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Toyota Prius upgrades for 2006

Prices also up for hybrid sedan Automotive columnist: , Updated:

Even a car as trendy as the Toyota Prius needs an upgrade to keep buyer interest, and it also gives the Canadian arm of the Japanese firm a chance to raise the hybrid's prices a little and send more money to Tokyo.

2006 Toyota Prius (Photo: Toyota)
The new base price for a mid-sized Prius for 2006 is $31,280, which is up from $30,530 from 2005. A Prius equipped with the B package of options is priced at $35,360 (up from $34,595), while the C package has an MSRP of $38,710 (up from $37,945).

For the extra money, the 2006 Prius offers some "subtle" appearance changes and some "thoughtful".

On the outside, these style changes include a new chrome-plated grille and spoiler, revised headlamps and rear taillights, all of which can highlight three new colors -- classic silver metallic, Barcelona red metallic, and silver pine mica.

On the inside, the instrument panel has a new look and texture for "enhanced visibility and a high-tech appearance," along with new warning lights for the tire pressure system and the passenger seatbelt.

Improved occupant comfort should be the result of the redesigned seats, but especially in the back, where the seat width grows by 55 mm and the hip point is lowered six mm.

2006 Toyota Prius (Photo: Toyota)
Also new is an audio system that can play music in MP3 and WMA formats, to which can be added an optional audio input jack to connect personal audio devices to the car's speakers.

The optional navigation system gets an "enhanced" display screen and new functions including ETA (estimated time of arrival), route tracer, and voice search of street addresses. There's also a new backup camera for more money, which helps drivers see rear obstacles on the vehicle's multi-information display screen.

Toyota Canada says the 2006 Prius is "extremely well-equipped" with standard equipment, including steering wheel controls for the air conditioning and audio systems, cabin air filtration, cruise control, heated side mirrors, power windows and door locks, and remote keyless entry.

As always, the big question about the Prius (as it is with all hybrids) involves the kind of fuel economy levels the driver can expect. Official Canadian tests put the gas/electric hybrid vehicle at the top of its comparison chart for mid-size vehicles, but pretty much no one actually achieves the fuel economy levels the government lists.

2006 Toyota Prius (Photo: Toyota)
Real-world fuel economy levels will depend upon where you live in Canada, how hard you push the Prius (the slower the better), and what kind of driving you do (the more city driving the better).

Fuel economy levels should be lower than those for cars of a similar size and equipment level, though most of them will costs thousands less than a Prius. As always with hybrids, it's necessary to drive a lot farther every year to recover the premium you must pay through lower fuel costs.