Midsize car; Built in Japan
  • 4-door hatchback
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $4,600 – $18,200*

2010 Toyota Prius front

2010 Toyota Prius rear

2010 Toyota Prius interior

2010 Toyota Prius profile

  • Fuel economy
  • Passenger room
  • Acceleration from a stop
  • Engine noise

What’s most surprising about the Prius is what a fine midsize car it would be even if it didn’t achieve such terrific fuel economy. When new, Prius won Consumer Guide Best Buy awards each year from 2010 through 2014. Its only real drawbacks are minor powertrain idiosyncrasies, slightly compromised rear visibility, and down-market interior materials. None of these negatives should keep you from putting this impressive Toyota on your shopping list.


The midsize Toyota Prius was redesigned for 2010, getting freshened styling, more power, higher EPA fuel-economy figures, and a host of newly standard and optional features. First introduced a decade earlier in its initial form, this gas/electric hybrid was a five-passenger, four-door hatchback that teamed a four-cylinder engine with a battery-powered electric motor and a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which behaved much like an automatic. Toyota’s hybrid system allowed Prius to run on one or both of its power sources to balance acceleration and fuel economy. No plug-in charging is ever required. Five models were available, called I, II, III, IV, and V. Note that the Prius I was available for fleet customers only. Standard safety features included antilock braking, traction control, an antiskid system, curtain-side airbags, front-side airbags, and a driver’s knee airbag. The V model had LED headlights, foglights, and 17-inch alloy wheels (versus the 15s on other models). Newly available features included an adjustable-height driver seat, heated front seats, a telescopic steering column, and Toyota’s Safety Connect assistance system. Also newly offered were some high-end features usually found only on vehicles sold by Toyota’s Lexus division, including adaptive cruise control, Lane Keep Assist with lane-departure warning, and Intelligent Parking Assist that provided hands-free parallel parking. Other new options included a solar roof panel that could power a ventilating fan when the car was parked, and electric air conditioning that could be turned on for up to three minutes to cool down the interior before getting in. Prius competed against the new Honda Insight, Ford Fusion Hybrid, and Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid as well as diesel-engine Volkswagens.

Yearly Updates

2011 Prius
For its second season in redesigned form, the Prius was unchanged.
2012 Prius
For 2012, the Toyota Prius added a Plug-In version of the otherwise unchanged hatchback that has an electric-only range of about 11 miles; after that, it runs primarily on the gas engine like any other hybrid.
2013 Prius
Prius continued into 2013 with the addition of a new “Persona Special Edition” trim. Other models were unchanged.
2014 Prius
There were no significant changes for the 2014 Prius.
2015 Prius
The 2015 Prius saw only one update of note: a Special Edition appearance package with dark-finish 17-inch wheels and other unique trim features.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

In the Prius, a 1.8-liter gasoline engine worked with an electric motor and battery pack to produce 134 total horsepower. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) was standard. The same powertrain was used on the Plug-In. The Plug-In added a larger battery that allowed about 11 miles of electric-only range, after which it ran just like any other hybrid.

dohc I4/electric1
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/110
Engine HP 134
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 105
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
CVT automatic 51/48 47.6

Road Test

Initial full-throttle acceleration from a stop is mediocre at best, but the pace picks up quickly and increases steadily thereafter. Toyota claimed that the 0-60 time dropped from 10.5 seconds to 9.8 after the 2010 redesign, and the difference can be felt. What’s most impressive, however, is mid-speed throttle response. While it’s not particularly strong, it is nearly instantaneous, as the electric motor and CVT negate the need for a conventional downshift. Pressing the PWR (Power) button on the console quickens throttle action for an even sportier feel. Pressing the EV (Electric Vehicle) button allows the car to run in electric-only mode up to 25 mph for about a mile with a fully charged battery. Transitions when the gas engine kicks on and off during driving produce less shudder than before, but it can still be felt.

Fuel economy is essentially unbeatable. In Consumer Guide testing, we have averaged 43.3 mpg in winter driving and 49.6 to 51.9 mpg during other seasons. The Plug-In model can go about 11 miles on just electric power before the gas engine has to kick in, but it will also kick in under anything other than mild acceleration. In a winter test, a Plug-In returned 47.0 mpg. Prius uses regular-grade gas.

Models with 15-inch tires absorb most bumps with ease, but they suffer from wallow over rough patches and pavement swells. The V model with its 17-inch tires rides more firmly, with occasional harshness.

On lower-line models, a soft suspension and skinny, economy-based tires allow marked cornering lean and noseplow, even in moderate-speed turns. The V model’s 17-inch tires provide sharper moves and better cornering grip.

Road and wind noise are modest for the class, and the V model’s 17-inch tires produce a bit more noise at highway speeds. The gas engine sounds gruff as it revs, especially at full throttle.

