The super-frugal Prius, with its Hybrid Synergy Drive, has sophisticated electric-drive componentry and a battery system that allows energy to be recovered from coasting and braking. In the Prius, a 76-horsepower, 1.5L four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle gasoline engine is paired with a 50-kilowatt electric drive motor. Together, the two produce 110 horsepower, delivered through a planetary-gear continuously variable transmission (CVT). As opposed to some other "mild hybrid" models, the Prius is a "full hybrid," meaning that the system not only turns the gasoline engine off when it's not needed; it also has the capability to run at low speeds on electric power alone for short distances.
The system enables the Prius to get one of the best fuel-efficiency ratings ever--60 city, 51 highway, according to the EPA. Prius is also certified as a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) and as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV), and may qualify for tax incentives, parking, or carpool lane privileges depending on the locality.
Inside, the Prius is considerably roomier than you might expect given its compact exterior dimensions and aerodynamic five-door liftback shape, but with 96.2 cubic feet of passenger room it's classified as a mid-size car. The Prius has room for five, with a roomy back seat and 14.4 cubic feet of cargo space. Rear seatbacks can be folded forward for expanded cargo capacity. The instrument panel is especially attention-getting, with a display screen that monitors the hybrid system and a small fingertip shift lever replacing a conventional shift knob.
The Prius comes equipped as well as most other frugal sedans. Air conditioning with cabin filtration, a six-speaker CD sound system, cruise control, heated power side mirrors, and power windows and locks are standard.
Major options include leather seating, high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, a Smart Key entry/ignition system, a voice-activated navigation system, an upgraded JBL audio system that includes nine speakers, a CD changer, a Bluetooth hands-free phone interface, an input jack, and MP3 capability.
This year, a new Touring Edition brings a sportier appearance and feel to the Prius. The model includes a "European-tuned" suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, HID headlamps, and integrated fog lamps.
Anti-lock brakes with brake assist are standard, as are front seat-mounted side air bags, along with side-curtain bags for all outboard occupants. Vehicle stability control (VSC), which can help retain control on slippery roads or in quick emergency maneuvers, is available as an option.
The Toyota Prius, widely recognized as an icon of automotive efficiency, enters 2007 with a few equipment changes. A sporty new Touring Edition, which brings a European-tuned suspension, HID headlamps, and various appearance upgrades, is available for a modest premium. Also, front side air bags and full-length curtain air bags, which were previously optional, are now standard on both Prius models.