2006 Prius New Car Test Drive
The Toyota Prius is more than a car. It's a phenomenon. It's proof that more people than Toyota imagined want to drive cars with significantly improved fuel economy and radically less environmental impact. Toyota has boosted production to keep up with the demand, and the 2006 model benefits from the addition of new advanced airbags and other safety technology plus new comfort and convenience features.
This second-generation Prius, introduced as a 2004 model, is larger than the original, and is now a midsize car. It's roomy, with adult-size back seats and lots of cargo space. It's pleasant to look at, with sleek, futuristic styling, easy to spot in a parking lot.
The Prius is rated 60/51 mpg City/Highway by the federal government's Environmental Protection Agency, with a Combined rating of 55 mpg. You're more likely to see less, maybe 41 to 48 mpg. Don't blame the manufacturer for the difference. Hybrid powerplants do well in EPA testing and your driving style will determine your mileage.
The real justification to buy a Prius is its extremely low emissions. The Prius produces almost no pollution and is one of the most environmentally friendly vehicles you can drive. It's an excellent choice for buyers who want to reduce air pollution and America's dependence on oil. The Prius isn't cheap, but it's an amazing piece of engineering.
It's important to understand that the Prius is not an electric car. You never plug it in. And there's no worry about driving beyond the range of the battery. A small, highly efficient four-cylinder gasoline engine charges the battery as you drive. No special knowledge is needed to drive this car. It works just like a regular car: You get in, you twist the key, you put the lever in Drive and you go. When it gets low on gas, you fill it up.
The Prius is the best-selling gas-electric hybrid in the United States and in the world and it's only gaining in popularity. When it debuted as a compact in 2001, Toyota sold just 5,600 in the U.S. By 2003, U.S. sales had expanded to nearly 25,000. For 2004, Toyota redesigned the Prius, turning it into midsize car and completely re-engineering its mechanical and electrical systems. It's now much more attractive to many more people. Toyota sold nearly 54,000 Prius models in the U.S. in 2004 and nearly 108,000 in 2005. It was praised by the press and was named 2004 North American Car of the Year by a jury of 50 independent automotive journalists, including the editor of New Car Test Drive.
The 2006 Toyota Prius is not only an impressive technological statement, it's a car that's easy to like and live with.
For 2006, the headlights and taillights have been redesigned, the interior has been improved with nicer materials and more features. A host of safety improvements for 2006 make this feature-packed technological wonder that much more enticing. Among them: new advanced airbags, a tire-pressure monitor, and an optional rear back-up camera.
The 2006 Toyota Prius comes in one well-equipped trim level ($21,725).
Standard features include automatic air conditioning with a micron filter, fabric upholstery, power windows, door locks and heated outside mirrors; remote keyless entry; cruise control; a tilting steering wheel with redundant climate and audio controls; intermittent front and rear wipers; and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo.
Options are bundled into packages. Package 1 ($650) is the side-impact and curtain airbags. Package 2 ($825) includes the backup camera, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with six speakers, and the Smart Key system. Package 6 ($6,890) bundles all of the above with leather-trimmed seats, GPS navigation, voice recognition, Bluetooth capability, a nine-speaker JBL stereo with six-disc CD changer, electronic Vehicle Skid Control, fog lamps, and HID headlamps.
Safety is enhanced with antilock brakes (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist, and traction control. Standard passive safety features include new multi-stage, dual front airbags; three-point seatbelts and head restraints at all five seating positions; and rear seat head restraints that are adjustable. Curtain airbags designed to offer head protection for front and rear passengers and seat-mounted side-impact airbags for torso protection for driver and front-seat passenger are optional ($650). There is also a tire pressure monitoring system to warn the driver if presures get too low (which can affect fuel economy as well as safety), and an optional rear-view camera to help avoid hard to see objects behind you.
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