Toyota Prius Performance
The Toyota Prius is known for its ability to deliver impressive fuel economy, not impressive performance. Auto critics think it is a total bore to drive, though they agree that if great fuel economy is high on your list, the unexciting driving experience is worth it. Reviewers like the Prius’ comfortable, quiet ride, but dislike its soft suspension, mushy brakes and numb steering.
- "The Prius has not been transformed into a sport sedan, but it's no longer a penalty box to drive." -- Automobile Magazine (2010)
- "Eco mode, which smoothes out throttle inputs, feels as exciting as you’d expect it to be. Ever used Anbesol for a toothache? You get it. You’ll also get, however, easy access to 50-plus mpg." -- Car and Driver (2010)
- "While the Prius still isn't exactly fun to drive, its straight-line stability is a lot better now, and in general it feels more like a normal car." -- Edmunds (2010)
- "Toyota says that the new Prius is more fun and sportier. And no, I don't know what they are smoking. The car feels like the same humble, humming people pod, only lacquered with a bit more confidence and esprit." -- The Los Angeles Times (2010)
- "Like all hybrids, driving the … Toyota Prius is a remarkably quiet experience." -- Kelley Blue Book (2010)
Acceleration and Power
A 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor produce a combined total output of 134 horsepower. An electronically-controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) is the only transmission available. The EPA estimates the 2013 Prius will get 51/48 mpg city/highway, which is very good for a hybrid without a plug.
The Toyota Prius conserves fuel by shutting off the engine when it’s stopped. Initial acceleration uses the battery and then the gas engine kicks in. Like most hybrid cars, reviewers note that the Prius hesitates from a stop and struggles during hard acceleration. One test driver likes that the transition between gas and electric power is smooth and hard to detect.
- "I'm less enthused, though, about how the power is delivered compared with a conventional car or a pure EV - which is to say that it happens with some hesitation and surging, often accompanied by the gas engine revving or droning at seemingly inappropriate times." -- Cars.com (2011)
- "Kind of slow from a stop, but as the motors spool up, the Prius moves with steady abandon. Its best attribute is mid-speed throttle response. Again, it's not quick, but power comes on immediately thanks to the assistance of the electric motor. The car has a PWR (power) button on the console that quickens response, and it's useful especially in stop-and-go commuting." -- Consumer Guide
- "Acceleration is far from sprightly, but it's on par for a hybrid and certainly adequate for most drivers." -- Edmunds (2011)
- "The transition between gasoline engine and electric motor (most commonly felt while idling at a light), is even smoother in this generation, making it almost imperceptible." -- Kelley Blue Book (2010)
Handling and Braking
Auto critics agree that the Toyota Prius won’t bring any driving excitement to your day. They say the 2013 Prius has a soft suspension that gives it too much body lean in turns, as well as floaty handling. Although test drivers think the Prius’ electric steering is numb, they say it’s good for navigating parking lots. The Prius’ regenerative brakes, which help recharge the battery, are often disliked in hybrids, but one reviewer says the Prius’ brakes are some of the worst because the pedal feels numb.
- "The electric steering doesn't provide much in the way of feel, but it's user-friendly in parking lots and doesn't become overly boosted on the highway." -- Edmunds (2011)
- "Prius is a cruiser, not a handler. Fluffy suspension tuning and skinny, low-rolling-resistance tires result in lots of body lean in even moderate-speed turns." -- Consumer Guide
- "I have no reason to suspect that the car won't stop safely, but the pedal feel is numb and the effect nonlinear, making the brakes difficult to modulate. … The pedal feels unnatural, and the transition from regenerative to friction braking can be awkward. All hybrids and EVs exhibit this drawback, but I think the Prius is among the worst." -- Cars.com (2011)
- "Unfortunately, the wobbly handling is still in full force with the new Prius. It makes no claims to sporting performance." -- CNET (2010)
Next Steps: Toyota Prius
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