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Toyota Prius safety features are advancing by leaps and bounds

Car Talk

Dear Car Talk:

I have a basic 2006 Prius that I bought new. It replaced a 1998 Corolla. How do the advancements in safety features between those two vehicles compare to the advancements between the 2006 Prius and a basic 2021 Prius? — Vic

Night and day, Vic.

Your ‘98 Corolla had two airbags, and seatbelts with pre-tensioners. That was pretty basic. Antilock brakes were optional, as were side airbags. And given your “frugality” profile, I’m guessing you didn’t have those. Other than that, the most important safety feature on the 1998 Corolla was probably the rear window defroster.

Your 2006 Prius is safer. ABS was standard, so you have that. They added side-impact bars to the doors, which help. But side airbags and electronic stability control were optional. And since you say you have a “basic” Prius, I’m guessing you didn’t spring for those.

Cut to 2021, and it’s a whole new world. Electronic stability control is standard, and there are now some 10 airbags. You get side impact airbags — front and rear — side curtain airbags to protect your head and the driver even gets a knee airbag, in case you’re still hoping for a career in soccer, Vic.

But the biggest safety advances are electronic. The 2021 Prius comes with what Toyota calls their Safety Sense package. That includes automatic emergency braking. So if you’re distracted watching your mileage tick from 53.4 to 53.5 and don’t see a car stop in front of you, the Prius will warn you to brake and will even brake for you if you don’t react in time. The system senses pedestrians, too. The 2021 Prius warns you if you start to drift out of your lane on the highway, and even nudges you back into it.

It alerts you when someone is driving in your blind spot, so you don’t change lanes into a Tombstone Pizza truck. It has a backup camera, and it warns you if a car is coming down the street from either direction as you’re backing out of your driveway. It also has a head-up display, which projects your vehicle speed through the windshield, so the information appears to be floating at the end of your hood. That allows you to know how fast you’re going

(and see your GPS turn directions) without ever taking your eyes off the road.

There’s really been a revolution in the last, I’d say, five years or so as this equipment — which is all based on self-driving car technology — has worked its way down from expensive cars to more common cars. And these systems are definitely saving both lives and sheet metal.

So if you have a car that’s 5 or 10 years old, or more, and you’re on the fence about whether to get a new one, you can get a huge upgrade in safety if you buy a car now. Check to be sure all of the crucial stuff (all the stuff we list above) comes standard on the car you want. Or, if any of it is optional, make sure the car you buy has it.

But it’s night and day from 2006 to 2021. Not to mention the extra 6 miles per gallon. Oh, now you’re interested, Vic!

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Got a question about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.

(c) 2021 by Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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