Scott: The one car that’s had a significant role in popularizing the whole idea of driving a hybrid is the Toyota Prius. And that popularity has been well earned.
Kimbette: The 2012 Toyota Prius continues to push most of the right buttons for those in the market for a versatile and practical hybrid that offers more than just remarkable fuel economy.
Scott: The Toyota Prius has styling that’s taken some consumers a little time to get used to. But its hatchback layout is definitely handy, and its sharply angled, aerodynamic frontal area with the swept-back windshield helps increase that fuel economy.
Kimbette: There’s lots of glass area all around the Prius, and there’s a solar sunroof available, too, which uses solar energy to power a ventilation system when the Prius is parked.
Scott: The Prius has some capable competition in the hybrid marketplace, such as the Chevrolet Volt, the Honda Insight (like the Prius, a hatchback) and the Honda Civic Hybrid, which comes only as a sedan.
Kimbette: Toyota now offers two other sizes of the Prius: a smaller Prius c and a larger Prius v.
Scott: Once you’re seated in the Prius, the first thing you notice is the sweeping dashboard, which curves around the driver with instruments and gauges that would look right at home on the Starship Enterprise.
Kimbette: But they DO provide all the important information needed to monitor what the hybrid is up to. On the other hand, the quality of the interior materials is just mid-pack and the comfort of the front seats isn’t that impressive. The upholstery is, however, stitched in SofTex stain-resistant fabric in the Prius Four and Five.
Scott: With four trim levels available, the Prius offers all the high-tech you can get-like a touchscreen audio system with iPod, USB, and Bluetooth connectivity; a voice-activated navigation system; and an Entune smartphone-based mobile app interface.
Kimbette: Cargo space isn’t unlimited, but there’s a bit more headroom in the back seat of our 2012 Prius compared to past Prius models thanks to a slightly less-raked roofline.
Kimbette: The front-wheel-drive 2012 Toyota Prius is powered by a 1.8-liter inline 4 and a battery-powered electric motor, which kicks in when the gasoline engine isn’t needed, such as around town. With a total output of only 134 horsepower, the Prius struggles sometimes when you need quick acceleration.
Scott: It’s incredibly quiet inside the Prius and the driving experience is definitely unique. The ride is smooth, but the steering is a bit numb. The regenerative brakes stop well, but they do feel a bit weird at first as they convert kinetic energy back into battery power.
Kimbette: The Prius’s strong suit is fuel mileage – 51 miles per gallon/city and 48 miles per gallon/highway!
Scott: The Prius is also considered very safe. It comes with a full complement of standard passive restraints and stability control.
Kimbette: In government crash testing, the Prius received an overall top rating of five stars out of five and the Independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded it their Good rating, also tops in all categories.
Scott: Depending on the trim level you choose, a well-equipped 2012 Toyota Prius will probably sticker for under $30,000, and that’s not a bad deal.
Kimbette: Even if you don’t think you’re the hybrid type, we’d recommend giving the Prius a shot. It’s a good car that happens to be a hybrid, and that’s the secret of its success.