Toyota Prius Snow Driving

prius-snow.JPGTomorrow is the first official day of winter but somebody forget to tell Mother Nature. Here in the Midwest, we’ve already seen over 17 inches of snow. That is more than half of our average annual snowfall (32″ where I live) and it seems we are just getting started. For the past few years, I’ve owned several different all-wheel drive sport utility vehicles during the winter driving season, but with the purchase of a 2010 Toyota Prius this past summer - I’m now getting used to driving a front-wheel drive car again.

Many of you who live on the East Coast are also relearning how to drive on snow and ice. With this weekend’s snowstorm dumping 10 to 20 plus inches in Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and surrounding states - road conditions are poor at best. And with well over a million Toyota Prius on U.S. roadways, I have lots of company sharing my hybrid driving experience.

I’ll admit that I debated even buying a new Prius because I wasn’t sure how it would handle the snowy roads, but it had nothing to do with it being a hybrid-electric vehicle. My concern was mainly about moving from a 4 wheel drive truck with 10″ of ground clearance to a 2 wheel drive car with about 5″. Right before the blizzard hit, I decided to do a few online searches to see what others were saying. That’s when I discovered there is a lot of debate surrounding how the Prius does in snow and in cold weather driving.

On sites like and, most of the negative comments center around poor traction from the Prius’ stock (factory OEM) tires, a big drop in fuel economy, and issues with the traction control reportedly causing the Prius to stop on slippery hills. Comments are all over the board, ranging from those who claim the Prius is one of the best FWD small cars they have driven in snow to those who say it’s nearly useless. The majority of people commenting on these forums own a second generation Prius (2004-2009 model years) but my guess is the ride is similar in the 2010 Prius 3.

Although I have less than 2 weeks of experience driving my Prius in the snow, I’ve been impressed with how well it’s done so far. I don’t see any major traction issues yet, but I haven’t had to climb any large hills either. Most of my winter driving with the Prius has been in town as well. What I have noticed more than anything is the big change in gas mileage. For the first 10,000 miles I averaged 50 m.p.g. in my 3rd generation Prius. Driving on snow and in temperatures ranging from zero to 32 degrees (Fahrenheit), I am averaging only 37 miles per gallon. Again, some of that has to do with the fact that I haven’t been on the highway during this time, but it is still about 10 mpg less than what I got during the summer and fall. From what I’ve read, a 20% drop in fuel economy is normal for most cars under these driving conditions.

If you own a Prius, we’d love to hear how yours handles in the snow!

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