The full hybrid drivetrain of the Prius means it can run on engine alone, battery alone or a combination of the two depending on the demands of the driver and the terrain. It consists of a 1.8L 4-cylinder engine and a NiMh battery pack and motor. The engine charges the battery and the battery assists the motor when needed. The brakes capture kinetic energy and use it to recharge the battery as well.
The suspension is a very conventional MacPherson strut/torsion beam setup. The car comes with a 6-speaker stereo, power accessories and automatic climate control-- essentially a very conventional mid-size sedan-- one that achieves 51 mpg in the city and 48 mpg on the highway.
For 2012, Toyota introduced several new Prius variations intended to appeal to a wider group of potential buyers. A larger version of the Prius is called the Prius v. It's a little longer than the standard Prius with most of that length going for rear-seat room and rear cargo space, essentially making this a "Prius Wagon." The Prius v gets the same powertrain-- a 1.8L 4-cylinder and battery pack, and fuel economy will be slightly lower with this model. However, it still offers the same value-packed standard feature list and "green" credibility as its older brother. Prices on the Prius v start at $26,400.
The other variant Toyota added this year is a Prius Plug-in. It uses wall charger to maximize the range of its onboard battery and thus achieve very high fuel economy numbers. The Plug-In utilizes the standard Prius body and a similar powertrain, but is intended to be plug-in charged before use. The stored energy in the battery pack can propel the Prius plug-in for 13 miles without starting the gasoline engine and it charges in as little as 1.5 hours. Most commuters will be able to get to work on battery power alone, carrying the 1.8L high-efficiency engine for anywhere else they want to go. Prices start around $32,000.