Comparison Test: 2011 Chevrolet Volt vs. 2010 Toyota Prius PHV

2011 Chevrolet Volt Hatchback

(Hybrid 1-speed Direct Drive)
  • 2011 Chevrolet Volt vs. 2010 Toyota Prius PHV Prototype Comparison Test Video

    Inside Line puts the 2011 Chevrolet Volt in a head to head comparison test with the 2010 Toyota Prius PHV Prototype. | December 03, 2010

1 Video , 72 Photos

  • Comparison Test
  • Top 8 Features
  • Data and Charts
  • Final Rankings and Scoring Explanation
  • 2011 Chevrolet Volt Specs and Performance
  • 2010 Toyota Prius Specs and Performance

Electric car fans love the fact that gas stations are everywhere. It gives them plenty of chances to thumb their noses as they glide past in silence. They may enjoy their smug little ritual, but they're in the minority. The fact is, electric cars aren't very realistic for most people. They may get you to work and help you run a few errands, but their limited range means keeping a second gas-powered car around just in case.

The answer to this problem? Plug-in hybrids like the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2010 Toyota Prius PHV (plug-in hybrid vehicle). They combine two systems into one. They'll run on electricity when they can get it and keep on truckin' on gasoline, sans leash, when the batteries are spent.

But we must warn you; it takes more than the usual number-crunching to sort out what's what. When it comes to comparing plug-in hybrids like the Volt and the plug-in Prius, you can't merely focus on the gasoline side and assume the electricity is free.

The Real Cost of Plug-In Hybrids
We can measure what it takes to fill a battery just like we can write down the numbers at the gas pump. With that in mind, we tested each car's all-important electric range and the cost to refill their batteries. We used both the garden-variety 120-volt "level 1" wall outlets and fancy-pants 240-volt "level 2" chargers.

And when the juice ran out we kept on driving. Not just anywhere, though. We measured their gasoline fuel-efficiency by running a carefully calculated driving loop that was representative of typical driving.

We did this because observed electricity and gasoline consumption is a crucial missing piece of the puzzle and because, frankly, we're geeks like that. But if you're someone who's not so interested in all those hard-to-understand numbers, you might not be Chevy Volt or Toyota Prius PHV material.

A Close Call
Here's a simple number for the less mathematically inclined: 0.6. In the end, the 2011 Chevy Volt and 2010 Toyota Prius PHV ended up less than one point apart — a virtual dead heat. But they arrived here along very different paths and they're not near as much alike as their close finish suggests.

At first glance, the basic ingredients of a Volt and a plug-in Prius seem identical. Each has a four-cylinder gasoline engine. Each has two electric motors (motor-generators, to be precise) — a larger one that handles most electric propulsion and regenerative braking chores, and a somewhat smaller one that helps out around the house by starting the gas engine, adding additional electronic boost, regulating speed or generating electric power with the engine.

Planetary gearsets in their transmissions blend these three elements into coordinated forward motion, a task that is overseen by complex computer software that makes continuous adjustments to the power flow mix in the name of maximum efficiency.

So far, this template describes most modern, fully realized hybrids. What set the Volt and Prius PHV apart are their batteries, which are greatly enlarged lithium-ion units sized well beyond the needs of mere regenerative braking.

The Prius PHV uses a battery rated at 5.2 kilowatt-hours (kWh), enough for 13-14 miles of electric range after a full charge. The Volt's battery, larger still at 16 kWh, was recently rated by the EPA at 35 miles of e-range.

Details Define Differences
Their mechanical similarities blur when we zoom in for a closer look. The 2010 Prius PHV's larger 80-horsepower (60 kilowatts) electric motor is tasked with powering the front wheels. But as its efficiency wanes at 65 mph or so, the 98-hp 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine fires up to help out. No clutches, gear-shifting or hydraulics are involved — it's all done seamlessly with constantly enmeshed planetary gears.

Such gasoline-fueled assistance can happen even with a full battery in electric vehicle (EV) mode, and the road speed at which the engine engages is lower when we stab the throttle or climb a hill. Drivers expecting a pure EV experience may be confused when the engine cycles on in such situations, though it turns out this expectation is largely symbolic and unimportant, as we'll see later.

Like the Prius, the Volt's main 149-hp (111-kw) drive motor powers the front wheels, though the route to get there differs. Similarly, its efficiency trails off at around 65-70 mph, lower still when driver demand is high. But here it's the secondary electric motor that clutches in to assist the main motor, while the 84-hp 1.4-liter gas engine remains dormant and de-clutched from the system. That's right; the Voltec system employs clutches, three in all.

