2009 Toyota Prius vs. 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Comparison Test

2009 Toyota Prius Hatchback

(1.5L 4-cyl. Hybrid CVT Automatic)
  • Toyota Prius vs. Volkswagen Jetta TDI Comparison Test Video

    The Toyota Prius vs Volkswagen Jetta TDI Comparison Test Video shows whether hybrid or diesel is the better choice for your wallet, the environment and for your daily drive. | September 23, 2009

1 Video , 36 Photos

  • Comparison Test
  • Second Opinion
  • Top 10 Features
  • Data and Charts
  • Final Rankings and Scoring Explanation
  • 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Specs and Performance
  • 2009 Toyota Prius Specs and Performance

We were locked in mortal combat, just as adrenaline-addled Leonidas and hubris-filled Xerxes met at the Battle of Thermopylae, when a relative handful of highly specialized Spartans held off a seemingly bottomless torque-pit of Persians for seven excruciating days.

Here we have the 2009 Toyota Prius gasoline-electric hybrid, embodying up-to-the-minute fuel-sipping methods and machinery intended to take us immaculately into a spotless future. In the other lane, the newly introduced 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI turbodiesel, a rolling relic of tried-and-true yester-tech locomotion (upon whose sooty breath the Industrial Revolution itself was built) that has been remastered, reengineered and reintroduced to be meaner, cleaner and more efficient than ever.

But the battle left us weary — done in by the struggle and tired of each other like Siamese twins on prom night.

The Epic Struggle Between Hybrid and Diesel
Surveying the digital display of our trusty tech-laden Prius, a report was issued that our battery charge had fallen like so many brave infantrymen to a level that prophesied possible defeat. Even a fate worse — the shame of being inefficient. How could we, with green-washed conscience, justify the worth of our ecorazzi-approved Prius if not for the implicit efficiency contained therein? Suddenly, our $29,000 Prius seemed like an ill-considered purchase. Nevertheless, we waited for the noble test of acceleration.

In his Jetta TDI, our opponent, too, was idle, but idling too silently for a 2.0-liter oil-burner whose forbears' aural qualities have been likened to skeletons pleasuring themselves in file cabinets. Yet neither one of us was going to surrender to the other the satisfaction of winning this epic match of motionlessness by making a poor choice on juvenile impulses.

Then the 2009 Toyota Prius' 1.5-liter gasoline engine came to life after resting in serene stillness for what seemed an eternity. Fuel was now flowing like sanguine syrup through the Prius' vehicular vascular system into each of the car's four cylinders within its Atkinson-cycle engine. Would the engine's automatic stop-start function be the undoing of the precious Prius?

Yet like the mystifying cosmos itself, the Prius was motivated by inexorably intertwined forces of the invisible mystery of might we call electricity, as well as a lump of metal containing a concoction of combustible chemicals as they explode. As it went, my steed was put into motion by means of a planetary gearset, so elegant in concept yet so complex in its coordination that it would flummox even Stephen Hawking to comprehend it fully.

The other worthy helmsman laughed through the side glass of his battle chariot as he pulled away next to us, flaunting his turbocharged full-figured torque curve like Salma Hayek on the red carpet. Yes, at that very moment Xerxes had prevailed and he had done so with hundred-year-old technology originally meant to replace the steam engine.

But history shall mark this occasion, this fuel-sipping second in time, as but a single skirmish in the larger war between modern hybrid and clean-diesel technologies. Like the extraordinary lives of Brit-Brit and Brangelina, each day's feats and failures shall be painstakingly observed, marked down, scrutinized, judged and proclaimed essential for the sustainable propagation of population on planet Earth.

Begin the Beguine
OK, this hybrid-versus-diesel confrontation isn't new and it doesn't exactly have the gravitas of ancient Greek history, nor the self-righteous quasi-relevance of ecorazzi, treehugger "journalism," but it nevertheless has its place somewhere between the two in terms of general public interest and consequence.

Despite indications that sales of hybrid cars and trucks are declining in tandem with the cost of fuel, the fact is that the price of petroleum (gasoline or diesel) is as volatile as ever. Fuel economy still matters and likely will matter to lawmakers, automakers and auto buyers for years to come.

