2012 Toyota Prius Four review: Grown up

2012 Toyota Prius Four

2012 Toyota Prius Four

The Toyota Prius is getting all grown up. As it should. It’s a teenager now. And since its debut in 2000, more than a million have been sold in the U.S. alone. But how do we know the Prius is maturing? It’s getting trim levels. To wit: the 2012 Toyota Prius Four, the subject of this review.

That’s not to be confused with the 2012 Toyota Prius c, Toyota’s new compact version of the Prius hybrid line, or the family-sized 2012 Toyota Prius V, which is actually the letter V and not the Roman numeral for five.

2012 Toyota Prius Four dash

The instrument panel is divided between a small panel on dashtop and a LCD screen in centerstack. (Click to enlarge.)

Our Prius Four, on the other hand, was part of a trim line that starts at Toyota Prius Two, then Prius Three, Four and at the top of the line, Prius Five. Prius One apparently was kicked off the island.

The Prius is actually in its third generation, and after being all-new for the 2010 model year, gets a new front fascia and bumper, along with updated headlamps and tail lamps for2012, though you’d have to be a Prius fan to know the difference.

The trim level changes for the 2012 Prius models include for Prius Two, new 15-inch wheel covers and standard LED daytime running lights. The Prius Three adds a standard three-door Smart Key entry system, and the Prius Four has standard auto on/off headlamps. The Prius Four also provides enhanced comfort with new SofTex-trimmed seats and an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat.

2012 Toyota Prius Four shifter

The shifter of the 2012 Toyota Prius is different from other shift levers and requires a bit of learning. (Click to enlarge)

A bigger deal is audio/infotainment. The Prius Two has a new touch-screen system with a 6.1-inch screen. The AM/FM CD player unit of the Two includes MP3/WMA playback capability, a USB port for iPod connectivity, auxiliary input jack, Bluetooth hands-free phone capability and audio streaming. The display also provides vehicle information and allows the driver to customize vehicle settings. The audio system has six speakers.

The Prius Three adds navigation and Toyota’s Entune system, plus SiriusXM satellite, HD Radio with iTunes Tagging, advanced voice recognition and text-to-speech with programmed and customizable text responses. The Toyota Entune system is a collection of mobile applications and data services. Entune’s features are operated using the vehicle’s controls or in some cases by voice recognition, with mobile apps for Bing, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, and Pandora. Entune data services include a fuel price guide, sports scores, stocks, traffic and weather. It’s free for three years.

Our test 2012 Toyota Prius Four upped the ante with eight JBL GreenEdge speakers and an eight-channel JBL amplifier. GreenEdge significantly cuts electric draw, which in turns increases fuel economy. Speakers? Who would have ever thought that special speakers could improve fuel efficiency?

2012 Toyota Prius Four engine

The 2012 Toyota Prius Four engine is the same as other Prius models. (Click to enlarge.)

An option with Prius Four is a Deluxe Solar Roof Package which also includes a head-up display and upgraded HDD navigation, which has a seven-inch touch-screen with split-screen capability. The solar roof operates a cabin ventilation system that helps reduce the cabin temperature on a hot day, speeding cool-down and reducing air conditioner load on a hot day. Our test Prius Four didn’t have it.

The top-of-line Prius Five model’s Advanced Technology Package for 2012 includes the premium HDD navigation system, plus the head-up display, intelligent cruise control, a pre-collision system that tightens seat belts and applies the break when it determines a crash is imminent, and “Lane Keep Assist”, which warns the driver when the car is drifting from its lane and then drags a brake to help pull the car back towards the center of the lane.

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John is a veteran auto writer, first published in Custom Rodder magazine in 1980. Since then, he has been published in all the big car magazines, including Car and Driver, Road & Track, Motor Trend, Auto Week, Automobile, plus a variety of others, including but certainly not limited to Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, and Special Interest Automobiles. John’s work has also been featured in a number of consumer and general interest magazines such as Consumers Digest, Popular Science and others. John has written four books, including a history of the Mazda RX-7 (selling for more out-of-print than it did new), buyers’ guides for Mazda, Datsun/Nissan and Volvo cars, and is co-author of 365 Cars You Must Drive with Motor Trend editor Matt Stone, and his work has been translated into Italian, Estonian, Portuguese, Russian, and Bulgarian. John is recipient of the prestigious Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism, awarded by the International Motor Press Association, and the Golden Quill from the Washington Automotive Press Association. John has three adult daughters and has been married for more that four decades to Mary Ann, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.

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