The control layout remains unconventional, but it’s an improvement over the previous-generation Prius, particularly when equipped with a navigation system. As before, the driver faces nothing but blank dashboard, with the digital speedometer residing in a central panel mounted high against the windshield, just out of line-of-sight. Without navigation, audio and climate controls are conventionally positioned on the dash, and a few are just out of easy reach. The navigation system still absorbs most audio controls, but they become “virtual pushbuttons” on the screen, no longer incorporating climate controls. Several of the “gee whiz” hybrid-oriented electronic readouts are now more subtle and display next to the speedometer, up near the windshield, making them less distracting. The shift lever remains an electronic flipper, but it’s now mounted on a raised center console instead of the dash. Hard plastic dominates the interior. Two-tone panels and other trim pieces give it a look that some testers have complained makes the car look built to a price. One test model suffered from a few minor interior creaks.

Most adults will enjoy plenty of headroom and legroom up front, though some lanky ones may find their right knee hitting the raised center console. Shorter drivers in particular may appreciate the height-adjustable seat and telescopic steering wheel. Entry and exit are very easy. Standard cloth seats are softer than most, and some occupants may feel they lack support, but the leather seats on IV and V models are firmer. Visibility is hindered to the rear corners by thick pillars, and the rear window is still split by a horizontal bar that blocks the view straight aft. Some drivers might be highly annoyed by the backup alarm that chimes inside the car when in reverse, but Toyota says a dealer can turn it off.

Back-seat legroom and foot space are ample. Very tall passengers may yearn for more headroom, though most should find it in plentiful supply. The seat isn’t wide enough for three adults, but if a center passenger will fit, they’ll find plenty of foot space thanks to a flat floor. Entry and exit are easy through large doors.

Prius offers hatchback versatility with 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, but the sloped tail and high floor preclude toting tall items with the hatch closed. A large underfloor bin at the rear of the cargo area can hold the roll-up cargo cover when it’s removed–a handy touch. Cabin storage is plentiful, and includes a large bin under the raised center console, upper and lower gloveboxes, and a two-tiered console box. Doors have no map pockets, but there are bottle holders, along with two console cupholders.


Model Tested: 2011 Toyota Prius II

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 4
Fuel Economy - 10
Ride Quality - 6
Steering/Handling - 5
Quietness - 5


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 7
Room/Comfort Rear - 7
Cargo Room - 6


Value - 10

Total: 65


4-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.3 175.6 68.7 58.7 3042
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
39.6 11.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.3 37.6 42.5 36.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2010 Prius 4-door hatchback


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Rear Passenger Injury - 4

Trouble Spots

Description: The parking brake pedal pad may come loose if not glued in place. (2010-11)
Engine misfire
Description: Carbon build-up on valve assembly may cause rough idle or tapping sound. (2011-12)
Engine misfire
Description: Engine may run rough during light acceleration. Intake manifold assembly should be replaced. (2010-15)
Audio system
Description: Person receiving a call may hear static when the hands free Bluetooth option is used in the vehicle unless the radio has been replaced with an improved unit. (2010)
Audio system
Description: The XM (Sirius) reception may quit or become sporadic until the key is switched off and back on unless the radio was replaced with an improved unit. (2010)
Description: Certain 2012 through 2014 model Toyota Prius models may have been fitted with non-Toyota seat heater assemblies by Gulf States Toyota (GST). These heaters may stop working because of failed electrical connectors. (2012-14)
Transaxle leak
Description: Coolant may leak from the transaxle drain plug requiring tightening the drain plug. (2010)
Description: Halogen headlight bulbs can fail early. A modified wiring harness is available to remedy the problem. (2010-11)
Description: Certain 2012 through 2014 Prius vehicles may experience illuminated warning lights pertaining to diminished cooling of the hybrid system’s battery because of restricted air flow or an excessive build up of dust or other debris in the cooling fan. (2012-14)

Recall History

2010 Prius
Description: Customers have experienced inconsistent brake feel after ABS actuation during slow and steady application of the brakes on rough or slick road surfaces. Stopping distances may be increased compared with a customer’s expectation for a given pedal force, increasing the risk of a crash. Dealers will rewrite the programming of the ABS control unit free of charge.
2010 Prius
Description: Contaminated brake fluid could cause increased stopping distances.
2010-11 Prius
Description: Certain vehicles may lack the requisite load-carrying-capacity modification labels.
2010-12 Prius
Description: The airbag inflator may rupture and portions of the inflator may eject into the passenger cabin.
2010-12 Prius w/aftermarket seat heaters
Description: The wiring of aftermarket seat heaters may short circuit and start a fire.
2010-12 Prius w/aftermarket accessories
Description: Aftermarket leather seat covers/seat heaters/headrest DVD systems may interfere with passenger-seat occupant sensing system and airbags may not deploy properly.
2010-14 Prius
Description: In certain 2010 through 2014 model Toyota Prius vehicles, transistors inside the hybrid system’s inverter module may become damaged. This can result in the car entering a limp-home mode that limits the drivability of the vehicle or cause the vehicle to stall.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


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