Sure, things are looking rosy today with the average national per-gallon price of regular-grade gasoline at about $1.84, and diesel at about $2.39 per gallon (a 23 percent difference between them), but that could change in the blink of an eye. Why, not six months ago, gasoline topped out at $4.114 per gallon and diesel at $4.845 per gallon and Toyota dealers were getting up to $5,000 over sticker on Prius hybrids.

According to Edmunds' True Market Value (TMV®) pricing, the 2009 Prius Touring like ours is now $500 under MSRP thanks to a cash-to-customer incentive available until February 2009 and expected to continue into the spring. As it sits, our Prius tester rings the cash register at $28,933.

But if you opt for a 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Loyal Edition, there's a $1,300 federal income tax credit similar to the one the Prius once enjoyed. With no options added to our already well-equipped VW, the effective price of our '09 Jetta TDI is $22,890, or $6,043 less than the Prius Touring, representing a 21 percent savings from Day One.

Even Steven
According to Edmunds.com's True Cost to Own (TCOSM) calculations, driving the Prius (at 1,250 miles per month) will cost $5,910 in gasoline over a five-year period. The Jetta TDI will consume $9,532 in diesel over the same period. On the face of it, the Prius will save you $3,622 in fuel costs. Hooray, the Prius wins!

Not so fast. The Jetta TDI costs $6,043 less to start with, so there would still be $2,421 in the Jetta owner's pocket or bank account during those five years. Beyond the initial five years (60 months), it would take an additional 40 months to break even on fuel costs alone, so the Prius doesn't pencil out until after 100 months have elapsed, or eight years and four months.

So there's that.

Performance You Can Feel
Nobody can deny the way in which the Toyota Prius has forever changed the automotive landscape. Among other things, it's a laboratory and social experiment in motion, a wake-up call for all the other automakers. Nobody can say the Prius isn't efficient with airflow, fuel and interior packaging. We get it.

What the 2009 Toyota Prius cannot summon is driving pleasure. Sure, some hypermilers might claim some sort of nerdy joy in achieving the mythical solid-bar graph on the car's instrument display that shows 100 mpg across the entire Consumption display. (By the way, there are ways to game the display to trick your friends into believing you are a god of efficiency.) But at the test track we recorded acceleration, braking and handling data, and even this Jetta TDI with its 140-hp diesel and low-rolling-resistance tires appears to be the better performer in terms of raw capability.

There's more to driving than numbers, however.

Will the Real Car Please Inch Forward?
Though the Prius uses a complex planetary transmission to harness the power of its gasoline engine and electric motors, the result isn't exactly seamless on the highway. The thing is, you're always aware the Prius is not a typical automobile because the engine revs, starts, stops, starts up again, and so on.

The two-week fuel-economy average we got for this 2009 Toyota Prius was 39 mpg, slightly below what we've previously recorded. Our best tank returned 49 mpg (beating both the EPA's city and highway estimates), and on one city stint, the driver managed a steady 54 mpg for almost a hundred miles. One driver even stacked the bar graph display with four columns of 100 mpg economy.

We've seen Volkswagen's dual-clutch automated manual transmission before in the zoomy Volkswagen R32, yet this one behaves far more like a conventional automatic. Both upshifts and downshifts are as quick and seamless as those in our long-term Nissan GT-R. It even has a bit of creep built into the clutch engagement so when you remove your foot from the brake, the car will inch forward smoothly.

On the road, what the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI lacks in horsepower, it makes up for in torque and efficiency. Our best tank returned 40 mpg (matching the EPA's highway estimate), and its two-week average was 36 mpg.

Steering and Stopping
Both the Toyota and the VW have electric-assist power steering systems. The Jetta's has been tuned to provide ample feedback, good yaw response and stability. In comparison, the Prius' lack of steering feel is almost as notorious as its lack of a telescoping steering column.

Each time we borrow a Prius, it seems Toyota has secretly made improvements to the compound braking system. It used to be that the transition from gentle regenerative braking (winding the electric motor in reverse, which recharges the batteries) to mechanical braking (disc brakes in front and drums in the rear) occurred both too late and too abruptly. There's still a slight feeling of free fall between the two, but it's not nearly as noticeable as it once was.

The Jetta's hydraulic brakes received deserved criticism for the soft pedal and non-linear application, so they've got some work left to do there. There's also a spooky anomaly where the driver, while at a stop, can gradually press the brake pedal all the way to the firewall. The car doesn't move, but it's still unsettling.

