At first glance, it appears that the 2012 Toyota Prius hasn’t changed much and there isn’t really much new to report with the Japanese hybrid. But after inspecting the four-door sedan further, there are a number of changes that have been made to the third-generation car. We first need to look at the current market and where the first hybrid vehicle is today.
The Toyota Prius made its launch 15 years ago and continues to be the best-selling hybrid in the world. It continues to lead the pack with its 50 mpg combined fuel economy rating as the most fuel-efficient gas-powered passenger car available in the U.S. today.
It’s a bit of a surprise, but the EPA considers the Prius to be a midsize car, and the five-passenger sedan is so practical, it is used as a taxi in many cities around the globe. And since 2000, Toyota has sold over one million Prius models in the U.S. It’s hard to argue with the kind of success that Toyota has had with the Prius.
New upgrades for 2012
For 2012, the five-passenger hybrid gets a number of upgrades. Outside, the new Prius gets a minor refresh with updated headlamps and tail lamps, plus a new front fascia and bumper. While this week we are testing the Prius Five, the other models actually get more updates for 2012.
The Prius Two adds new 15-inch wheel covers and standard LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL). The Prius Three now features a standard three-door Smart Key entry system, and the Prius Four gets standard auto on/off headlamps. The Prius Four also adds new SofTex-trimmed seats and an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat.
New Technology inside
The biggest news for the 2012 Prius is the audio/infotainment system that has been added to the Prius Two, Three and Four models. The Prius Two, features a new 6.1-inch touch-screen system with an AM/FM CD player unit that offers MP3/WMA playback capability with six speakers, a USB port for iPodconnectivity, auxiliary input jack, Bluetooth and audio streaming. Toyota says the display also provides vehicle information and allows the driver to customize vehicle settings.
The top-of-the-line Prius Five ($29,805) that we are testing this week came with the optional Advanced Technology Package ($4,320). It includes the Premium HDD Navigation System, Head-up Display, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Pre-Collision System and Lane Keep Assist. The Pre-Collision System retracts the front seatbelts and applies the brakes when the sensors determine that a crash is unavoidable. Although a bit annoying, the Lane Keep Assist can help the driver stay within the lane.
A Prius Sport Package
One notable option on the 2012 Prius includes a PLUS Performance accessory package that gives the otherwise boring Prius a sporty demeanor with better handling. The package comes from Toyota Racing Development (TRD) and starts with a seven-piece aerodynamic kit that gives the Prius an aggressive and lower-profile stance. The body kit also reduces the hybrid’s coefficient of drag, but no figures have been released as to any increase in fuel mileage.
The sport package also includes lightweight seventeen-inch forged alloy wheels that are wrapped with low profile 215/45R17 tires with a custom offset which increases track width for better stability at high speeds. The ride height is lowered by using track-tuned lowering springs which lower the vehicle 1.1 inches in the front and 1.3 inches in the rear. The overall effect of the sport package enhances steering response and improves the cornering ability. A tuned rear sway bar is added to reduce body lean for flatter cornering.
While the 2012 Toyota Prius would never be considered a sports sedan, the PLUS Performance package would certainly help give the hybrid a sporty feel. What hasn’t changed, is the Prius is still powered by the fuel-efficient 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine coupled to an electric motor for a combined output of 134 horsepower. The 2012 Toyota Prius gets an EPA estimated 51/48 city/highway fuel mileage rating.
Along with its fuel efficiency, four-door hatch practicality, and now additional technology and upgrades, consumers have more reasons to buy the popular hybrid.
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