part of the driver." -- Automobile Magazine

Acceleration and Power

Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system powers the Prius with a 76-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors, which produce 67 horsepower. Reviews frequently compare the experience of driving the system to that of four-cylinder midsize cars. It uses a continuously variable transmission that includes no gears -- yet the Prius electronically simulates gearshifts. Its acceleration doesn't hold the car back, but it isn't going to win any awards. It has an EPA fuel economy rating of 45/48 mpg city/highway. No other 2009 car can match those numbers.

  • "Power delivery is smooth and consistent from rest all the way to top speed. In performance testing, we clocked the Prius from zero to 60 mph in 10.4 seconds." -- Edmunds
  • "Slow movement away from a stop accounts for a middling 10.5 second 0-60 mph time in our test. Prius picks up speed nicely, though, and copes reasonably well with traffic. Throttle response is best between 25-55 mph." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Acceleration from a standstill and for passing and merging is enthusiastic, though it's weaker at higher speeds." -- Cars.com
  • "No eco-weeniemobile this, it's easy to get the drop on most cars and stray in front of, let alone keep up with, traffic." -- Motor Trend

Handling and Braking

The 2009 Toyota Prius uses electronically-assisted steering. This was unusual just a few years ago, but now the four-cylinder editions of many cars, including the Chevrolet Malibu, use it. It requires a light touch, but it gives the Prius the tightest turning circle in the midsize class, on par with many subcompact cars.

The Prius's anti-lock disc brakes use regenerative braking, in which the electric motor operates as a generator when the car is coasting or the driver steps on the brakes, in order to recharge the batteries. Many reviewers say the effect is noticeable, but doesn't seem to impact brake performance.

  • "Base model's soft suspension and fairly skinny, economy-based tires allow marked cornering lean and noseplow. Touring models have sharper moves with slightly better grip in turns." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Toyota says much of the Prius' braking is of the regenerative sort, without input from the friction-operated brake pads. This phenomenon is noticeable while driving, but it's not intrusive." -- Cars.com
  • "I found it to be quite nimble and fun to drive, actually. I'd say it drives just as well as the Civic Hybrid I tested a little while ago, if not even better." -- Automobile.com

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