This is the status quo until the battery runs down, at which point the Volt's gas engine begins driving the secondary motor to generate electricity for the main electric motor, which continues to drive the car. At higher speeds or high demand, the internal combustion engine itself is ultimately clutched in to mechanically assist with propulsion while, with its other hand, it continues to generate power for the primary electric motor.

Battery of Tests
The EPA recently released official ratings for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt. Its gasoline fuel economy is listed at 37 mpg, electricity consumption is 36 kwh per 100 miles and 35 miles is the official electric range. But this is of little use here because no comparable EPA figures exist for the Prius PHV plug-in.

That's OK. We ran our own test loops instead. The numbers may not match perfectly, but each car was driven the same way on the same courses, so the data is at least comparable one to the other, which is why we're here.

We measured gasoline mpg by driving test loops with a discharged battery — pretty standard stuff. But we also measured electricity consumption by driving a known distance and then using a special meter to determine how many kilowatt-hours of juice passed through the charge cord during the subsequent battery recharge.

After crunching the data, here are the Edmunds Observed figures we came up with:

EV-mode electricity consumption (*kWh/100 miles) *unlike mpg, smaller is better:

Volt                 39.0
Prius PHV        23.2

HV-mode (hybrid vehicle) gasoline fuel economy (mpg):

Volt                 31.1
Prius PHV        47.2

EV-mode electric range (miles):

Volt                 33.9
Prius PHV        14.6

Driven the same way, our Prius PHV used 34 percent less gasoline in gasoline-hybrid mode and 41 percent less electricity in EV mode than the Volt.

Utility Factor and the Bottom Line
Several editors live more than 50 miles from the office, so they view the plug-in hybrids through the lens of their lengthy 100-plus-mile round-trip commutes. Conversely, GM likes to focus on the Volt's prowess as an electric vehicle, which it can be, sometimes, but certainly not all the time.

So if these aren't EVs 100 percent of the time, then what fraction of an EV are these plug-ins hybrids? Fortunately, the Society of Automotive Engineers has developed something called the Utility Factor (UF) to pin this down. Don't think of UF as a measurement of usefulness; the word "Utility" here refers to "electric utilities" and the percentage of total driven miles that are expected to come from juice from the power grid.

Simply put, the UF concept states the obvious: The more electric range a plug-in hybrid has, the more miles it will cover as an EV during its lifetime. The UF concept is math and statistics-based, but it boils down to a pretty graph and some equations.

For the Volt, the graph tells us that 33.9 miles of observed range makes it an electric car 57 percent of the time, while the Prius PHV's 14.6-mile range translates to a 31 percent UF. These are the weightings we'll use when blending electricity and gasoline costs to get to a bottom line.

For the first year, the Chevy Volt will be sold on a limited basis. So instead of using the national average prices for electricity and gasoline, we averaged the prices charged (as of this writing) in the places that will sell the 2011 Volt: California; Connecticut; Michigan; New Jersey; New York; Texas; and Washington, D.C.

Electricity: 15.8 cents per kilowatt hour
Gasoline: $2.96 for regular and $3.25 for premium (required in the Volt)

Assuming a 15,000-mile driving year — 1,250 miles per month — we distilled our measured consumption rates and their UFs down to a single monthly fuel cost:

2011 Chevrolet Volt            $99.87
2010 Toyota Prius PHV        $68.24

Here's another way to look at this: If you had the same amount of money to spend on a normal car's regular unleaded gasoline every month, what EPA combined mpg rating would that car have to achieve to cover the same 1,250 miles? This is what we like to call mpg-c, the cost-based mpg equivalent.

2011 Chevrolet Volt            37 mpg-c
2010 Toyota Prius PHV        54 mpg-c

You may notice that our 37 mpg-c number for the Volt differs quite a bit from the 60 mpg-e "combined composite" number that's found on the EPA label. That's largely because the EPA does not use cost as a basis for converting electricity consumption into mpg. Instead, it uses energy content to equate the two.

This is great for scientists, but gasoline and electricity are independent commodities that are not priced on an energy content basis, meaning the EPA's mpg-e unit is pretty much meaningless. Our mpg-c unit is far more useful if you're accustomed to using window sticker mpg as a cost yardstick.

How Do They Perform Anyway?
This was still a traditional comparison test, so we still track tested the two hybrids. The 2011 Chevy Volt has its way with the Prius PHV despite an extra 380 pounds of curb weight.

