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2010 Toyota Prius Preview (video)

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Prius: Latin, meaning: "to go before."
It was no accident that Toyota chose California as a launch location for the 2010 Prius; after all, it's 'ground zero' in the US environmental movement, which includes the most arduous emissions regulations within North America.

The new Prius is the third generation of Toyota's mid-size hybrid-powered vehicle that essentially spurred the hybrid craze back in 2000. Since then, 1.7 million Prius hybrids have been sold globally to folks wishing to make a positive environmental statement or simply seeking the best return on their gasoline dollar.

Same shape but slightly larger
The 2010 Prius will remain instantly recognizable despite being slightly longer, wider and taller. Its segment-leading coefficient of drag remains at 0.25, however the enlarged dimensions contribute to an increase in rear-seat head and legroom, which has now become ample for large adults.

While appearing high-tech and slightly aeronautic, the wind-cheating shape of the Prius tends to inflict some parking challenges due to restrictive rearward visibility. Large side mirrors should aid in alleviating this hurdle.

More power and better fuel economy: is it possible?
In short, the new Prius is 22 percent more powerful and 7 percent more fuel-efficient than its predecessor. These are remarkable achievements given the existing Prius benchmarks. Toyota has rated the 2010 Prius at an astounding 3.8 L/100 km of combined highway and city driving, and I can tell you this: a number of journalists surpassed that figure while exploring California's wine country.

So yes Delores, it's true. The new Prius will definitely retain its crown as the most fuel-efficient high-production car available in Canada. Fortunately, the expanded return on a litre of nectar isn't provided at the cost of performance.

More oomph and Tri-mode power delivery
Some 2,000 engineers worked on the new Prius at some point or another. The outcome nets the vehicle a combined gas/electric output of 134 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque. The root powerplant remains a Miller-cycle gas engine, however its displacement has been boosted to 1.8 litres. That may seem counter-intuitive to improving fuel economy, but it's not; the new engine produces more power at lower levels of rpm thereby consuming less fuel.