The latest fuel economy numbers released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicate that the new 2010 Toyota Prius leads all currently-rated U.S.-spec vehicles when it comes to mileage-making skills. The third-generation of Toyota's seminal gas/electric hybrid sedan chalked up a 51 mpg figure on the EPA's city regimen, returned 48 mpg on the highway cycle and earned a 50 mpg combined rating. That's about a 10 percent uptick for this mid-size package over its smaller and considerably less-powerful predecessor. According to Chief Engineer Akihiko Otsuka, improvements to the latest-generation hybrid hardware -- including a new 1.8-liter Atkinson Cycle engine -- account for roughly 60 percent of that gain while enhancements to overall efficiency, largely in the area of aerodynamics, is responsible for the remainder.
Mileage numbers on the new and as-yet-unpriced Prius also handily best the 40/43/41 mpg stats generated by the smaller 2010 Honda Insight, which is a technical compact. However, the Honda is expected to start below $20,000, a price point the Prius -- which uses Toyota's more sophisticated but considerably costlier full-hybrid system -- will not likely be in a position to match.