To conduct the test, each vehicle sat overnight while plugged in so testing could commence with maximum battery power. In the 2010 Prius PHV, this made no difference, because, as described earlier, the engine comes to life as soon as something like a wide-open launch is requested. The resulting "dash" to 60 mph took 10.1 seconds (9.8 with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip), with the quarter-mile finishing in 17.4 seconds at 79.1 mph, on par with the last regular 2010 Prius we tested.

We first ran the Volt on pure electrons, but it ended up going faster after our lackey drove it around until the batteries ran down and the engine lit up. This bought us 0.2 second and a full 4 mph of trap speed, as the dino-fed Volt reached 60 mph in 9.0 seconds (8.6 with rollout) and reached the quarter-mile in 16.6 seconds at 85.5 mph.

On the skid pad the Volt eked out a slight victory worthy of no more than a golf clap, pulling 0.77g to the Prius' 0.75g effort. But the Prius lagged even further behind through the slalom, managing just 57.6 mph in a weak effort that made the Volt's ho-hum 60.2-mph pass look scintillating.

The Volt's 124-foot stop from 60 mph looked vulnerable to attack because the last Prius we tested did the trick in just 118 feet. But this Prius PHV weighs 300 pounds more than that car and rides on the same skinny P195/65R15 rubber, so stopping required 130 feet this time.

Taking Them to the Street
You can almost see how differently these two behave by studying them from 20 paces, even though they both ride on similar underpinnings: MacPherson struts in front and a twist-beam axle in back.

Sitting 2.4 inches lower, 2.1 inches wider and riding on wider P215/55R17 tires, the Chevy Volt feels planted in real-world corners and steady on straight highway sections. The electric power steering isn't particularly communicative, but it is livelier than the Prius.

The overriding impression of a well-sorted family/commuter car is further bolstered by a smooth ride that's admirably quiet, at least until the battery runs down and the engine fires up. Even then, the Volt's cabin has better overall isolation.

But in city traffic and on hilly terrain the engine sometimes stands out when it revs higher than expected — 2,000 rpm or thereabouts, oftentimes when coasting — as it seeks to bank electrons in anticipation of the next acceleration. There's also a low-level thrum at highway speeds that makes us wonder if we're feeling that secondary motor at work.

Our Prius, on the other hand, feels less substantial, more nervous and up on its tiptoes, especially on higher-speed roadways. It looks taller and skinnier, and that's pretty much how it drives. Light doesn't begin to describe the steering.

It isn't terribly quiet either, as the Prius Hybrid Synergy Drive system emits a Rube Goldberg sampler platter of whirs, moans and clicks as it goes about its business. Hybrid fans may excuse these as endearing quirks that prove it's doing something, but we bet they'd prefer silence.

Cabin Fever
The Volt's color-screen instrument panel is attractive and useful, but we can say only half as much of the gleaming white center stack. Its touch-sensitive surface is a technical success, but the mass of same-size and evenly spaced buttons are hard to distinguish from one another. After all, some of us have been typing for a couple of decades yet we still have to hunt for the desired key.

Our longstanding dislike of the Prius' center-mounted gauge cluster need not be repeated here, and we still think the shifter's Park position should not be a stand-alone button. But at least the spacey-looking center stack is easy to use, with clearly labeled buttons grouped by function.

Both cars have ample head- and legroom up front, but our drivers give the clear nod to the Volt, based on driving position, shoulder room and a more-generous telescopic steering column.

But the Prius' high roof line and slightly longer wheelbase gives it a spacious backseat and generous cargo area (20.4 cubic feet to the Volt's 10.6), which explains why they're popular as taxis. Our taller testers griped about a lack of knee- and headroom in the Volt's backseat, so we doubt many will wind up in the hands of cabbies.

Furthermore, the Volt only seats four because its T-shaped battery passes between the two rear seats. The necessary rear buckets are comfy and the open slot back to the hatch is a cool look, but it's not exactly practical, as there's no continuous wall to keep luggage and road noise from spilling through the gap.

How Much Do They Cost Anyway?
Our 2011 Chevrolet Volt starts at $41,000, including destination charges. Navigation is standard here, but the leather seats, rear back-up camera and the polished finish on its forged aluminum wheels bring the total up to $43,685.

But the size of the Volt's battery, 16 kWh, qualifies it for the maximum federal tax credit of $7,500, which brings the effective price down to $36,185. Better, but still a good chunk of change.

