2012 Toyota Prius Review

Pros & Cons

  • Superior fuel economy
  • abundant backseat room
  • spacious cargo area
  • comfortable ride
  • available high-tech luxury goodies
  • strong safety scores.
  • Awkward driving position
  • disappointing interior materials
  • excessive road noise
  • overly busy gauge cluster.
List Price Range
$8,897 - $10,995

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Edmunds' Expert Review

With a bevy of new high-tech features for 2012, the Toyota Prius enhances its appeal and status as the quintessential hybrid.

Vehicle overview

The 2012 Toyota Prius is to hybrids what Kleenex is to tissues. Other brands may offer something similar, but the Prius is what people think of when they think hybrid. But is this perception still warranted now that more competitors seem to pop up every year?

To keep things fresh for 2012, the current, third-generation Prius receives its first minor refresh. The subtle styling tweaks are barely discernible, while its other updates are more substantial. Even the base model Prius Two (the Prius One is for fleet sales only) now comes with Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, dedicated iPod control and a touchscreen electronics interface. All trims but the Two get Toyota's new Entune system, which bundles satellite radio-sourced real-time information with a suite of apps that connect the Prius to the Internet via your smartphone. It's now possible to wirelessly stream Pandora or iHeart Radio through the car's sound system.

Beyond this increase of electronic toys, the 2012 Toyota Prius maintains the practical advantages that have made it so successful. With an EPA combined rating of 50 mpg, the Prius is topped only by the new Prius C subcompact, or more expensive plug-in models like the 2012 Chevrolet Volt and upcoming plug-in Prius. The Prius also stands out from the crowd because of the generous dimensions of its backseat and the versatility of the hatchback-style cargo area. In fact, the Prius is so practical that it's used as a taxi in many cities.

There are downsides, however. Interior quality leaves much to be desired, with more hard, unpleasantly grained plastics than other brands offer. While the Prius is easy and intuitive to drive, there's zero enjoyment behind the wheel. Other hybrids (including the new Prius C) are better in this regard, while the more composed ride quality and quieter cabins of the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid represent a much greater degree of refinement.

Another aspect to consider is price. Regular compact cars (either gasoline- or diesel-powered) get excellent fuel economy nowadays while costing much less, meaning the Prius might not produce the savings in fuel costs that you think it will. Still, the 2012 Toyota Prius continues to warrant its position as the quintessential hybrid. Its blend of fuel efficiency, practicality and now technology make it an easy choice among hybrids.

2012 Toyota Prius models

The 2012 Toyota Prius is a four-door hatchback available in four trim levels: Two, Three, Four and Five. The latter is not to be confused with the Prius V, which is a larger wagon version of the Prius that's addressed in a separate review.

Standard equipment on the Prius Two includes 15-inch alloy wheels, heated power mirrors, a rear window wiper, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, an advanced trip computer, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a touchscreen electronics interface and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.

The Prius Three gains an enhanced keyless entry system, a rearview camera, a navigation system, voice controls, satellite radio, HD radio and Toyota's Entune system, which includes real-time information (traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports scores) and a suite of apps that connect the car to Internet sites like Pandora, iHeart Radio and Open Table through your smartphone. The Solar Roof package adds a sunroof and a solar-powered ventilation system that keeps the car cool to limit the burden on the air-conditioning system.

The Prius Four has automatic headlights, an eight-way power driver seat, heated front seats, SofTex synthetic leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a JBL sound system with eight GreenEdge speakers. The Deluxe Solar Roof package adds everything from the Prius Three version plus a head-up display, Safety Connect emergency communications and an upgraded navigation system with a high-definition display and split-screen capability.

The Prius Five gets 17-inch alloy wheels, foglamps and LED headlamps with auto level control and washers. The Advanced Technology package adds adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision alert system, a lane-departure warning system, Safety Connect, a head-up display and the higher-quality navigation display.

Available on all trims, the Plus Appearance package adds unique 17-inch alloy wheels and a seven-piece aerodynamic body kit. To this the Plus Performance package adds a sport-tuned suspension and unique badging.

2012 Highlights

The 2012 Toyota Prius gets slightly different styling cues along with additional standard infotainment features and the availability of power front seats and Toyota's Entune suite of smartphone and Internet integration features. A new Plus Performance accessory package lends the Prius sharper handling and a sportier, more aerodynamic exterior.

Performance & mpg

The 2012 Toyota Prius is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine combined with a pair of electric motor/generators. Together they send a total output of 134 horsepower through a specialized continuously variable transmission (CVT).

In track testing, we clocked the Prius from zero to 60 mph in 10.1 seconds, which is about average for a hybrid vehicle. The EPA estimates the 2012 Prius will return a very impressive 51 mpg city/48 highway and 50 mpg combined. In real-world testing, we found these estimates to be reasonably accurate.

Safety

Every 2012 Toyota Prius comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. The Prius Four and Five can be equipped with Toyota's Safety Connect emergency communications system. The Prius Five includes a pre-collision warning system and a lane-departure warning system.

In Edmunds brake testing, the Prius came to a stop from 60 in 118 feet — very good for a compact or midsize car.

In government crash tests, the Prius received a perfect five stars for overall protection, four stars for overall frontal protection and five stars for overall side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Prius the highest possible rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.

