2012 Toyota Prius 5dr HB Three (Natl) Angular Front Exterior View
Driving a Prius hybrid is hardly going to be mistaken for a sports car, and the experience behind the wheel can disconcert newcomers. Pressing the accelerator can produce engine noise that's totally disconnected from the road speed gained, and the electric power steering is numb and lifeless (as we find it to be in most Toyota products). The handling is tighter than in previous generations, but this is more of an automotive appliance than a sporty sedan you'll want to fling into corners. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph takes around 10 seconds, although the many Prius drivers attempting to keep the car in electric mode may take considerably longer than that.
The regenerative brakes are smoothly integrated with the four-wheel disc brakes, and braking feels all but similar to that of a conventional vehicle. One side benefit: The brake pads on a Toyota Prius last far, far longer than they do on a standard car, since the Prius defaults to regenerative braking to recapture wasted energy--and only uses its friction brakes as a last resort or in panic stops.
Front-seat passengers may find the flying buttress console impinges on their elbow room, but there's plenty of headroom in front, and thin-back front seats offer plenty of legroom for rear-seat riders. The rear seat of the 2012 Prius will carry three adults, as long as they're not too large, and it sits higher than in some cars, giving passengers a more natural sitting position.
The Prius does well in crash tests and safety ratings, and is fitted with seven airbags and the usual array of electronic safety systems: anti-lock brakes, traction control, and so forth. Safety-minded buyers can add radar-based adaptive cruise control, a lane-departure warning system, and Toyota's "Safety Connect" cellular system, which will notify emergency responders in the event the car crashes. There's also the self-steering Intelligent Parking Assist feature, although Ford's version of the same function is widely acknowledged to be better--and simpler to operate.
Retail buyers have the choice of four 2012 Prius trim levels, labeled Two, Three, Four, and Five. (The grim Prius One is a low-volume model sold only to fleet buyers.) Starting in the mid-twenties, even the Prius Two includes power windows, cruise control, and an AM-FM-XM-CD stereo system. Options as buyers move up the range include the neat Touch Tracer control system, which lets the driver use multi-directional steering wheel buttons to "mouse" through screens on the high-mounted Information Display screen at the base of the windshield. Drivers can scroll through various screens of vehicle operating information, as well as controlling the sound system volume, channels, and other functions.For a more detailed description, see the full 2012 Toyota Prius review on our sister site, TheCarConnection.