We had to estimate the price of our 2010 Toyota Prius plug-in because, technically, it's a demonstration vehicle that's not really for sale. Based on Toyota ballpark estimates for the PHV system, we used current Prius prices and made an upward adjustment of $4,000. That brings the base price up to $28,560, but in Priusland the navigation system is optional so our estimated as-tested price climbs to $30,590.

A Prius PHV would also be eligible for federal support, but its smaller 5.2 kWh battery limits the credit to $2,917. Still, its theoretical price drops to $27,673, some $8,500 less than the Volt.

But Chevrolet only plans to sell 10,000 Volts this first year, and there are probably more than enough well-heeled early adopters itching to snatch them up, even at this price. Besides, you can't actually save that $8,500 by buying a 2010 Prius PHV because they're not actually for sale.

We Already Smell a Rematch
The fact that the plug-in Prius doesn't really exist yet is the tiebreaker that cements the win for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt. It's a plug-in hybrid, and conceptually that's a good thing. If your commute is short and your foot is light, you may be able to beat the UF prediction and spend much more time in EV mode. And, more than anything, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt is in production and available for sale right now.

And we expect further enhancements to the Volt as early as the 2012 model. That iron-block 1.4-liter engine and its thirst for premium fuel would be a good place to start. A change here would do much to improve the bottom line.

Toyota tells us the Prius PHV will come to market, but not until late 2012, some two years hence. When it does arrive, we expect it to be a 2013 model. Toyota also suggests the car it will sell will contain lessons learned from this pilot program, so expect it to be stronger in one or more respects.

A PHV's inherent lack of a "leash" and immunity to range anxiety is why, for many of us, plug-in hybrids rule and electric cars drool. And as it stands now, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt is the only game in town.

The manufacturers provided Edmunds these vehicles for the purposes of evaluation.

Second Opinion

Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh says:
Running cost is certainly an important metric when it comes to plug-in hybrids like the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2010 Toyota Prius PHV. But it's not the only consideration.

Various types of people will buy these cars. Initially it will be early adopters and enthusiasts (yes, even eco-weenies are a form of auto enthusiast) to which running cost is justification rather than a need. Longer term, these cars will have to play well with normal everyday consumers. These are the people to which these cars must pencil out, or these cars don't really make sense.

Yet among all the motivations a person has in buying a plug-in hybrid, there's one area of common ground — what's it like to drive. And that's where the Volt has a decided edge over the Prius. The Prius is quiet, yes, and has a spacious backseat and possibly the most soul-sucking driving experience of any modern car. No steering feel. Synthetic brakes. Turgid acceleration. Absolutely lifeless to drive.

It'd be easy to dismiss the above missive as talking points from the knuckle-dragging performance enthusiast's bible until you consider that cars that don't communicate with their driver do not inspire confidence. A confident driver is a safer driver, which is something that is relevant to all drivers and all roads. Capable cars are their own reward.

In no way is the Volt a sports car or even a sporty car, but at least it provides a modicum of heft to its steering, some alacrity in turning and a ride that provides a reassuring sense of substance. Those are the things that everyone can get behind whether they realize it consciously or not.

The Toyota Prius PHV and the Chevrolet Volt are similar in many ways. Both are, of course, plug-in hybrids, but it goes beyond that. Each is powered by a similar combination of electric motors and a gasoline four-cylinder engine. Both are four-door hatchbacks and both models wear unique interior and exterior styling within their respective model lineups. A certain amount of the equipment they offer is the same, and shared features such as these are not included on the following list.

But even though there are basic similarities, there are differences, too. We selected eight distinguishing features in our analysis, some that are relevant to the mission of the vehicles and others that may (or may not) explain the difference in vehicle price.

Here then, presented in no particular order, are the eight features we selected.

  2011 Chevrolet Volt 2010 Toyota Prius PHV
Bluetooth hands-free S O
Five-passenger seating N/A S
Front seat heaters O O*
iPod integration S O
Leather seats O O*
Navigation system S O
Programmable battery charging S N/A
Regular unleaded fuel N/A S

S: Standard
O: Optional (and present)
O*: Optional (but absent)
N/A: Not Available

Bluetooth hands-free: This is another essential for the tech aficionado and, increasingly, another essential to help people comply with state and local cell-phone laws.

Five-passenger seating: Look, we know that few people like to sit on "the hump," but it is nice to have the option when family or friends want to pile in and go for a ride.