Inner Space
The Jetta TDI Loyal Edition has a long list of standard equipment that's either optional or not available on the Prius. While our Jetta didn't have the nav system, xenon headlamps or intelligent key like the Prius, it did feature highly supportive, leatherette-upholstered seats, better-than-average audio and HVAC systems and top-notch materials quality throughout. Standard items in the Jetta Loyal Edition include a power moonroof, Cold Weather package, aux jack, rear-passenger vents and a 115-volt AC power outlet — none of which were found in the Prius.

The Prius' interior is roomy, with exemplary head- and cargo room, but the driver's seating position is especially troublesome. The seat bottom feels as if it's canted forward, there's no lumbar adjustment, the tilt-only steering wheel is too low and too far away and the doughy stuffing in the seat bolsters didn't offer good support. The touchscreen climate/audio control layout drew ergonomic criticism as well.

The Fourth Consecutive Loss
So it boils down to this.

The 2009 Toyota Prius is, indeed, functional due to its hatchback body style and fold-flat rear seats. It earns exemplary fuel economy in city driving, and we'll even admit there is a modicum of driving pleasure in the challenge it presents (with its multitude of fuel economy displays) to drivers. But the green sheen has worn off for us. The Prius was revolutionary when it was introduced, but there are now viable alternatives, including the redesigned 2009 Honda Fit, the 2010 Honda Insight and now the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid.

In terms of cost, the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI makes more sense than the Prius for at least the first eight years of ownership, and we didn't even mention its free scheduled maintenance for the first three years or 36,000 miles. The Jetta sedan is more of a real car, with more comfortable accommodations and familiar dynamics. It has as much or more content than the current Prius, plus its available hard-drive nav/music/iPod/DVD system makes the one in the Prius look so last year (with the glaring exception of the VW's shameful lack of Bluetooth capability).

For our money and driving pleasure, we choose the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI over the 2009 Toyota Prius Touring. Of course, all that could change in a month or so once we get our hands on a 2010 Toyota Prius which is said to be more powerful, more efficient and up-to-date in terms of infotainment.

No, the epic battle between diesel and hybrid is not over. Not by a long shot. But sometimes it seems as if we're throwing feathers at throttle pedals.

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

Senior Editor Erin Riches says:
Perhaps it's a little unfair to pick on the Toyota Prius in the last few months before the third-generation car goes on sale. But the 2009 Prius and the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI rank 1st and 2nd for fuel mileage among all 2009 midsize cars. If you want to shop for a vehicle based on EPA ratings, you're going to be driving these two.

Yet as soon as you drive this Jetta TDI, you realize that's the wrong way to judge a car. The diesel VW is well behind the Prius in the mpg race, but it feels like so much more car and it costs $5 grand less. Whereas the Prius feels isolating and insubstantial at 80 mph on the highway, the Jetta rides like the European touring sedan it is — it's as comfortable as it is controlled. Although Volkswagen's dual-clutch transmission isn't a perfect match for the 2.0-liter inline-4 diesel, this combination is vastly more driver-friendly than the arrangement of gasoline and electric power sources in the Prius. It's not just that the Jetta is quicker; it's that it has plenty of usable torque at low engine speeds. Ask for a big accelerative response from the Prius and you'll eventually get it, but not before the Toyota's 1.5-liter gas engine hits 5,000 rpm.

The differences are just as significant inside the cars. With its non-height-adjustable driver seat, non-telescoping steering wheel and center-mounted instrument panel, the Prius has one of the least ergonomically friendly driving positions of any car on sale in America today. In contrast, this VW has one of the best seating positions you'll find at any price. The design of the Jetta TDI's cabin is certainly more traditional than the layout in the Prius, but it's traditional in a good way, with simple controls and high-quality materials.

Of course, the simple fact that the Volkswagen Jetta TDI is less fuel-efficient than the Prius might mean that it's less good to some of you. But, ultimately, driving any car has at least some negative impact on the planet, so I'll take the most efficient car that I still enjoy driving. I'll take the Jetta TDI.

While some of the following 10 features do, indeed, enhance the driving experience, others are included merely to demonstrate the differences in each car's standard and optional equipment packages.

