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The FREE Complete Bay Area Auto Enthusiast Guide
WANT TO SAVE GAS? NOTHING BEATS THE PRIUS!

By NITISH S. RELE – motoringtampabay@gmail.com
Last year, Toyota revamped the hot-selling Prius. For the better, of course. The hybrid car is now slightly bigger than its predecessor and maintains the powertrain too but with slight tweaks that beat its previous fuel economy figures.
The retuned 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine and an electric motor develop a total of 121 horsepower and 105 pounds-feet of torque @ 3600 rpm. The independent MacPherson strut front suspension retains its status quo but the rear torsion beam has been replaced with a double wishbone system.
Out goes the nickel-metal hydride battery to be traded with a lighter and fuel-saving 201-volt lithium-ion battery. Also, the electronically controlled Continuous Variable Transmission-equipped sedan continues with the regenerative braking system. When the car is coasting or the brakes are applied, the electric motor functions as a generator, capturing kinetic energy that would normally be lost as heat through the brakes. Instead, it converts the energy into useable electricity for recharging the battery pack.
The Prius operates in four modes: normal; EV, which is electric at lower speeds of up to 25 mph; ECO, an efficient mode where the driver can control the throttle opening; and Power, for sportiness.
Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag and driver knee airbag are standard along with front-seat active headrests, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, Traction Control, Vehicle Stability Control, rearview camera, blind spot monitor, rear-cross traffic alert, forward collision and lane departure warning, and front and rear crumple zones are standard. So is the Safety Sense, which consists of useful cutting-edge driver aid features.
A Multi-information Display with energy monitor, fuel consumption history, hybrid system indicator and odometer with twin trip meters will come in handy for penny-pinching drivers. Also beneficial is the instrument display of digital speedometer, instant fuel consumption, fuel gauge and shift-lever indicator. Other standard goodies include a 7-inch touchscreen display, auto a/c, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, push-button start, eight-way power driver and four-way front-passenger seats, 60/40-split rear seat and power door locks.
Numerous Prius trim levels, including a plug-in, are available. So, take your pick. This is one reasonably priced hybrid you seriously want to consider for outstanding fuel economy (we earned over 55 mpg combined) and ample passenger/cargo (27.3 cubic feet) room.

PRIUS FOUR
Tires: P195/65 R15
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 178.7 inches
Width: 69.3 inches
Height: 58.1 inches
Steering: electric power
Fuel capacity: 11.3 gallons
Mileage: city 54, highway 50, combined 52 mpg
Base price: $29,135
Web site: www.toyota.com

CALLING ALL TOYOTA DEALERS IN THE WEST CENTRAL FLORIDA AREA: if you would like to be listed here as one of the test-drive dealerships, e-mail us at motoringtampabay@gmail.com