Front seat heaters: This may sound like a small luxury detail, but seat heaters are fast becoming a must-have item on cars and truck of all types.

iPod integration: An auxiliary jack is one thing, but full iPod integration is quite another. And since Apple has a near lock on the market, a dedicated iPod hookup is a big boon. This is arguably more important in the plug-in hybrid segment because these cars are likely to attract tech-heads who have and use the latest gadgets.

Leather seats: No explanation needed except to say that leather seating surfaces are included here. They count.

Navigation system: Navigation systems are quite popular, but they become a bit more essential in any type of plug-in vehicle, especially in situations where you may be trying to find an electrical charge point in an unfamiliar area.

Programmable battery charging: This is a biggie. In order to get the best electricity rates — the importance of which is crucial to making the cost of electricity make sense here — you need to charge these machines during off-peak hours. It's far easier to plug the car in when you feel like it and let the timer sort it out than it is to remember to go out to the garage and plug it in the evening, which typically means after 9 p.m.

Regular unleaded fuel: If one is buying a car that is supposed to be more efficient at the pump, one expects that to translate into reduced fuel costs, too. The need for more expensive premium fuel is therefore counterproductive and counterintuitive.

Engine & Transmission Specifications
Warranty Information
Performance Information

Exterior Dimensions & Capacities
  2011 Chevrolet Volt 2010 Toyota Prius PHV
Length, in. 177.4 175.6
Width, in. 70.8 68.7
Height, in. 56.3 58.7
Wheelbase, in. 105.7 106.3
As Tested Curb Weight, lb. 3,742 3,360
Turning Circle, ft. 36.0 34.2

Interior Dimensions
  2011 Chevrolet Volt 2010 Toyota Prius PHV
Front headroom, in. 37.8 38.6
Rear headroom, in. 36.0 37.6
Front legroom, in. 42.0 42.5
Rear legroom, in. 34.1 36.0
Front shoulder room, in. 56.5 54.9
Rear shoulder room, in. 53.9 53.1
Trunk space, cu ft 10.6 20.4
Maximun cargo space, cu ft TBA 38.6

Engine & Transmission Specifications
Engine & Transmission
  2011 Chevrolet Volt 2010 Toyota Prius PHV
Displacement, liters 1.4 1.8
Engine Type Inline 4 Inline 4
Horsepower (SAE) @ rpm 84 @ 4,800 98 @ 5,200
Peak torque, lb-ft @ rpm tba 105 @ 4,000
Electric drive motor, hp 149 80
Primary traction motor, lb-ft 273 153
Secondary motor generator, hp 72 56
Transmission type Planetary CVT Planetary CVT
EPA gasoline fuel economy,
Combined, mpg
37 50
Edmunds observed
fuel economy, mpg
31.1 47.2
EPA electricity consumption,
*kWh/100 mi.
36 No rating
Edmunds observed electricity
consumption, *kWh/100 mi.
39.0 23.2
EPA overall composite fuel
economy, mpg-e (energy)
60 No rating
Edmunds observed composite
fuel economy, mpg-c (cost)
37 54
Rated battery capacity, kWh 16.0 5.2
EPA electric range, mi. 35 13-14 (mfr. claim)
Electric range, mi.
Edmunds observed
33.9 14.6
   * unlike MPG, lower is better with kwh/100

Warranty Information
  2011 Chevrolet Volt 2010 Toyota Prius PHV
Basic Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain 5 years/100,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
Corrosion Protection 6 years/100,000 miles 5 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside Assistance 5 years/100,000 miles 3 years/36,000 miles
Hybrid Components 8 years/100,000 miles 8 years/100,000 miles
15 years/150,000 miles
Hybrid Battery 8 years/100,000 miles 8 years/100,000 miles
10 years/150,000 miles
   * California-emissions states include CA, CT, MA, MD, ME, NJ, NM, NY, OR, PA, RI, VT and WA

Performance Information
  2011 Chevrolet Volt 2010 Toyota Prius PHV
0-60 mph acceleration, sec. 9.0 10.1
Quarter-mile acceleration, sec. 16.6 17.4
Quarter-mile speed, mph 85.5 79.1
60-to-0-mph braking, feet 124 130
Lateral Acceleration, g 0.77 0.75
600-ft slalom, mph 60.2 57.6

Final Rankings
Item Weight 2011 Chevrolet Volt 2010 Toyota Prius PHV
Personal Rating 2.5% 83.3 66.7
Recommended Rating 2.5% 50.0 100.0
Evaluation Score 20% 70.4 68.8
Feature Content 20% 66.7 58.3
Performance 15% 100.0 75.2
Fuel Consumption 20% 70.8 82.9
Price 20% 39.3 48.6
Total Score 100.0% 67.8 67.2
Final Ranking 1 2

Personal Rating (2.5%): Purely subjective. Each participating editor was asked to rank the two hybrids in order of preference based on which he or she would buy if money were no object. The weighting of this factor is low in order to dampen the all-or-nothing nature of picking a favorite.

