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Car review: 2013 Toyota Prius

Oklahoman Modified: October 19, 2012 at 10:22 pm •  Published: October 20, 2012

The Space Age styling of the "flying buttress" console is striking, but while it offers storage space underneath, that can be hard to get to. The dashboard offers information in two different areas: an Information Center mounted close to the windshield base and high up, along with more conventional instruments closer to the driver, mounted in a cluster behind the steering wheel. Plastic surfaces are mostly hard, but the effect is distinctive--if hardly luxurious.

The 2013 Toyota Prius has seven airbags as standard, along with the usual array of stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Radar-based adaptive cruise control, a lane-departure warning system, and a rear-view camera are all optional. While Ford's system is better, Toyota's much-advertised Intelligent Parking Assist, which controls the steering wheel to help parallel-park a Prius using the car's cameras--though the driver must brake--is a step in the right direction. A further option is a "Safety Connect" system that will alert first responders after a crash.

For 2013, the Prius five-door continues with its traditional four trim levels: Two, Three, Four, and Five. (An ultra-stripped-down base-level Prius One exists, but civilians can't buy it--it's only offered to commercial fleets.) Notable options include the Touch Tracer steering-wheel controls, which let drivers swipe and navigate through menus displayed in the Information Display, keeping their eyes closer to the road ahead than if they focus on the close-in cluster.

The lowest-level Two and Three models are priced in the low and mid twenties, but the highest-spec trim levels--with either the Technology Package or the first-in-your-neighborhood solar moonroof panel, which runs a small ventilation fan to cool the cockpit when the Prius is parked--will go beyond $30,000. Remote air conditioning, LED headlamps, Bluetooth, and a navigation system are available.

The sole trim change for 2013 is the addition of a special edition called the Prius Persona Series. This trim package is effectively a Prius Three model with 17-inch alloy wheels in a special finish, a Black Cherry Pearl exterior color (Blizzard Pearl and Black are also available), charcoal interior trim with black accents, red stitching on the seats, dark-chrome interior accents, and a special exterior badge.

The other two members of the 2013 Toyota Prius family, added last year, are the Prius V wagon and the Prius C subcompact hatchback, both reviewed separately.

The Prius V offers far more load space, all the traditional Prius virtues, and a combined EPA gas-mileage rating of 42 mpg--though it sometimes can feel underpowered. The Prius C subcompact is more lithe and sporty--in comparison to the mid-size Liftback, nayway. Its smaller engine and battery pack, and simpler interior, give it a base price under $20,000, while retaining a 50-mpg combined gas mileage rating.