Features

Features
2009 Toyota Prius Touring 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Loyal Edition
115-volt AC outlet N/A S
Bluetooth connectivity O N/A
Floor mats O S
Free scheduled maintenance N/A S
Heated front seats N/A S
Intelligent key S N/A
Moonroof N/A S
Navigation system O O*
Rear side airbags N/A O*
Xenon headlamps S N/A

Key:
S: Standard
O: Optional and included on this vehicle
O*: Optional but on included on this vehicle
N/A: Not Available

115-volt AC outlet: Standard on the Jetta Loyal Edition (on the back edge of the center console), and you'd think a car with enough surplus electrical charge to power it down the road would have a two-prong AC jack, but the Prius Touring doesn't.

Bluetooth connectivity: Bluetooth provides a way to connect and exchange information between devices such as mobile phones and car audio systems, over a secure, globally unlicensed short-range radio frequency: Included in the Prius Touring #6 Package, not available on the Jetta TDI Loyal Edition, though it is available on other Jettas.

Floor mats: Standard on the Jetta TDI Loyal Edition; you need to shell out $199 for mats (including the cargo area) in the Prius.

Free scheduled maintenance: At least for three years or 36,000 miles, it's free on the Jetta, but not available on the Prius.

Heated front seats: Standard on the Jetta TDI Loyal Edition; not available on the Prius.

Intelligent key: Once upon a time, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls were a "Wow, I wish every car had these" feature. So, too, will these so-called intelligent keys be as they become more mainstream. From the linty depths of your pocket or purse, they communicate with the car to allow unlocking/locking and even starting the car without the uncomfortable excavation ritual. Standard on the Prius Touring; not available on the Jetta.

Moonroof: Standard on the Jetta TDI Loyal Edition; not available on the Prius.

Navigation system: A DVD-based navigation system is optional on the Prius as part of the #6 Package ($4,175 — includes back-up camera, Smart Key system, JBL Premium AM/FM stereo, in-dash six-disc CD player, MP3 capability, auxiliary input jack, Bluetooth, phone controls on steering wheel, nine speakers, Vehicle Skid Control, security alarm, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather seats, electrochromatic rearview mirror, HomeLink and DVD navigation system).

There's also a DVD-based navi system available on the Jetta TDI Loyal Edition (PNV: $1,800 — includes DVD navigation system and six-disc CD changer mounted in center armrest. Center armrest CD changer replaces in-dash unit. Navigation system is incompatible with MP3 format).

But there's even better hard-drive-based system (PNI: $1,990 — includes DVD navigation system with 6.5-inch touchscreen display, integrated 10GB navigation hard drive and 20GB audio hard drive, audio CD with WMA and MP3, video DVD playback, SD memory card slot, auxiliary input in center console and iPod functionality) for other Jetta TDI models. Don't know why you can't get it on the Loyal Edition.

Rear side airbags: Optional on the Jetta ($350); not available on the Prius.

Xenon headlamps: Continuous, short-arc, high-pressure xenon arc lamps have a color temperature closely approximating noon sunlight and are used in, among other things, automotive HID headlamps. They're not currently available on the Jetta, but are standard on the Prius Touring.

Dimensions
Engine & Transmission Specifications
Warranty Information
Performance Information
Fuel Economy

Dimensions

Exterior Dimensions & Capacities
2009 Toyota Prius Touring 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Loyal Edition
Length, in. 175.0 179.3
Width, in. 67.9 70.4
Height, in. 58.7 57.4
Wheelbase, in. 106.3 101.5
As tested curb weight, lb. 3,001 3,355
Turning Circle, ft. 34.1 35.8
Interior Dimensions
2009 Toyota Prius Touring 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Loyal Edition
Front headroom, in. 39.1 38.5
Rear headroom, in. 37.3 37.2
Front shoulder room, in. 55.0 54.8
Rear shoulder room, in. 52.9 53.1
Front legroom, in. 41.9 41.2
Rear legroom, in. 38.6 35.4
Cargo volume, cu-ft. 14.4 16.0
Max cargo volume, cu-ft. 30.4 N/A