Recommended Rating (2.5%): Purely subjective. Each participating editor was asked to rank the two cars in order of preference based on which he or she thought would be best for the average consumer shopping in this segment. The weighting of this factor is also low in order to dampen the all-or-nothing nature of picking a favorite.

28-Point Evaluation (20%): Each participating editor rated the contestants using a comprehensive 28-point subjective evaluation system. The evaluation includes dynamic impressions such as drivability, ride, handing and quietness, functional aspects such as seat comfort, driving position and ergonomics, as well as many other details, inside and out. Scoring was calculated on a point system, and the scores listed are overall averages based on all test participants' evaluations in all categories.

Feature Content (20%): For this category, the editors picked significant distinguishing features they felt would be most beneficial to the majority of consumers shopping the segment. If both cars possess the same feature, it is removed from consideration. Typically, selected features need to be significant enough that they will have some bearing on the vehicle's basic functionality or its price. The final score is based on the chosen features, with point awards differing based on whether a particular feature is standard, optional or unavailable.

Performance Testing (15%): Like all vehicles, our plug-in hybrid test subjects went through our standard battery of objective performance tests. The weighting of this factor has been turned down slightly here because outright performance isn't the primary mission of such fuel (and electricity) sippers.

Fuel Consumption (20%): For plug-in hybrids like these, fuel consumption is a bigger factor than outright speed and performance, so we've given this factor a bit more weight. Points awarded here are based on a composite combination of observed electricity and gasoline consumption on a cost-adjusted basis and weighted using the Utility Factor as described in the story.

Price (20%): Our price score is based on the as-tested price of a given test vehicle, including any applicable gas-guzzler tax or, as in this case, federal tax credits. Our algorithm encompasses the entire range of consumer vehicles, so the cheaper car's score may not be truly good unless it truly is one of the cheapest cars on the market. We take a "you-get-what-you-pay-for" approach, weighting our Price and Feature Content scores equally so the car with the higher price has a chance to offset a weak price score if it is strong on features.

