Even though the battery pack is essentially carryover, electronic controls have been reprogrammed to increase the amount of regenerative braking. Three driving modes can be selected by pressing the appropriate button. According to Toyota, the PWR (power) mode "increases sensitivity to throttle input for a sportier feel." The ECO mode provides various display aids to help the driver achieve maximum mileage. The EV (electric vehicle) mode allows driving at low speeds for about a mile with the engine shut down.
Chassis changes are minimal. One notable change is the rear brakes, where drums have been supplanted by discs.
Radar-based cruise control, a lane-departure alert system, reverse assist, and Toyota's first safety and security service have been added to the options list.
The Prius's interior volume remains at the low end of the EPA's mid-size category, but its sweeping roofline and high-flying hatch provide ample room for five passengers and their gear. The chair-high rear seat is more commodious than your average limo. Split-folding backrests allow bulky freight to be transported. Thanks to a new layout for the battery-cooling system, the trunk is 2.2 inches wider.
An elevated center control console sweeps between the Prius's front bucket seats. Designers may have been ex-posed to a few too many Star Trek episodes. The shifter is a dainty toggle that's shuttled through an h-shaped gate to select the mode of travel. Park is engaged by pressing a button. Upholding tradition, the driver receives a blank stare from the dash space circumscribed by the steering wheel. Instead, all digital gauges, system reports, and warning icons glow out of a wide slot centrally located at the base of the windshield. Each touch of the steering-wheel-spoke audio system control is now confirmed in the central display cluster.
The cabin is roomy and thoughtfully arranged, but its ambience is intentionally low-rent. Noncontact surfaces are as unyielding as granite. The shades-of-gray molded plastic has a grainy texture not found in nature. Seats, elbow pads, and roof surfaces are trimmed in mouse fur. The low-nap carpets and floor mats deserve accommodation from the recycled materials council. This is a Toyota for ascetics, not a low-consumption Lexus.
Priuses equipped with the optional moonroof also come with overhead photovoltaic (solar cell) panels. The electricity that's so generated powers a fan that automatically removes heat from the cabin to reduce the need for air-conditioning. (Audi and Mazda have offered similar systems in the past.) The Prius's battery-powered air-conditioning can be programmed to pre-cool the interior for a comfortable commute home.