New Car Review: 2012 Toyota Prius

Front three-quarters view of white 2012 Toyota Prius next to green rolling hills
The 2012 Toyota Prius.
Fifty. Five-Zero.

If there's a number that's caused great consternation among Prius drivers since the car was launched, it's the number 50.

That's the miles per gallon that people seem to expect to get from the now-veteran (12 years and counting) Toyota hybrid. And it's the number people rarely have gotten.

I've driven several Priuses (Priii?) a year for each of those 12 years. My personal best has been 48...a number that I would average with some regularity for the first several years. Lately, it's dropped off to 45 or 46.

But in the 2012 Toyota Prius that just left my care this morning.....I averaged 50.4 miles per gallon.

And yeah, I'm kinda excited and think it's kinda cool.  The EPA combined city/highway estimate on the window sticker is 50... 51 city/48 highway. And in 340 miles of mostly tough stop-and-go city streets and freeways...I averaged 50.4.  I left the "ECO" switch off. I even used the "Power" mode a few times to merge onto a freeway that would slow to a crawl within a mile or so.

When essentially the same car as last year's can improve on mileage by 5 or 6 MPG in real-world driving, that is progress.

Wide interior view of 2012 Toyota Prius
The 2012 Toyota Prius interior.

Having recently reviewed the Toyota Prius V station wagon (don't tell them I used that word, but that's what it is) and the not-yet-released Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid and expecting the arrival of the smaller Prius C anytime now, it was good to get back in the car that started it all, or at least the latest version of same.

While you can get into a Prius Two for a base price of $24,000, the one Toyota sent us for a week was the Prius Four, one step below the nearly Lexus-loaded Prius Five. Rather than print the laundry list, click here for Toyota's handy chart as to what comes with a Two, Three, Four and Five.

Suffice it to say it was very nice. And its base price wasn't $24,000, but rather $28,235. Only a complete lack of options would keep this car under $30K...and that wasn't happening. Ours had a special color (Blizzard Pearl) that cost $220, and the Deluxe Solar Roof Package bringing a power tilt/slide moonroof with solar powered ventilation system, a heads-up display, navigation, premium audio system with AM, FM, HD, Sirius XM, CD, auxilary and USB ports, Bluetooth, Toyota's Entune system, giving access to Pandora, Bing, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com and OpenTable, stolen vehicle locator, roadside assistance and automatic collision notification for $3,820.

$760 for delivery, processing and handling and we're at........


Now, admittedly that's $3,600 and change less than the Prius V from last month, but we are still talking about a stone's throw from $35K (and you're actually throwing the stone well past $35K if you include tax and license).

Which begs the question: What price are you willing to pay to get 50 miles per gallon?