Model year2011
Year Make Model2011 Chevrolet Volt 4dr Hatchback (gas-electric hybrid DD)
Vehicle TypeFWD 4dr 4-passenger hatchback
Base MSRP$41,000
Options on test vehiclePremium Trim Package ($1,395 -- includes perforated leather-appointed seat trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, premium door trim); Rear Camera and Park Assist Package ($695); 17-Inch Five-Spoke Forged Polished Aluminum Wheels ($595).
As-tested MSRP$43,685
Assembly locationHamtramck, MI
ConfigurationTransverse, front-engine combined with dual electric motor, front-wheel drive
Engine typeNaturally aspirated, port-injected, inline-4, gasoline with auto-stop/start
Displacement (cc/cu-in)1,398/85.3
Block/head materialIron/aluminum
ValvetrainDOHC, four valves per cylinder, variable intake + exhaust-valve timing
Compression ratio (x:1)10.5
Redline, indicated (rpm)4,800 (not indicated -- no tachometer)
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)84 @ 4,800
Fuel type91-octane required
Hybrid typeSeries-parallel plug-in
Electric motor rating (kW)111
System voltage360
Battery typeLithium-Ion
Battery capacity, rated (kW-hr)16
Battery capacity, usable (kW-hr)10.3 (est.)
Plug-in type (110v/220v)SAE standard port; 120V (tier 1) or 240V (tier 2)
Charge time (hours @ 110v/220v)10-12 hrs (120V); 4hrs (240V)
Plug-in driving range, mfr. claim (mi.)35 (33.9 observed)
Transmission typePlanetary gearset variable automatic with console shifter
Suspension, frontIndependent MacPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearSemi-independent twist beam-axle, coil springs, integrated stabilizer bar
Steering typeElectric-assist, speed-proportional, rack-and-pinion power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)15.4
Tire make and modelGoodyear Assurance
Tire typeAll-season, low rolling resistance
Tire sizeP215/55R17 93H
Wheel size17-by-7 inches front and rear
Wheel materialForged aluminum
Brakes, front11.8-inch one-piece ventilated cast-iron discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brakes, rear11.5-inch one-piece ventilated cast-iron discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Track Test Results
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)3.6
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)5.8
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)9.0
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)13.2
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)16.6 @ 85.5
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)8.6
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)31
60-0 mph (ft.)124
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON60.2
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON0.77
Sound level @ idle (dB)27.0 (electric-only mode); 48.5 (hybrid mode)
@ Full throttle (dB)54.0 (electric-only mode); 78.2 (hybrid mode)
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)67.4 (electric-only mode); 73.7 (hybrid mode)
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsEV mode: Exceptionally quiet with just a little bit of motor whine, but mostly just wind noise. Very linear acceleration; obviously, no shifting. Hybrid mode: Still linear, but you can definitely feel/hear the engine thrum.
Braking commentsConsistent stopping distances, negligible fade, firm pedal, but some rear-end wiggle and wander. Pronounced dive.
Handling commentsSkid pad: Stability control is non-defeatable, but there are very few, if any, brake corrections. Rather it just hits a wall of understeer. Steering is light and vague. Slalom: Prefers "less is more" with as little steering input as possible. Steering is responsive, but vague-feeling. If the stability control does begin to intervene, the run is no good.
Testing Conditions
Test date11/2/2010
Test locationAuto Club Speedway
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)88
Relative humidity (%)14
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)29
Wind (mph, direction)6.1 head- and crosswind
Odometer (mi.)4,144
Fuel used for test91-octane gasoline
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)35/35
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)37 mpg (gasoline); 36 kwh/100 miles (electricity)
Edmunds observed (mpg)31.1 mpg (gasoline); 39.0 kwh/100 miles (electricity)
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)9.3
Driving range (mi.)332
Edmunds estimated monthly fuel cost ($)$99.87
Audio and Advanced Technology
iPod/digital media compatibilityStandard iPod/MP3 player via USB jack, USB stick
Satellite radioStandard
Bluetooth phone connectivityStandard
Navigation systemStandard
Telematics (OnStar, etc.)Standard
Smart entry/StartStandard ignition
Parking aidsOptional parking sonar front and rear back-up camera
Driver coaching displayStandard
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,742
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)61/39
Length (in.)177.4
Width (in.)70.8
Height (in.)56.3
Wheelbase (in.)105.7
Track, front (in.)61.2
Track, rear (in.)62.1
Turning circle (ft.)36.0
Legroom, front (in.)42.0
Legroom, rear (in.)34.1
Headroom, front (in.)37.8
Headroom, rear (in.)36.0
Shoulder room, front (in.)56.5
Shoulder room, rear (in.)53.9
Seating capacity4
Step-in height, measured (in.)14.9
Trunk volume (cu-ft)10.6
Cargo loading height, measured (in.)32.9
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/100,000 miles
Corrosion6 years/100,000 miles
Roadside assistance5 years/100,000 miles
Free scheduled maintenanceNot available
Hybrid/battery8 years/100,000 miles
Model year2010
Year Make Model2010 Toyota Prius III PHV 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
Vehicle TypeFWD 4dr 5-passenger Hatchback
Base MSRP$28,560 (est.)
Options on test vehicleNavigation Package ($2,030 -- includes voice-activated touchscreen DVD navigation system, JBL AM/FM/MP3 four-disc CD changer, eight speakers, satellite radio, XM Nav Traffic, back-up camera, Bluetooth hands-free, USB port with iPod connectivity).
As-tested MSRP$30,590 (est.)
ConfigurationTransverse, front-engine combined with dual electric motor, front-wheel drive
Engine typeNaturally aspirated, port-injected, Atkinson-cycle, inline-4, gasoline with auto-stop/start
Displacement (cc/cu-in)1,798cc (110 cu-in)
