Toyota Prius

At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here’s an explanation for

 Click to see video »
New hybrid-electric cars: Toyota Prius

For the moment, non-plug-in HEVs are the popular solution for reducing oil consumption and easing tailpipe emissions. Of these hybrids, Toyota’s Prius is the best-selling and most recognized. Scheduled to whir into showrooms this spring, the third-generation Prius promises an EPA fuel efficiency rating of 50 mpg for combined city and highway driving. This is 4 mpg better than the current Prius.

Combined horsepower for the 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine and electric motor is 24 ponies better than the 110 horsepower generated by the second-generation Prius. To reduce weight, aluminum was used in the hood, rear hatch, front-suspension axle and brake calipers. The new exterior design, with its wind-cheating 0.25 co-efficient of drag, provides a roomier interior. Interestingly, a solar-cell panel comes with an optional glass moon roof and is located over the rear seating area.

The solar cells power a ventilation system that reduces rising air temperatures when the vehicle is parked. Reducing cool-down time when the driver returns to the vehicle, the system decreases the workload of the air conditioner. The Prius base price originally was announced earlier at $24,220, but recently it was dropped to $21,750. That’s far less than the previous Prius model, and the new one has more goodies. The price slash may have come about because of the low starting price announced earlier on the new Insight.

MSRP: Starting at $22,000.