By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 8.1
The world's first and most successful mass-produced hybrid car, the 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid continues to expand its dominance with two new models joining the growing Prius family. The wagon-like Prius V stretches the current hatchback's dimensions by adding a larger cargo area and higher seating, while the Prius Plug-in Hybrid is ready to take on the Chevrolet Volt. But, the most popular and best-selling model remains the 3rd Gen Toyota Prius hybrid hatchback. The 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid may not make the cover of the hot-rod magazines, and it probably won't be on the wish list of every newly licensed teen-age boy. But, for the vast majority of folks who simply need a high-mileage mode of transport that is also very eco-friendly, very reliable and very much in demand, the 2012 Prius hybrid in all its forms is the hybrid of choice.
If you're looking for the best fuel economy in the hybrid field, the 2012 Toyota Prius' 51/48 mpg rating is still king. As some states also allow hybrid cars to waive the 2-person-per-car minimum to drive in the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, the 2012 Toyota Prius might actually be able to speed up your commute times. With the Plug-in Hybrid version, you could theoretically stop using gasoline altogether if your commutes are relatively short.
If you're looking for a more conventional or even sporty design, and don't mind sacrificing a few mpg, the Ford Fusion Hybrid Sedan or sporty Honda CR-Z hybrid coupe is certainly worth a look, as are the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima hybrid sedans. Those seeking to save some money should look at the less expensive Honda Insight hybrid.
The 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid gains some new styling, with a revised front end, new headlight and taillight designs and new 15-inch wheel covers on the Prius 2. A host of new audio systems is added, including Toyota's Entune. Entune is a subscription infotainment service similar to Ford's SYNC that uses voice-recognition software for many of its functions, and includes apps for Bing, Pandora and Movietickets.com.
The new Prius Plug-in Hybrid uses a lithium-ion battery that can be recharged in 3 hours via a standard power outlet or half that time on a 240-volt line. The car can travel in electric-only mode for 11 miles and at speeds up to 62 mph, then works as a regular Prius hybrid after the battery discharges.
Driving Impressions Due to the seamless transition between electric motor and gasoline engine, driving the 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid is a surprisingly serene event. The driver is given a range of performance...options via the EV, Eco, and Power buttons, which allow for variations in throttle application and fuel consumption. In EV mode, the 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid functions solely on electric power (speed and miles permitting), while the Power mode setting delivers the full potential of the gasoline engine assisted by the electric motor. The Eco mode setting is probably the most useful of the three, allowing the Prius' computer to modify the throttle response for the best balance of fuel consumption and performance. The Eco mode is so efficient, it will even shut down the air conditioning when at idle. During our time with the 2012 Toyota Prius, we played with all three settings and to our surprise, found our fuel mileage easily topped EPA estimates no matter what mode we were in.
Solar Roof Package
Thanks to the solar cells mounted on top, the Solar Roof Package nets you a power moonroof that self-ventilates to help keep the car at a constant temperature. Additionally, a button on the key fob allows the air conditioning to be remotely started for up to three minutes, providing the batteries are fully charged.
Although the 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid is a lean, green, gas-saving machine, sometimes a little more power is warranted. For those situations, putting the car into Power mode gives you extra oomph to get where you need to go.
The 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid hatchback features an interior as modern and different as its exterior. The contoured dash looks particularly handsome with its 2-tone panels, although on base models the gray plastic and fabric choice are a bit depressing. The Prius' steering wheel incorporates a wheel-like control that operates the Touch Tracer Display controlling a number of fuel-usage and hybrid-operation displays on the Prius' LCD information screen. The touch-sensitive switches can also be employed to control the Prius' A/C, information screens, volume and station settings. With all this data displayed directly ahead of the driver, he can keep his eyes on the road ahead while operating various functions. In a nod to champions of recycling, the 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid features plant-derived (and therefore recyclable) plastic resins for the seat cushions and lower door panels.Exterior
Despite the new design and continued freshening, the 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid, for better or for worse, is still easily identifiable as a Toyota Prius hybrid. The 5-door hatchback's familiar shape is not exactly head-turning, but it is not unattractive by any means. The Prius' sheet metal is designed to cheat the wind, with sharp-edged creases and flush glass panels. Even the car's wheel covers are aerodynamic. The roof's apex is pushed as far rearward as possible, creating a slightly sporty appearance while simultaneously maximizing rear-seat headroom. Base models ride on 15-inch wheels, but moving to the Prius Five brings 17-inch wheels as well as the option for the new dealer-installed Plus Performance accessory package. Plug-in Prius models feature a port on the right side where the charging cable goes, while the left side has a traditional gas cap. Plug-in models also have a distinct grille, wheels, door handles, and headlights and tail lights.
A nicely equipped 2012 Toyota Prius One hybrid includes a wide variety of standard features, including a tilt/telescopic steering wheel with air-conditioning controls and Touch Tracer Display, height-adjustable driver's seat, auto up/down on all windows, push-button start, two 12-volt power outlets, a tonneau cover, and auxiliary input jack. The Prius Two adds a 6.1-inch touch-screen audio display, a USB port, Bluetooth, LED daytime running lights (DRL), keyless entry, MP3 compatible CD player and a rear-window wiper. Moving up to the Prius Three adds the 3-door Smart Key entry system, navigation, rearview camera, Entune infotainment with free 3-year subscription, an upgraded JBL AM/FM/CD changer with satellite radio, Bluetooth and eight speakers, while the Prius Four trim is enhanced with the JBL audio plus eight "Green Edge" high-efficiency JBL speakers and 8-channel amplifier, a leather interior, heated front seats with driver's lumbar support, an 8-way power driver's seat, auto on/off headlights and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The top-of-the-line Prius Five adds 17-inch alloy wheels and energy-saving LED headlights and foglights. The Plug-in Hybrid version of the Prius comes two ways: a base model that incorporates features of higher-trim Prius hybrid models such as a nav system, and an Advanced version that ups the ante with features like Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, premium navigation, head-up display, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Several advanced safety systems are available for the top-of-the-line Prius Five, including Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, head-up display, the Pre-Collision System, Lane Keep Assist and Intelligent Parking Assist; all offered in the Advanced Technology Package – which includes the Navigation Package. Techno-savvy Prius shoppers will likely be interested in the optional power moonroof with solar-powered ventilation and remote air conditioning to help keep the vehicle cool. The dealer-installed Plus Performance accessory package adds a sport-tuned suspension with stiffer springs, ground effects, 17-inch lightweight alloy wheels, low-rolling-resistance, low-profile tires and a tuned rear sway bar.
The 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid are powered by a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine matched with an electronically controlled, continuously variable transmission. It is rated at 98 horsepower. The total hybrid system horsepower (gasoline engine and electric motor combined) for 2012 is 134 horsepower. The 2012 Prius' fuel economy ratings of 51 city/48 highway can be pushed even higher when utilizing the full EV mode. Fuel economy ratings for the Plug-in Hybrid are 95 mpge (miles per gallon equivalent) and 50 mpg in standard hybrid mode.
1.8-liter in-line 4 with 60-kilowatt Permanent Magnetic Synchronous Electric Motor Atkinson Cycle Hybrid
98 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm (gasoline engine) + 80 horsepower (electric motor) = 134 net horsepower
105 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm (gasoline engine); 153 ft-lb of torque (electric motor)
EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy: 51/48 (hybrid); 95 mpge/50 mpg (Plug-in Hybrid)