Engine & Transmission Specifications

Engine & Transmission
2009 Toyota Prius Touring 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Loyal Edition
Displacement
(cc / cu-in):
1,500 (92) 2,000 (122)
Engine Type Inline-4 Atkinson Cycle Inline-4 Turbodiesel
Horsepower (SAE) @ rpm 76 @ 5,000 140 @ 4,000
Peak torque, lb-ft @ rpm 82 @ 4,200 236 @ 1,750
Electric motor output, hp @ rpm 67 @ 1,200 ?
Electric motor max. torque, lb-ft @ rpm 295 @ 0-1,200 ?
System voltage, maximum 500 ?
Battery peak power rating (hp) 28 ?
Maximum blended horsepower 110 ?
Transmission type Planentary CVT automatic 6-speed auto-clutch manual
Recommended fuel 87-octane unleaded Ultralow-sulfur Diesel

Warranty

Warranty Information
2009 Toyota Prius Touring 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Loyal Edition
Basic Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain 5 years/60,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
Roadside Assistance Not available 3 years/36,000 miles
Corrosion Protection 5 years/Unlimited miles 12 years/Unlimited miles
Free scheduled maintenance Not available 3 years/36,000 miles
Hybrid-related components (41 states) 8 years/100,000 miles ?
Hybrid-related components other than battery (9 states*) 15 years/150,000 miles ?
Hybrid battery (9 states*) 10 years/150,000 miles ?
     * Nine States: CA, CT, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NY, RI, VT

Performance

Performance Information
2009 Toyota Prius Touring 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Loyal Edition
0-60 mph acceleration, sec. 10.6 8.9
Quarter-mile acceleration, sec. 17.7 16.5
Quarter-mile speed, mph 78.6 83.8
60-0-mph braking, feet 119 125
Lateral Acceleration, g 0.71 0.81
600-ft slalom, mph 63.4 65.1

Fuel Economy

Fuel Economy
2009 Toyota Prius Touring 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Loyal Edition
EPA Fuel Economy City, mpg 48 29
EPA Fuel Economy Hwy, mpg 45 40
EPA Fuel Economy Combined, mpg 46 33
Edmunds Observed Fuel Economy Average, mpg 39 36
EPA Fuel Economy Combined & Converted (gal-per-100 mi) 2.2 3.0
Estimated Fuel Consumption Gallons per Year (15k miles) 326 455
Estimated Fuel Cost at the End of Five Years (75k miles) $5,910 $9,532

Final Rankings

Final Rankings
Item Weight 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Loyal Edition 2009 Toyota Prius Touring
Personal Rating 2.5% 100.0 50.0
Recommended Rating 2.5% 100.0 50.0
Evaluation Score 20% 76.7 69.6
Feature Content 15% 56.7 40.0
Performance 10% 98.0 70.3
Fuel Consumption 25% 60.6 100.0
Price 25% 100.0 73.6
Total Score 100.0% 78.8 72.9
Final Ranking 1 2

Personal Rating (2.5%): Purely subjective. After the test, each participating editor was asked to rank the vehicles in order of preference based on which he or she would buy if money were no object.

Recommended Rating (2.5%): After the test, each participating editor was asked to rank the vehicles in order of preference based on which he or she thought would be better for the average consumer shopping in this segment, including that car-savvy relative or family friend who has our number on speed dial. (We get this all the time.)

28-Point Evaluation (20%): Each participating editor ranked both vehicles based on a comprehensive 28-point evaluation. The evaluation covered everything from exterior design and transmission performance to button wobble and stability. Scoring was calculated on a point system, and the scores listed are averages based on all test participants' evaluations.

Feature Content (15%): The editors picked features they thought would illustrate the trade-offs between standard and optional equipment. Indeed, some features enhanced comfort, safety and convenience for the average economy car buyer. For each vehicle, the score was based on the number of actual features it had versus the total possible (10). Standard and optional equipment were taken into consideration.

Performance Testing (10%): For this particular comparison, we've weighted the vehicles' track performances at less than half of the weight of either fuel economy or price. Flat-out acceleration, braking and handling tests were performed in a controlled environment by the same driver on the same day, but folks looking at these two care little.

Fuel Consumption (25%): We suspect people shopping in this segment care as much about fuel economy as they do about the price, so these two categories were weighted the same. Using the EPA combined fuel-economy ratings as the basis for the fuel-consumption comparison, we awarded a score of 100 percent to the more fuel-efficient vehicle. The less efficient vehicle was scored proportionally based on how close it came to the better-performing vehicle's fuel consumption.

Price (25%): The numbers listed were the result of a simple percentage calculation based on the less expensive vehicle in the comparison test. Using the "as tested" prices of the actual evaluation vehicles (including cash incentives and tax credits), the less expensive vehicle received a score of 100, with the remaining vehicle receiving a lesser score based on how much it costs.

