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My Next Car

I've been watching closely news on the 2004 Prius, the redesign of Toyota's successful hybrid automobile.

2003-08-24-01.jpg

Now the New York Times has a review of what I think will be my next car:

[T]he redesigned Prius goes on sale in mid-October at $19,995 -- a price that has not changed since the first version was introduced in the United States in 2000...

Having grown five inches in length, the new Prius is closer in size to the compact Corolla, yet it has more rear legroom than the midsize Camry. It is also more powerful and more fuel-efficient than the old Prius, Toyota says, and its emissions have been cut by nearly 30 percent.

With its larger cabin, the Prius is now classified as a midsize car by the Environmental Protection Agency, albeit at the lower end of the midsize range. The interior looks classier; it manages to be both elegant and a bit futuristic...

The car runs on Toyota's second-generation hybrid-drive system and its third generation of hybrid-battery technology...

Toyota has improved its system so that the Prius can operate more often on electricity only, in stop-and-go city driving. (Hence the gains in gas mileage and emissions.) But you have to keep a very light foot on the throttle to keep the gas engine from cutting in.

Because the Prius relies more on the electric motor around town, and the gas engine at speed, its fuel economy figures are higher for city driving than for the highway - the opposite of most cars. The Environmental Protection Agency's preliminary fuel economy ratings for the Prius -- which comes only with a continuously variable automatic transmission -- are 59 m.p.g. in town and 51 m.p.g. on the highway. The '03 Prius was rated at 52 in town and 45 on the highway.

Although the 1.5-liter engine was carried over from the old model, it is a bit more powerful, with 76 horsepower (at 5,000 r.p.m.), up from 70. The electric motor is also more powerful, producing 67 horsepower from 1,200 to 1,540 r.p.m. and peak torque of 295 pounds-feet from zero to 1,200 r.p.m. That compares with 44 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet for the previous model.

While this doesn't seem like a lot, the 2,890-pound Prius is hardly underpowered, even when merging into fast-moving California freeway traffic. It takes 10 seconds to accelerate from zero to 60 m.p.g., Toyota says, a reduction of 2.7 seconds.

59 miles/gallon on the highway and 51 miles/gallon in city driving? Incredibly low emissions? Plenty of interior space? Cool styling? DVD navigation system? Built-in Bluetooth? Excellent.

This is the car for environmental geeks and geeky environmentalists.

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