Driving

Acceleration in the 2012 Toyota Prius is far from sprightly, but it's on par for similarly priced hybrids and certainly adequate. Four driving modes -- Normal, Eco, Power and EV -- allow the pilot to decide the optimum powertrain configuration depending on conditions. Eco is measured and sluggish, but returns the best fuel economy. Power is useful for entering freeways or driving on hills. EV mode locks out the gasoline engine, but only up to 25 mph with at least a half-charged battery pack.

Around town, the Prius is an easy-to-drive runabout. The electric steering doesn't provide much feedback, but it's very light in parking lots and doesn't become overly boosted on the highway. The ride is comfortable, but nastier bumps can leave it a bit flummoxed. There is also an excessive amount of road noise that permeates the cabin regardless of speed, and the noises emitted by its smaller gasoline engine are hardly what we'd describe as serene.

Interior

The 2012 Prius features straightforward controls that jut out toward the driver in a "floating console" that provides a storage tray underneath. It's a nice design that helps maximize cabin space. The now-standard touchscreen operates an increased number of high-tech features for 2012 and for the most part is smartly designed. The digital instrument panel also features a floating layer that displays audio, temperature and trip computer information when the driver touches those controls on the steering wheel, minimizing eye movement. Some drivers might find the overall design a bit too busy-looking, however.

Materials quality in the Prius is disappointing, with harder and cheaper plastics than other cars in its price range. The corduroy-like texturing on the climate and audio controls seems nice at first, but collects oil from the skin and causes circular dark spots on most buttons.

In terms of versatility, though, the Prius is still a champ. The hatchback body style provides more cargo capacity than a typical midsize sedan, and the backseat offers plenty of space. Sadly, taller drivers still have to contend with a steering wheel that's placed too far away. There's a telescoping column, but it doesn't come out nearly far enough. On the upside, the Prius finally offers power front seats.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2012 Toyota Prius.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

2 months of city driving
quentoncassidy,05/13/2012
Four 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
Just had it about two months. Very good handling vehicle around town and the mpg are fantastic! I'm averaging over 50 mpg in stop and go driving. Took a relatively long trip of 350 miles and averaged 56 mpg. Seats are very comfortable and the NAV system and technology features are great. Sound system works very well; I have the Deluxe Solar Package and the upgraded stereo is excellent. There is a solar array on top of the vehicle that runs a ventilation system to cool the car on sunny days and this is another wonderful feature. I've had sun roofs on all my cars since 1978 so I had to have this on the Prius.
Pleasantly surprised with the 2012 over the 2011
chipl,03/02/2012
Two 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
Was bargain shopping for a 2011 at a Tysons VA dealer last week. They dissed me on the trade and said to take it to Carmax for the trade. So headed to Laurel MD and glad I did! The 2012 is so much nicer inside than the 2011. Add to that $3900 better on my trade-in! Things people complain about, road noise, the stereo, and such - just aren't there in my opinion. The ride/noise is as nice as my old 2003 Baja, maybe better at times except under very hard acceleration. Loving the CVT transmission, such smooth driving; but find myself needing to watch the speedometer more to be sure I am not speeding.
2012 Prius III
stef6,04/04/2012
Three 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
This is my first Hybrid. The Prius is a comfortable good performing car for everyday driving. Two things to remember the Prius is neither a luxury car or a sports car. Once you drive it for a while the gas mileage will make you forget whatever other issues you have with the car.
Be sure this is what you want
unixfreak0037,12/30/2012
Two 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
I was pretty excited when we first bought this car. Now that the hybrid novelty has worn off I realize what this is really is -- it's a decent family car that gets really good gas mileage. It is essentially the mini-van for small families. So be sure this is what you want. It's pretty boring to drive, and the cheap seats (in the base model) are not all that comfortable for long trips. The engine gets loud on hills, the the noise on poorly maintained roads at high speeds can be unbearable.

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    Overall4 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    Overall5 / 5
  • Side Barrier Rating
    Overall5 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front Seat5 / 5
    Back Seat5 / 5
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of Rollover12.1%
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Good
  • Roof Strength Test
    Good
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Good
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Good

More about the 2012 Toyota Prius

Used 2012 Toyota Prius Overview

The Used 2012 Toyota Prius is offered in the following submodels: Prius Hatchback. Available styles include Two 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT), Three 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT), Four 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT), Five 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT), and One 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT). Pre-owned Toyota Prius models are available with a 1.8 L-liter hybrid engine, with output up to 134 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2012 Toyota Prius comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: continuously variable-speed automatic. The Used 2012 Toyota Prius comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 2 yr./ 25000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What's a good price on a Used 2012 Toyota Prius?

Price comparisons for Used 2012 Toyota Prius trim styles:

  • The Used 2012 Toyota Prius Two is priced between $8,991 and$10,783 with odometer readings between 98390 and145131 miles.
  • The Used 2012 Toyota Prius Three is priced between $8,897 and$10,995 with odometer readings between 119430 and178097 miles.
  • The Used 2012 Toyota Prius Four is priced between $10,500 and$10,500 with odometer readings between 136830 and136830 miles.

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Which used 2012 Toyota Priuses are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2012 Toyota Prius for sale near. There are currently 7 used and CPO 2012 Priuses listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $8,897 and mileage as low as 98390 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2012 Toyota Prius.

Can't find a used 2012 Toyota Priuss you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Toyota Prius for sale - 8 great deals out of 18 listings starting at $17,451.

Find a used Toyota for sale - 4 great deals out of 15 listings starting at $25,144.

Find a used certified pre-owned Toyota Prius for sale - 7 great deals out of 17 listings starting at $19,838.

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Should I lease or buy a 2012 Toyota Prius?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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