Vehicle
Model year2009
MakeVolkswagen
ModelJetta
StyleTDI Loyal Edition 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6AM)
Base MSRP$24,190
Options on test vehicleNone
As-tested MSRP$22,890 (including $1,300 tax credit)
Drivetrain
Drive typeFront-wheel drive
Engine typeDirect-injection turbodiesel inline-4
Displacement (cc/cu-in)1,968cc (120 cu-in)
Block/head materialCast iron/aluminum
ValvetrainSOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Compression ratio (x:1)16.5:1
Redline (rpm)4,500
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)140 @ 4,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)236 @ 1,750
Transmission type6-speed automated manual
Transmission and axle ratios (x:1)I = 3.46, II = 2.05, III = 1.30, IV = 0.90, V = 0.91, VI = 0.76, R = 3.99, FD1 = 4.12, FD2 = 3.04
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent, MacPherson struts, coil springs and stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent, multilink, coil springs and stabilizer bar
Steering typeSpeed-proportional electric-assist rack-and-pinion power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)16.4:1
Tire brandBridgestone
Tire modelTuranza EL400-02
Tire typeAll-season
Tire size, front205/55R16 91H (35 psi)
Tire size, rear205/55R16 91H (35 psi)
Wheel size16-by-6.5 inches front and rear
Wheel materialAluminum alloy
Brakes, front11.3-inch ventilated disc
Brakes, rear10.2-inch solid disc
Track Test Results
0-45 mph (sec.)5.7
0-60 mph (sec.)8.9
0-75 mph (sec.)13.3
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)16.5 @ 83.8
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)8.4
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)31
60-0 mph (ft.)125
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)65.1
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.81
Sound level @ idle (dB)N/A
@ Full throttle (dB)N/A
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)N/A
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsAwful throttle response is frustrating, but the snappy upshifts in Sport mode help make up for it. Acceleration is adequate, but not really involving.
Braking ratingAverage
Braking commentsLong-travel, soft pedal with some jumpiness built-in might be difficult to modulate. ABS, however, makes this irrelevant. Still, a more solid pedal would be better.
Handling ratingAverage
Handling commentsSkid pad: Limits are easily overshot with surge of torque if you aren't careful with the throttle pedal. Slalom: Low overall limits, probably a result of tires, aren't particularly inspiring. Still, this is a world apart from something like a Prius.
Testing Conditions
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)74.4
Wind (mph, direction)N/A
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)29 city/40 highway/33 combined
Edmunds observed (mpg)30 worst/40 best/36 average
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)14.5
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,285
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,355
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)61/39
Length (in.)179.3
Width (in.)70.1
Height (in.)57.4
Wheelbase (in.)101.5
Track, front (in.)60.6
Track, rear (in.)59.8
Turning circle (ft.)35.8
Legroom, front (in.)41.2
Legroom, rear (in.)35.4
Headroom, front (in.)38.5
Headroom, rear (in.)37.2
Shoulder room, front (in.)54.8
Shoulder room, rear (in.)53.1
Seating capacity5
Cargo volume (cu-ft)16
Max. cargo volume, seats folded (cu-ft)60/40 split-fold is standard, but no data given
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/60,000 miles
Corrosion12 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance3 years/36,000 miles
Free scheduled maintenance3 years/36,000 miles
Safety
Front airbagsStandard
Side airbagsStandard dual front
Head airbagsStandard front and rear
Knee airbagsNot available
Antilock brakes4-wheel ABS
Electronic brake enhancementsBraking assist, electronic brakeforce distribution
Traction controlStandard (EX only)
Stability controlStandard (EX only)
Rollover protectionNot available
Tire-pressure monitoring systemStandard, direct tire-pressure monitoring
Emergency assistance systemNot available
NHTSA crash test, driver4 stars
NHTSA crash test, passenger4 stars
NHTSA crash test, side front5 stars
NHTSA crash test, side rear5 stars
NHTSA rollover resistance4 stars
Vehicle
Model year2009
MakeToyota
ModelPrius
StyleTouring 4dr Hatchback (1.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
Base MSRP$24,990
Options on test vehiclePackage #6 Touring Edition ($4,175 -- includes back-up camera, Smart Key system, JBL Premium AM/FM stereo, in-dash six-disc CD player, MP3 capability, auxiliary input jack, Bluetooth, phone controls on steering wheel, nine speakers, Vehicle Skid Control, security alarm, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather seats, electrochromatic rearview mirror, HomeLink and DVD navigation system), Carpeted Floor- and Cargo Mats ($199), Rear Bumper Applique ($69)
