Road Test: 2010 Toyota Prius

Road Test: 2010 Toyota Prius

28.02.2010: Text & Images: Iain Shankland Well it had to happen… sooner or later I had to get a Prius to test drive for a week. I’ve driven all kinds of hybrids over the years, but I’ve always managed to avoid the

Text & Images: Iain Shankland

Well it had to happen… sooner or later I had to get a Prius to test drive for a week. I’ve driven all kinds of hybrids over the years, but I’ve always managed to avoid the mother of all pretentious-tree-hugging vehicles – the Prius. So how did it happen? How did my life get to this point? The wife… that’s right – she’s to blame. Last year we saw the all-new third generation Prius get launched at the Canadian Auto Show and right away my wife wanted me to get one for a road test… and here we are today…

Hollywood is full of pretentious movie and TV stars driving around and shaming everyone that’ll listen, that the planet is going to blow up in a puff of dust unless we all drive the Prius (or is that Prii?). That’s one of the things that has always discouraged me from driving it in the past… I will not now or ever listen to an actor tell me what I should or shouldn’t do. The wife – yes.. an actor … no. An actor should do only what they are paid for – and then shut up. The wife… well that’s her job isn’t it?

First Impressions

Now, other than Stevie Wonder, no one is ever going to call the Prius beautiful – but it is attractive – more so than the previous iterations of the car. It’s actually quite fetching in the red of the test vehicle (I dodged a bullet because there was a silver one right beside it, so some other sucker got stuck with that!). I was quite impressed when I was handed a key fob, minus the key. What’s this – keyless entry AND keyless start?

Cool – wasn’t expecting that. Opening the door I look at the seats – oh oh… beige and not very uncomfortable was the first thing that ran through my mind. Looking on the roof, there’s no solar panel, so that means I’ve got a base model.. my guess is Leonardo DiCaprio ain’t driving one of these ones. Nevertheless, I’m going to drive it with an open mind.

Jumping behind the wheel, the first thing I notice is the instrumentation sitting waaaay out there at the base of the windshield. Hmmmmm forgot the binoculars, hope my eyesight is up to this… Pushing the start button, the engine comes to life and the dash lights up with all kinds of bars and graphs. Other than letting the entire world know what speed I’m driving at, this is not so bad.

Toggling through the various menus, I get it set up with the information I want and need - it’s actually pretty cool the way you can customize the information. Along with a height-adjustable seat, the steering wheel tilts and telescopes, so it’s easy to get into a comfortable driving position. The steering wheel itself is quite interesting… two large multi-way buttons sit right where your thumbs sit and the bottom is flat – just like a GTI. It’s pretty thin, but comfortable in my hands.

The centre console is very much like you’d expect to see in Lexus. It’s a combination of that and the “floating” dash that Volvo has adopted on their vehicles lately. I like it, because everything sits nice and close – easy to reach. Also, the various buttons are clearly marked and logically laid out, so whether you’re changing the heating or the radio, it’s all very easy to accomplish at highway speeds.

To drive off I have to move a tiny gear shifter (– it’s more like a joystick from a video game than a gearstick in a car – kinda neat!)  to the left and down to get it into drive.  Also to the left is R for reverse, obviously and in the middle part is N. There’s a B for what is engine braking - I’m assuming I’d want to use that when going downhill to help in regenerating the battery. The shifter naturally returns to the right, so putting it into the B is completely effortless..

My first question is.. what if I’m moving this stick around and accidently put it into Park? No worries, because there’s a button that looks like the start button marked: Park, so there’s no way to break the transmission – however, it was a little odd remembering to push a button to put the car in park. For more oomph, there’s the option of shifting into Sport mode (via a button) that changes the throttle response to make the Prius a bit more fun to drive. I left it in Econo mode for the duration of the test because most people will probably end up leaving it there, and I wanted to see what a reasonable expectation would be on the fuel usage front.

Setting off, everything goes quiet as the electric motor gets us moving. The brakes on hybrids are usually either spongy or solid - like you’re stepping on a piece of wood. In the Prius, Toyota has managed to get the brake-feel very close to that of a regular car, so that’s a big plus. The go pedal is a little.. shall we say lazy.. as in press.. wait, wait oh there’s some forward momentum. I expected that, so it’s not an issue..

I just have to remember how much room to leave for passing slower moving vehicles. Entering the motorway, I stomp on the gas and get a whole lot of groaning, but quickly get up to 130 km/h without any problems. My trip home was pretty uneventful other than getting weird looks from people as I blasted past them at speeds they probably thought a tree-hugger wouldn’t do.

