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Toyota car

Hot news for 2010: With a rather large inventory of cars for sale, it’s a surprisingly quiet year with all the attention being paid to the new Prius

Carryover: Avalon; Camry; Matrix; Sienna; Venza; Yaris

Gone: Camry Solara

Starting line

n It would appear that early investment in hybrid technology is beginning to pay off for Toyota. It, and the related Lexus brand, are probably the first names that come to mind when it comes to hybrids.

Heck, the Toyota Prius could be its own brand. In fact, that’s an idea that the Japan-based automaker has been batting around for a while now. It’s unusual that a decade-old nameplate could be called iconic, but the Prius has earned the distinction. With more than one million of these gasoline-electric cars whirring away around the globe, the Prius is acknowledged as the car that took its unique fuel-sipping technology from pie-in-the-sky science experiment into the mainstream. It has also proven to be one of the most practical and cleanest ways so far to significantly reduce emissions and fuel use.

The 2009 Prius was rated at 110 horsepower. Since vehicle weight has increased only about 100 pounds, the new Prius’s 22-percent gain in output can be felt the moment the gas powerplant kicks in under acceleration.

For $22,700, the Prius actually delivers an impressive array of standard gear. Similarly, the optional content list offers a unique power moonroof/solar panel that runs an electric fan to cool interior temperature on hot days.

While the Prius is a rolling showcase for all a hybrid can be, the Camry Hybrid, which costs about 4,200 more, is an adaptation of hybrid technology into an already recognized platform. Redesigned three years ago, the Camry sedan, which receives a new grille, headlights, taillights and bumpers for 2010, is loosely based on the full-size Avalon platform and that of course means plenty of room, comfort and solid construction quality.