Block/head materialAluminum/aluminum
ValvetrainDOHC, four valves per cylinder, variable intake-valve timing
Compression ratio (x:1)13.0
Redline, indicated (rpm)Not indicated
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)98 @ 5,200
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)105 @ 4,000
Fuel typeRegular unleaded
Hybrid typeParallel plug-in
Electric motor rating (kW)60
Combined horsepower (hp @ rpm)134 @ 5,200
System voltage650
Battery typeLithium-ion
Battery capacity, rated (kW-hr)5.2
Plug-in type (110v/220v)SAE standard port; 120V (level 1) or 240V (level 2)
Charge time (hours @ 110v/220v)1.75 hrs (240V); 2.75 hrs (120V)
Plug-in driving range, mfr. claim (mi.)13-14 (14.6 observed)
Transmission typePlanetary gearset-regulated continuously variable transmission with console shifter with default/power/eco modes
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.267
Suspension, frontIndependent MacPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearSemi-independent trailing beam-axle, coil springs, integrated stabilizer bar
Steering typeElectric-assist, speed-proportional, rack-and-pinion power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)19.1
Tire make and modelYokohama Avid S33D
Tire typeAll-season, low-rolling resistance (38 psi cold front; 38 psi cold rear), Treadwear 320, Traction B, Temperature B
Tire sizeP195/65R15 89S
Wheel size15-by-6 inches front and rear
Wheel materialCast aluminum with plastic hubcaps
Brakes, front10-inch one-piece ventilated cast-iron discs with single-piston sliding calipers plus regenerative braking
Brakes, rear10.2-inch one-piece solid cast-iron discs with single-piston sliding calipers plus regenerative braking
Track Test Results
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)3.5
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)6.2
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)10.1
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)15.7
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)17.4 @ 79.1
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)9.8
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)33
60-0 mph (ft.)130
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON57.6
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON0.75
Sound level @ idle (dB)48.5
@ Full throttle (dB)78.2
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)73.7
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsA self-imposed part-throttle run to keep the engine from helping in EV mode yielded predictably slow results, barely reaching 60 mph at the quarter-mile mark. Subsequent runs were made with the throttle matted for best performance. Passes made with the mode selector in Power and Normal were only 0.1 second apart -- too small a difference to draw firm conclusions. We did verify that there is no measureable difference between runs begun with the engine running or in auto-start mode (not initially running).
Braking commentsMedium-firm pedal, moderate dive, some ABS cycling evident but not disruptive. All stops were straight and did not exhibit any tail wag at all. Good fade resistance after four consecutive stops.
Handling commentsSkid pad: In typical Toyota fashion, the non-defeat ESC emits a warning right before the system intervenes, so it's easy to find the limit on the skid pad as the car beeps all the way around. Steering only loads up moderately at this low-to-moderate speed. It's remarkably neutral here, with only the smallest hint of understeer. Slalom: The ESC is unhappy with quick transitions, so smoothness is paramount. The Prius PHV feels heavier in the rear compared to a standard Prius, and the back end tends to pendulum at the second cone, which triggers ESC intervention. But unlike some other Toyota ESC calibrations we've seen, this one has minimal lasting effects and returns control to the driver.
Testing Conditions
Test date11/2/2010
Test locationAuto Club Speedway
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)88
Relative humidity (%)14
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)29
Wind (mph, direction)6.1 head- and crosswind
Odometer (mi.)2,973
Fuel used for test87-octane unleaded
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)38/38
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)Not yet certified
Edmunds observed (mpg)47.2 mpg (gasoline); 23.2 kwh/100 (electricity)
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)11.9
Driving range (mi.)571.2
Edmunds estimated monthly fuel cost ($)$68.24
Audio and Advanced Technology
Stereo descriptionJBL AM/FM/MP3 four-disc CD changer, eight speakers, satellite radio capability, XM Nav Traffic capability
iPod/digital media compatibilityOptional iPod via USB jack
Satellite radioOptional XM
Bluetooth phone connectivityOptional
Navigation systemOptional DVD with traffic display
Telematics (OnStar, etc.)Not available
Smart entry/StartStandard ignition doors trunk/hatch
Parking aidsOptional back-up camera
Driver coaching displayStandard
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,042
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,360
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)56/44
Length (in.)175.6
Width (in.)68.7
Height (in.)58.7
Wheelbase (in.)106.3
Track, front (in.)60.0
Track, rear (in.)59.8
Turning circle (ft.)34.2
Legroom, front (in.)42.5
Legroom, rear (in.)36.0
Headroom, front (in.)38.6
Headroom, rear (in.)37.6
Shoulder room, front (in.)54.9
Shoulder room, rear (in.)53.1
Seating capacity5
Step-in height, measured (in.)13.9
Trunk volume (cu-ft)20.4
Max cargo volume behind 1st row (cu-ft)39.6
Cargo loading height, measured (in.)28.9
Ground clearance (in.)5.5
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/60,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance3 years/36,000 miles
Hybrid/battery8 years/100,000 miles (federal); 10 years/150,000 miles (California-emissions states)
Leave a Comment

Research Models


Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2011 Chevrolet Volt in VA is:

$100 per month*
* Explanation
Have a question? We're here to help!
Chat online with us
Email us at
*Available daily 8AM-5PM Pacific
Call us at 855-782-4711
Text us at ED411