The 2013 Toyota Prius is the latest edition of the most successful gasoline-electric hybrid on earth. It outsells all the other hybrids in its class ... combined. And that's pretty impressive.

The exterior profile of the Prius hasn't changed much since its redesign into a hatchback for the 2004 model year. The unusual wedge shape has mostly gone from "way out there" to "pretty familiar looking" as the Prius quickly gained popularity. So, the 5-passenger 2013 Prius remains basically the same as the 2012 version except that Toyota added a new Persona Series Special Edition at the top end of the model range.

Within the Wedge

Roominess. That's what the interior of the Prius is all about, both front and rear. Rear headroom is down from earlier hatchback years since the roofline is more sloped, but four adults can find all the room they need. With five adults, it can get cramped, but it's still tolerable. There's decent cargo space, too, maxing out at 67.3 cu ft.

The dashboard is right out of the future with digital readouts and hybrid performance diagrams displayed clearly. Even in the base model, there are plenty of features for fun and convenience, including a standard 6-speaker audio system with Bluetooth connectivity. But to get things such as voice-activated navigation and Toyota's excellent Entune interface, you'll have to opt for a higher-level trim package.

Our biggest complaint about the Prius model's interior is that the quality of the materials isn't outstanding. It's mediocre and lackluster. Moreover, the seats provide only so-so comfort and support. That said, there's plenty of room for improvement in these areas.

Hybrid Driving

With the Prius, there are only two areas worth discussing when it comes to performance: its lack of power and its remarkable fuel economy. The 1.8-liter inline 4-cylinder gasoline engine and electric motor combination musters up only 134 horsepower, so passing on a 2-lane road takes planning. The Prius can run solely on the electric motor but only if you're gentle on the accelerator; otherwise, the gasoline engine kicks in. Front-wheel drive and a continuously variable transmission complete the powertrain.

The regenerative brakes take getting used to, but they direct braking energy back into the battery pack to recharge it. And, except for some road noise on the highway, the Prius is whisper quiet.

As far as mileage goes, how does 51 miles per gallon city/48 mpg hwy sound? Enough said about that.

Sensibly Priced

The base trim model of the 2013 Toyota Prius stickers at a very sensible $24,200. Drive and compare the Honda Insight and Civic Hybrid, or the Toyota Prius c and Prius v, before making a buying decision.

Conclusion

With all the high-tech features, interior space and tremendous gas mileage, is it any wonder the Toyota Prius has so many devoted owners? The 2013 model is still under-powered, and the cabin isn't Toyota's best work, but it's hard not to appreciate how the Prius has made driving a hybrid mainstream.

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Jessica Shea Choksey is an automotive journalist and former writer/reporter for the PBS/Discovery Channel television series "MotorWeek." She began her career in journalism as an editor for numerous magazines and publications mainly outside of the automotive field. Jessica currently resides with her family, in Southern California.

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