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3/4 Front Glamour 2012 Toyota Prius

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Expert's Rating


MPG 51 City / 48 Highway
  • Class-leading fuel economy
  • Many standard safety features
  • Spacious backseat
  • Excellent reliability history
  • Limited rear visibility
  • Expensive options
, Automotive Editor -
If managing daily operating costs are your top priority, the 2012 Toyota Prius is the car for you. Its outstanding 51 city/48 highway/50 combined mpg EPA rating is the best among all hybrids on the market. At around $24,000 to start and bringing excellent reliability and resale value, the Prius is a money-saving dynamo on all fronts.


This is the true modern everyman's car, a fine choice for students, mothers in smaller families, daily-commuting single professionals or nearly anyone else for that matter. While its 9.8-second 0-60 time and isolated handling won't appeal to sports car lovers, the Prius's efficiency and technologically advanced interior may just win them over.

Looking for the perfect hybrid? Check out our list of the best hybrids of 2012

The reasons why Toyota's overachieving little Prius has become synonymous with “hybrid car” are many. To put it bluntly, no other vehicle has nailed the formula to date, and that includes the oft-compared 2012 Chevrolet Volt and 2012 Nissan LEAF.

The Prius is sold in Two, Three, Four and Five trim levels, while the cheaper One model is offered only for fleet sales (Taxicabs). The compact/midsize hybrid uses Toyota's tried & true Hybrid Synergy Drive system, which combines a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine to an electric motor which together generate 134 combined peak horsepower. All Prius models use a continuously variable automatic transmission and front-wheel drive to maximize fuel efficiency.

Despite the car's eco-friendly demeanor, it’s relatively easy to live with on a daily basis. Decent rear seat interior room and up to 21.6 cubic feet of cargo capacity (the rear seats fold down flat) combined with advanced safety and infotainment features provide a car that can save hundreds of dollars annually on fuel bills without making compromises in comfort or safety.

In addition, it should be noted that the Prius is not the only Hybrid model Toyota has released. The Prius lineup has expanded, and there are several versions currently available: the standard Prius (noted above), the smaller Prius c subcompact, the larger Prius v Wagon and the advanced Prius Plug-In range- extending Hybrid.

Which Style To Buy?

2012 Toyota Prius
Starting price

2012 Toyota Prius Two

Recommended for: Those who are buying a hybrid because saving money is their top priority. At under $25,000 the Prius represents an excellent value buy, but at higher trim levels it can get pricey, and you very well just might not want or need those features.

If you're on a strict budget but still want to take advantage of the Prius' 50 mpg, this is the package for you. It features the same Hybrid Synergy Drive found in all the other Prius packages, and also comes with Toyota's comprehensive Star Safety System with traction control. The Prius Two comes with cloth seating, an AM/FM/CD/iPod touchscreen stereo unit and Bluetooth, but you may find yourself pining for some of the advanced features from higher trim levels.

2012 Toyota Prius
Starting price

2012 Toyota Prius Three

Recommended for: Drivers who want to stay constantly connected. The Toyota Entune system alone is worth the price of admission here, and the navigation system does its job admirably.

For just $1,565 more than the Prius Two, package Three makes a great hybrid a whole lot more interesting on the inside. Upgrading to the Prius Three brings navigation and Toyota's Entune infotainment system with its advanced smartphone pairing capabilities, large collection of audio sourcing options and slick voice-controlled interface. You'll also get convenience features like keyless entry and push-button start. There's a big jump in price before the next trim level, so the Prius Three is really the sweet spot in the lineup for a large number of buyers.

2012 Toyota Prius
Starting price

2012 Toyota Prius Four

Recommended for: Buyers who don't mind spending a little more for a car with industry-leading connectivity and convenience features. The SofTex leatherette interior is a nice nod to the car's green-friendly clientele.

The Prius Four is a stepping stone up in the lineup, bringing more standard equipment than the Three while opening up the more- advanced options if desired. Toyota spices up the car's interior with SofTex seating and trim, which has a leather-like feel while being easy to clean and completely earth- friendly, and a sweet-sounding JBL Greenedge audio system. You'll get the standard navigation and Entune and projector-beam halogen HID headlamps, but top features are grouped into the additional-charge Deluxe Solar Roof package ($3,820).

2012 Toyota Prius
Starting price

2012 Toyota Prius Five

Recommended for: Hybrid lovers who want their precious Prius with every bell and whistle under the sun. If ordering the Prius Five, you owe it to yourself to add the Advanced Technology Package as well.

The Prius Five upgrades the car's exterior for a sportier appearance, with 17-inch alloy wheels, integrated foglamps and LED auto- leveling headlamps. Add on the Advanced Technology Package ($4,320) and you'll get an upgraded navigation system with a larger screen, the JBL premium audio system and some industry leading safety features. These include Lane Keep Assistant and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. This is the crème de la crème of hybrids, and with the tasteful exterior modifications, every other Prius driver will know it.

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