The design of the newly unveiled 2010 Toyota Prius is certainly polarizing. We thought we'd take a deep-dive on the new look to help explain the changes Toyota made to their high-mileage brick on wheels.

2010 Toyota Prius Introduction
The Toyota Prius first went on sale in 1997 for the Japanese market and quickly became the number one selling hybrid electric car a few short years after its initial debut. The first generation Prius was not quite the sales success of the second generation, though it was the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle. The Prius is currently sold in over 40 countries, while the largest sales success has been in Japan and North America.

Exterior Front

The exterior of the prior model Prius was a conservative appliance and rightfully so. That conservative design helped Toyota gain major traction in the hybrid marketplace very early on in the game. While many believe the new model needed a new approach while maintaining its aerodynamic efficiency. But despite the debate, whether or not the profile shape of the Prius is any more aerodynamic than a similarly sized, non-wedged compact sedan, there is a reason behind this form language. Toyota has created the most instantly recognizable hybrid car on the market today and it wasn’t going to lose that image when designing the new car.
Exterior Rear

The rear of the 2010 Toyota Prius carries many of the same design cues of the existing model though Toyota has tidied up the aero efficiency dramatically. The corners are now tighter to prevent air turbulence as well as the upper hatch peak surface. A subtle under body diffuser has been added to aid in the little hybrid’s goal of a 50mpg rating. The LED tail lamps have also been reshaped and follow the concave surface section of the rear hatch.

The interior of the 2010 Toyota Prius has been heavily revised to resemble something more than just a hybrid appliance. The flowing lines of the IP upper surface mimic the overall feel of the exterior. The center HVAC vents are enhanced by a chrome vein that runs the length of the car. The center stack stands upright and is oriented toward the driver, giving an overall cockpit like feel. The electronic shift mechanism allows for a convenient lower storage bin and gives a sense of airiness to the cockpit. The four spoke steering wheel, again, follows some of the form language of the exterior and includes twin touch pad controls for the media and driver information systems. The digital gauges are once again located under a hood, high atop the IP surface and feature all necessary driver information.

In-Depth Design Dissection

Exterior Front

  1. Defined corner directs airflow away from front surfaces.
  2. Carefully sculpted surface directs airflow up and over the front wheel.
  3. A-pillar spears into headlamp creating an aerodynamically sculpted boomerang-esque form.
  4. Windshield is stepped from the A-pillar to direct airflow over the roof of the car.
  5. Channels on roof center airflow as it travels over the car.
  6. Shoulder mounted rear-view mirror prevents turbulence around the base of the A-pillar.
  7. Feature line’s undercut surface directs airflow across the otherwise stiff bodyside.
  8. Lower surface detail helps break up the tall featureless body side as well as deflecting airflow from the wheels.
  9. Wide flat-faced five-spoke wheels are designed to minimize turbulence around wheel housing.

Exterior Rear

  1. Sharp corner at the trailing edge is designed to direct air away from the rear of the car as well as preventing air turbulence buildup.
  2. Carefully designed diffuser under the rear fascia releases air from underneath the car.
  3. Door handle pockets aerodynamically surfaced to ease the flow of air around these turbulent areas.
  4. LED tail lamps follow the curvature of the rear and lead into the rear decklid surfacing.
  5. The upper peak of the hatch and the undercut of the rear surface meet in sharp peak for a clean release of airflow.
  6. The overall height of the roof is the same as the previous model, but the peak has been moved 3.9 inches toward the rear.
  7. Daylight opening retains a familiar design motif from the previous model and allows for maximum visibility.


  1. An off-center, driver oriented multi-function information display provides important information to the driver including, but not limited to; speed, fuel and energy consumption.
  2. Horizontal lines across the IP visually enhance the size of the otherwise small Prius.
  3. Dual glovebox provides additional storage space.
  4. Driver oriented center stack gives a sporty feel to an otherwise un-sporty ca.r
  5. Drive-by-wire electronic shifter is set on top of a sunken Volvo-esque spaceball.
  6. Front quarter windows add to the airiness of the cabin and eliminate the blindspot created by the shoulder mounted rear-view mirrors.
  7. New four-spoke steering wheel features touch sensor controls and sweeping lower spokes that eschew exterior styling elements.
  8. While not new to the 2010 Prius, the Power engine-start button adds to the electric appliance feel of the car.


  1. Innovative storage location underneath the center stack is made possible by the electric drive-by-wire shift system.
  2. Upright center stack provides a sporty feeling to the otherwise sedate interior appointments.
  3. Door panel design mimics the upright feeling of the center stack design.

The 2010 Toyota Prius continues the design tradition of the previous generation model, but does so with a little less Maytag and a little more gusto. Nearly all of the styling changes that have been made are to help the aerodynamic efficiency and carry on the tradition of the world’s number one selling hybrid vehicle.