The Prius interior is not what you'd call luxurious, but it still represents an upgrade over the previous car's and is certainly roomier and more plush than the cabin of the new Honda Insight. The roof's peak moves four inches farther rearward than before, which increases rear-seat headroom. Cabin ergonomics and the displays that monitor the activities of the Hybrid Synergy Drive system are top-notch. The front seats are noticeably wider, more adjustable, and more supportive, addressing a major customer complaint. In terms of safety, forward visibility once again is excellent, a more sophisticated stability control system is standard, and an available Advanced Technology package includes brake assist, radar cruise control, and a lane-departure system that nudges you back into your lane should you stray.
Let's be clear. The Prius has not been transformed into a sport sedan, but it's no longer a penalty box to drive. And, like it or not, we're all on a long journey away from internal-combustion and toward electric vehicles, so any progress made toward building some fun into this new generation of vehicles is to be applauded. This year, the Prius joins the new Honda Insight and the new Ford Fusion Hybrid to prove that hybrid cars don't have to be soulless appliances for eco-weenies. They can also be for you and me.
On sale: May
Price: $23,000 (est.)
Engine: 1.8L I-4, 98 hp, 105 lb-ft
Batteries: Nickel-metal-hydride, 1.31 kW-h
motor/generators: Two AC, 56 and 80 hp
Total power: 134 hp