Now one thing this week that is not going to happen is an attempt to squeeze every last drop out of every litre of fuel. I’ve gone down that road in the past, so this week I’m driving the Prius like I would a regular car and we’ll see where the hybrid advantages could possibly land. I’m not going to thrash it around – just drive it in a normal way without resorting to focusing purely on saving fuel.

On the highway the Prius is relatively quiet and drives like any other normal car. However, about half-way home I got an incredible back ache. Just as suspected, these seats are uncomfortable.. I didn’t expect them to be this bad, this quickly …. this is not going to be pretty. Fortunately I have an Obus form back rest that I can put in the car to negate the pain. This isn’t unusual for Toyota’s (or Honda’s for that matter), in fact it seems to be a pattern.. I remember driving two different Camry’s - one that was a base model and one that had leather seats. The base seats were awful, but the leather seats were the complete opposite – so that’s something I would certainly consider if I was to purchase any Toyota… go for the upper end seat – you’ll be glad you did.

Driving around town, the Prius is a perfect match for that environment – it definitely shines in stop and go traffic. Without even concentrating, I manage to get the Prius up to 60 km/h using the electric motor alone. That’s certainly a big jump from other hybrids, where I struggled to get past 30 km/h on battery power before the 4-cylinder engine kicked in.

The electric steering in the Prius is light, but not over-boosted, and in parking lot maneuvers the car once again excels. Interestingly, whenever you put the car into reverse, the Prius starts beeping like a truck.. at first I thought it was over-kill even though people never hear a hybrid coming!  However, as I was backing out of a parking spot, the beeping actually caught pedestrians’ attention….you know the ones that walk around without a brain - oblivious to everything around them. They actually stopped and paid attention. Maybe that’s something all cars should have, because it made things so much easier…. now if only I could get it to beep when I’m going forward!

The “acceptable” audio system consists of an AM/FM radio with a single-disc CD/MP3/WMA Player (pre-wired for XM® Satellite radio), 6-Speakers and an audio auxiliary input jack. I’ve certainly heard better, but also a lot worse (while listening to the radio and Mika, the sound was fairly good, but it just wasn’t up to scratch for my Def Leppard CD).

Rear seat entry and exit was very easy, with the doors opening wide with plenty of room to swing your feet in and out. There’s plenty of leg, hip, shoulder and headroom for the majority of people. I didn’t expect much, but was pleasantly surprised by how much room there actually is in the Prius.

The rear hatch offers a more than acceptable amount of cargo space, with the added bonus of a tonneau cover.. all too often that turns out to be optional in hatchback cars these days. There are plenty of storage places within the cabin of the Pruis, including not one, but two good sized glove boxes. The centre armrest slides and opens to reveal a large storage compartment which also includes a power point and the auxiliary input for the audio system.

The Prius comes with a fine compliment of standard features including: 15” Aluminum Alloy Wheels w/Full Wheel Covers, Smart Key System - Driver Door Handle Touch Lock/Unlock Sensor (that was a pleasant surprise!), Variable Intermittent Wipers, Intermittent Rear Window Wiper/Washer, Automatic Headlamps, Automatic Climate Control, 60/40 Split Rear Bench Seat w/Fold-Down Seat Back & Centre Armrest, Rear Seat Foldable Headrest, Power Door Locks w/Anti-Lockout Feature, Power Windows w/Auto Up/Down, Tonneau Cover, Push Button Start and Cruise Control.

Other optional Packages in the Prius:

Premium Package: JBL® Audio, In-Dash 6-Disc CD Auto-changer, 8-Speakers, Bluetooth®3, Capability, Integrated XM® Satellite Radio, Integrated Garage Door Opener,. Auto Dimming Rear View Mirror w/Backup Camera, Driver & Front Passenger, Footwell Lamp, Front Passenger Door Handle Touch Lock/Unlock Sensor
Premium Package w/Solar Panels: Premium Package plus: Power Moonroof w/Solar Panels, Remote Air Conditioning Technology Package: Premium Package w/Solar Panels plus: Voice Activated DVD Navigation System,4, Backup Camera in Navigation System,4 Pre-Collision System, Driver Seat Lumbar, Support, Leather Seat Surfaces, Heated Front Seats, Water Repellent Front Door, Glass, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Intelligent Parking Assist, Leather-Wrapped, Steering Wheel, Front Illuminated Doorsill Trim, Auto-Dimming Rear View Mirror, (Delete Backup Camera in Rear View Mirror), Rear Bumper Protector Touring Package: Premium Package plus: 17” Aluminum Alloy Wheels, P215/45R17, All-Season Radial Tires, Fog Lamps, LED Headlamps, Headlamp Washers, Auto Levelling Headlamp System, Rear Bumper Protector

Standards Safety Features include: Regenerative Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) with Brake Assist (BA), and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction control (TRAC), Three-point front seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters, Active headrests, Engine immobilizer, Driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags, Driver knee airbag, front and rear seat side curtain airbags and Direct Tire Pressure Monitoring System.

