By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 11/4/2011
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.You'll Like This Car If...
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.You May Not Like This Car If...
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.What's New for 2012
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.
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.Favorite Features
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.