2010 Toyota PriusEnlarge Photo
Third generation: 2010-Present
The 2010-onwards Prius has been the most mainstream -- and the most fuel efficient -- of Toyota’s Prius models.
With a similar shape and style to the 2004-2009 Prius hatchback, the 2010-present Prius will be familiar to anyone who has driven the earlier model.
With a similar battery pack to the 2004-2009 Prius, the newer model has a similar shaped and sized load bay.
Internally, the dashboard is more conventional, with information about the car’s fuel economy separated from the multi-function display on a dedicated screen next to the speedometer.
Climate control also has its own screen and buttons, giving the interior of the current Prius a busier look than its predecessor.
Inheriting the flying-buttress style console from other Toyotas, the new dashboard extends towards the center arm-rest -- giving the gear selector a more conventional home within easy reach of the arm rest.
Just like its predecessor, the current Prius is heavy on gadgetry. We like the hands-free connectivity and wireless Bluetooth streaming to the stereo system, as well as the optional rear backup camera. Some models even feature self-parking.
But perhaps the most important revision in the current Prius is its improved ride and handling characteristics over the previous version. Steering weight is more appropriate to U.S. tastes, and there’s less body roll thanks to a redesigned chassis and larger wheels.
Unlike the previous Prii, the current version also features a choice of operating modes, including the all-electric “EV” button. This allows the car to be run entirely on battery power alone for up to a mile at city speeds before the gasoline engine needs to kick in.
In “ECO” mode, the Prius’ throttle response is tamed, encouraging smooth and gradual acceleration, and is the standard operational mode when the car is turned on.
Switching to “Power” mode drops fuel efficiency, but increases performance by using both gasoline and electric power together as much as possible.
The 2010 Toyota PriusEnlarge Photo
Plug-ins and batteries
Given that the 2010-current Prius is so new -- and therefore most likely within its 100,000 mile warranty period -- we’d advise against an expensive plug-in modification.
Next year, Toyota will launch its own, purpose-built 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid. It may take a few years to reach the used market, but we’d advise anyone with enough money to consider buying a used 2010 or newer Prius to hold off on making a purchase, if they really must have that plug-in functionality.
As for batteries? With the cars so new, we really hope that failing batteries isn’t a problem for many years to come.
With a larger 1.8-liter engine producing 96 hp and a smaller but more efficient electric motor, the current Prius is EPA-rated at 51 mpg in the city and 48 mpg on the highway, making it the single most efficient non-plug-in car on the market.
Because it’s so new, we can’t comment on how fuel economy will fare with time, but we can expect that it will hold up to time in much the same was as the Prii before it.
For a more in-depth look at the latest Prius from Toyota, don’t forget to check out our extensive review of this third-generation hybrid.
Whatever its age, the Toyota Prius brand represents a reliable and cost-effective way to use as little gasoline as possible. If your primary concern is fuel economy, you’ll find any of the three models acceptable -- with the highest fuel economy coming from the latest model.
The most current Prius gives the best performance and driving experience, but given you can choose from among five model years, our pick for best used Prius value has to be the second generation (2004-2009).
Versatile, reasonably new, but without major depreciation woes, we think it represents an ideal green car for someone looking for a used car.