My return trip to Toronto after spending a week buzzing around my local area, resulted in an interesting drive. Many may feel that the Prius is under powered or just not very fast, but I can assure you that isn’t necessarily the case… I spent a large part of my trip following a gentleman driving a Mercedes-Benz CLS550 – not exactly a slow car – with a driver that was more than motivated to get past the many slow moving cars that endlessly clog the highways of Ontario.

We zig-zagged through traffic at speeds of 100 – 137 km/h and I kept on his tail the whole way, until one particularly bad point where he got stuck behind a very slow moving chicane (you guessed it… a Toyota Corolla), and I jumped lanes and left him for dust. The Prius can do everything that a normal car can do.. just quieter and using less fuel.

The Conclusion

I didn’t have a whole lot of expectations going into the week, but I was surprised at how quickly I liked it and pointed out its well thought out design and execution. My wife ribbed me that maybe I had gone over to the “green side”. While it lacked the power of a V-6 or a V-8, it more than held its own in city as well as highway traffic. I wouldn’t be averse to driving one on a regular basis..

I’d have to bin the seat though.. or just go for an upgraded interior. Probably 90% of the population would do well to purchase one of these – and I’m not saying that to “save the environment” – it just excels at what most people ever do with their car, and that’s commute to work on traffic-clogged roads.


Way better than expected
With all the media hype over the brakes.. you can probably strike a good deal with the dealership right now ;>)
Lots of storage space


Back-breaking driver’s seat
Warranty is a bit lame compared to other hybrids (including other Toyotas and Lexus vehicles) where 8 years is the norm

Immediate Competition:

Honda Insight

By The Numbers…

Please visit your local dealer for the latest prices and incentives.
For more details and options go to:

Pricing for the 2010 Toyota Prius:
Base / As Tested price: $27,800 Cdn
Destination & Delivery: $1,420

Powertrain:            1.8 Litre, 4-Cylinder, DOHC, 16-Valve, VVT-I & Permanent Magnetic Synchronous Electric Motor; Automatic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
Horsepower (Net):     73Kw (80 hp) @ 5,200 rpm - Electric Motor: 60Kw (80 hp) / Battery: 100 Kw (134 hp)
Torque (Net):         142 Nm (105 lb.ft.) @ 4,000 rpm - Electric Motor: 207 N.m (153 lb.ft.) / Battery: 27 Kw (36 hp)
0-100 km/h:         9.8 seconds (Toyota USA: 0-60 mph)
Top speed:         180 km/h

Curb Weight:        1,380 kg (3,042 lbs)
Cargo Capacity:         0.445 m3 (15.7 cu.ft.)  
Maximum Towing:        N/A

Fuel Consumption: [Unleaded - 87 Octane]
City: 3.7 L/100 kms  //  Highway: 4.0 L/100 kms //  Combined: 3.8 L/100 kms
I averaged 6.2 L/100km during mixed, but mostly highway driving.

Warranty and Roadside Assistance
Comprehensive/Major Component: 3 years/60,000 kms. Powertrain: 5 years/100,000 km

Copyright © 2010 by Iain Shankland –  

This original, copyrighted material may NOT be copied, used in whole or in part in any way, cut and pasted, published or otherwise reproduced in any form or in any medium - which means DO NOT post this on another website or BBS. If you want somebody else to see this, send them a link or post a link to this page.


