Hybrid showdown: Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt
Hybrid technology in modern cars, whether you agree or not, will continue to exist. Although many manufacturers have delivered hybrid vehicles based on existing platforms, two companies have stood out in the development of hybrid rides; Toyota’s Prius and Chevrolet’s Volt. Although these two rides are not the only hybrid vehicles on the road today, they can indeed compete with each other in all aspects.
Heading into its third generation, the Toyota Prius can now be had in three different versions, designed to bring a bit of versatility and updated looks to the line. In this test, the Prius tested was the standard version with the common design carried over from the previous generation.
Inside this updated Prius is an updated dash, with a great center console coming out of the dash, offering a more familiar car feel while driving. The center information center is still present, but is updated as well with more information and a better layout that keeps the driver’s eyes focused more on the road. The heads-up display on the glass also provides the necessary information necessary for safe and economical driving. Overall, with the more conventional dash space and common driver controls, the update is a step in the right direction for the Prius.
The 2012 Prius is powered by a 1.8 liter gas engine connected to Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, allowing the car to be powered up to 30 mph on electricity alone. The combination drives the car with a total of 134 hp, allowing it to get to 60 under 10 seconds.
The rest of the styling of the Prius is very clean and updated, especially over the aging design of the previous generation. What has been described as ‘space age’ the Prius brings new headlights and tail lights, as well as great driver assistants that allow the driver to focus more on driving than fidgeting with the systems. The navigation is still a bit outdated compared to other vehicles on the road, but is a bit faster in transitions than most.
Its domestic competition comes courtesy of Chevrolet, with the introduction of the Volt in 2011. This vehicle, a plug-in hybrid, is a different vehicle than the regular Prius in that it will run on pure electric up to 100 mph for up to 50 miles without a drop of gasoline. After the battery runs out, the gasoline powered 4-cylinder motor kicks in, powering the Volt for another 300 miles.
The styling of the Volt is very updated modern, from the outside in. The design is very sleek and aerodynamic, with big glass all around for great visibility. The lines on the body are swooped back, which carry over inside the cabin for a continued modern look. Unlike the Prius, the interior of the Volt is not necessarily trying to reinvent the modern car, but provide updated and futuristic touches to show the direction cars are headed without breaking the comfort zone of many everyday drivers.
From the touch dash, with no physical buttons on the dash, along with the HD screen in showing power consumption and general driving information, the cockpit is extremely comfortable and filled with just about every bit of information necessary in a hybrid.
The rest of the vehicle is laid out nice and comfortably, and while the back seat is a tad cramped, the front seats are sporty in their feel, continuing on the sleek styling. Unlike the Prius, the materials inside the Volt feel normal, not specific for the hybrid, and bring an upscale feel to the whole ride.
So with all that in mind comes the question of which is a better buy when in the market for a hybrid car. The 2012 Toyota Prius has a long standing reputation behind it, heading into its third generation, while the Chevrolet Volt is only in its first 2 years of life. For some, this might seem like a risk as the Volt has not had time to mature on the road, but honestly, it is refreshing as the Volt brings known technology to the table in a platform that is both realistic, futuristic, and good looking.
Ride quality is much better in the Volt as well, with its handling and acceleration characteristics much more in tune with regular sedan, while the Prius feels lagging off the line. One major advantage the Volt has over the Prius is engine noise as well, with very little heard inside the cabin whenever it was on. The opposite is true with the Prius, especially under acceleration when the engine produces a high-pitched sound comparable to an over revving, underpowered lawn mower.
In general, even though the Prius has all the development in the past ten years, it still feels lagging behind the curve, especially the Volt in the market. Volt provides a more natural feel for the driving experience, while Prius seems to be trying to reshape the entire concept. Although the Prius has been successful, it is just a stepping stone in the direction it needs to go, to keep up with certain things, and to drive as full and honestly as a Volt.
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