The Toyota Prius has the reputation of being the best when it comes to fuel economy, and with the recent introduction of the redesigned 2010 model, Toyota promised even better mpg performance than the previous two Prius generations.
But reps are one thing and the real world is another. Does the 2010 Prius deliver significantly better mpg than its predecessor? Does any Prius really perform when the driver makes only a reasonable attempt at getting good mpg? Or does one have to hypermile the thing and endure tailgating, rude gestures, and blaring horns on the way to saving gas? I decided to find out at Kolar Toyota-Scion in Duluth, MN.
Weather conditions were perfect for testing a car's fuel economy. It was sunny, 72 degrees, and only a light wind was blowing.
The driving course was selected to simulate what a typical commuter might experience on a daily basis - a little stop-and-go city driving, some transition areas where speeds increase and lights become less common, and then some actual highway driving where speeds reach 65 mph. There were 12 miles of what I would consider to be city driving and 17 miles of highway driving for a total of 29 miles driven during the test.
After making sure both cars had the same amount of fuel in them I began the test. I drove both cars in their default modes - not in "ECO, EV, or PWR" modes because I wanted the car to be set as most drivers would probably want it on a commute in traffic while still keeping fuel economy in mind.
While driving I made what I consider to be a reasonable attempt at getting good mpg. I accelerated as slowly as possible without impeding traffic or being ridiculous about it. I coasted down hills and up to red lights. I watched the car's fuel economy data screens carefully and adjusted my driving when possible according to what I saw. In short, I tried to get good mpg, but not to the point of making myself or other drivers uncomfortable.
Now for the results:
I first drove the 2007 with 59,900 miles showing on the digital dash. It returned an impressive 55.5 mpg average as indicated on the car's on board systems. The average actually went up during the highway portion of the test - which is surprising considering that these cars are supposed to perform better in city driving.
The 2010 had only 16 miles on it at the beginning of the test. It clocked in at 61.1 mpg - not quite the performance I expected as some people report getting 70 mpg out of the car - but it's still very good considering that the EPA combined fuel economy rating listed on the window sticker is 50 mpg. Maybe that 70 mpg could be achieved after a few thousand break-in miles by a driver who works harder at it than I did.
The 2010 really proved its city driving mpg capabilities. At the 7 mile mark it was doing 15 mpg better than the 2007 at the same point on the course. These mpg's were also calculated by the vehicle's on board systems.
Is the 2010 significantly better than the previous generation car? I would say so. It returned about 9% better overall fuel economy during the test while being larger, more powerful, and better looking than the gen 2 car.
Do these cars deserve their reputation as the best fuel economy car available today. Definitely - they return impressive mpg without a lot of effort by the driver and are also roomy, quiet, and fun to drive.