28.02.2010 / MaP

More News

Ford Edge Sport AWD Road Test: 2010
Text & Images: Iain Shankland   I last drove the Edge back in April of 2007 and I quite liked it. I wasn’t really setting out to request another road test with it, but Ford suggested I give the Edge Sport a try. It had that one thing going for it … the designation &l more >>
Road Test: 2010 Ford F-150 4x4 SuperCrew Lariat
Text & Images: Iain Shankland  It’s been a year or two since I’ve taken a full-size pickup truck for a road test. With the Ford F-150 being all-new in 2009 and having major improvements over the 2008, I thought it would be a good time to test one. S more >>
2010 Mitsubishi Evolution X (MR)
Road Tes by Iain Shankland / Images: Mitsubishi / Iain Shankland Sweaty palms, shortness of breath and a racing heartbeat. I didn’t know it yet but I had fallen in love.  That was the first few seconds of my experience behind the wheel of the 20 more >>
Mitsubishi Lancer GTS Road Test
Road Test: 2010 by Iain Shankland / Images: Mitsubishi & Iain Shankland While the base Lancer without the lower body kit and rear wing is no dog, the GTS adds enough looks and pizzazz to make it a far more attractive car. But it’s not just different in the looks department - for 2009 the GTS got a bigger engine and therefore becomes a completely differen more >>
Ford Flex SEL AWD
Road Test 2010 Text & Images: Iain Shankland The first time I actually got to see the Flex in person was at the 2008 Canadian International Auto Show. Superstar designer Chip Foose was introducing his version of the Flex along with the Foose F-150 more >>
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara
Road Test: 2009 Text & Images: Iain ShanklandThe last time I drove a Jeep Wrangler was many years ago – back when they were called either a TJ or a YJ. They were bouncy and a little primitive to say the least. Other adjectives you could use to describe the more >>
2009 Mitsubishi iCar
Road Test by Iain Shankland / Images: Mitsubishi / Gail & Iain Shankland I first saw the iCar at the Toronto Auto Show in February 2009. At the time the president of Mitsubishi Canada was telling the auto journalist crowd that he was rooting f more >>
FORD Makes Parallel Parking A Breeze & Shows Us Some Very Useful Safety Features
Road Test Special: Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland & Ford While Ford was encouraging us to put the Fiesta through its paces, they took the opportunity to showcase a couple of their new safety items.  Last week we covered the ingenio more >>
FORD Shows Us Some Very Useful Safety Features – MyKey And Other Safety Innovations
Road Test Special by Iain Shankland / Images: Ford While Ford were encouraging us to put the Fiesta through its paces, they also took the opportunity to demonstrate a couple of their “exciting” new features that when I first heard abou more >>
2009 Dodge Nitro R/T
Road Test Text & Images: Iain Shankland This review is almost a part 2, and more of an up-date - as opposed to a full-blown Road Test. Last week I covered the mid-range Nitro SLT and I loved it. This review is based on the top level R/T which has a bigg more >>
2009 Dodge Nitro SLT
Road Test Text Iain Shankland / Images: Iain & Gail Shankland When I saw the Dodge Nitro at the Toronto International Auto Show a couple of years ago, and I thought it was a great-looking truck in a manly sort of way. I knew right away it would be the kind of more >>
We Drive The European Ford Fiesta A Year Before Arriving In North America
Road Test Special by Iain Shankland / Images: Iain & Gail Shankland and Ford Ford is the only one of the “Big Three” that didn’t declare bankruptcy and they didn’t go crawling to the U.S. and Cana more >>
2009 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab
Road Test:  Text / Images: Iain Shankland Toyota trucks have been known worldwide for years as being indestructible. If you’ve ever seen the BBC TV show Top Gear, then you’ll know how much abuse the Toyota can take and still live to drive home. They& more >>
Road Test Special Report: Is It Worth Buying A Hybrid To Save Money On Fuel?
We Take the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid On A Summer Holiday To Get The AnswerText & Images: Iain Shankland A couple of years ago I drove a Toyota Camry hybrid on an extended run of a whirl-wind trip from Niagara Falls to the Road America Racetrack  in more >>
Volvo C30 VER 2.0 / T5 Automatic
Road Test:Text & Images: Iain ShanklandHaving driven the C30 T5 a couple of years ago and loved it, I couldn’t pass up the unique opportunity to drive another while on a business trip/vacation in California. The manual transmission in the C30 T5 is one of the sweetest and slickest gearboxes available; however, since probably 90% of these car more >>
2009 Dodge Charger SRT8
Road Test Text & Images: Iain Shankland A couple of years  ago I had the opportunity to drive the Daytona Charger. It was bright Orange and turned out to be a head-turner for people of all ages – men and women, kids and dogs. When Chrys more >>
Road Test & Beyond: Dream Garage
Transform a Dingy Garage into Dual-Purpose Space - For a Car and a Portrait StudioRecently my wife and I faced the daunting task of finding a more appropriate space to call home for our portrait photography business.  Needing to keep overhead to a minim more >>
2009 MINI Cooper S Clubman
Road Test: 2009 MINI Cooper S ClubmanText & Images: Iain ShanklandHaving grown up in the UK, the Mini has always been an integral part of the roadscape to me. From the familiar and traditional 2-door version to a station wagon (Clubm more >>
2001-2021 copyright