As-tested MSRP$28,933 (including $500 incentive)
Drivetrain
Drive typeFront-wheel drive
Engine typeInline-4, Atkinson cycle
Displacement (cc/cu-in)1,497cc (91 cu-in)
Block/head materialAluminum/Aluminum
ValvetrainDOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, variable intake valve timing
Compression ratio (x:1)13.0:1
Redline (rpm)N/A
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)76 @ 5,000 (gasoline engine); 110 maximum when blended with the electric motor
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)82 @ 4,200 (gasoline); 295 @ 0-1,200 (electric motor)
Transmission typeContinuously variable planetary automatic
Transmission and axle ratios (x:1)N/A
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent, MacPherson struts, coil springs and stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearSemi-independent, torsion beam, coil springs and stabilizer bar
Steering typeElectric-assist rack-and-pinion power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)19.1:1
Tire brandBridgestone
Tire modelTuranza EL400-02
Tire typeAll-season
Tire size, frontP195/55R16 86V (35 psi)
Tire size, rearP195/55R16 86V (35 psi)
Wheel size16-by-6 inches front and rear
Wheel materialAluminum alloy
Brakes, front10.0-inch ventilated disc with single-pistion sliding caliper
Brakes, rear7.9-inch drum
Track Test Results
0-45 mph (sec.)6.7
0-60 mph (sec.)10.6
0-75 mph (sec.)16.2
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)17.7 @ 78.6
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)10.3
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)30
60-0 mph (ft.)119
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)63.4
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.71
Sound level @ idle (dB)N/A
@ Full throttle (dB)N/A
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)N/A
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsGood consistency for a hybrid. Toyota seems to have this nailed, as acceleration doesn't suffer until the third or fourth run. Mindless driving experience -- no technique -- just stick in "D" and mash the throttle.
Braking ratingAverage
Braking commentsGood first stop, but a huge leap in distance for all subsequent stops. Might say something about the Prius brakes' capacity to absorb heat, or lack thereof. Drums are rarely good at repeat stops. Feel isn't good, but is better than other hybrids.
Handling ratingAverage
Handling commentsSkid pad: Little steering feel makes this less than enjoyable, but I'd expect little more from a Toyota, especially a hybrid with electric steering. Slalom: Surprisingly, the Prius isn't awful in the slalom. Stay clear of the stability control by using smooth steering inputs and it does quite well.
Testing Conditions
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)75.6
Wind (mph, direction)N/A
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)48 city/45 highway/46 combined
Edmunds observed (mpg)49 best/35 worst/39 average
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)11.9
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)2,932
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,001
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)59/41
Length (in.)175
Width (in.)67.9
Height (in.)58.7
Wheelbase (in.)106.3
Track, front (in.)59.3
Track, rear (in.)58.3
Turning circle (ft.)34.1
Legroom, front (in.)41.9
Legroom, rear (in.)38.6
Headroom, front (in.)39.1
Headroom, rear (in.)37.3
Shoulder room, front (in.)55
Shoulder room, rear (in.)52.9
Seating capacity5
Cargo volume (cu-ft)14.4
Max. cargo volume, seats folded (cu-ft)30.4
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/60,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistanceNot available
Free scheduled maintenanceNot available
Safety
Front airbagsStandard
Side airbagsStandard dual front
Head airbagsStandard front and rear
Knee airbagsNot available
Antilock brakes4-wheel ABS
Electronic brake enhancementsBraking assist, electronic brakeforce distribution
Traction controlStandard
Stability controlOptional
Rollover protectionNot available
Tire-pressure monitoring systemStandard tire-pressure monitoring
Emergency assistance systemNot available
NHTSA crash test, driver4 stars
NHTSA crash test, passenger4 stars
NHTSA crash test, side front5 stars
NHTSA crash test, side rear4 stars
NHTSA rollover resistance4 stars
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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2009 Toyota Prius in VA is:

$105 per month*
* Explanation
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