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As with many of Toyota’s vehicles, the Prius has become a standard-bearer in its segment. While many automakers have yet to even develop a gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle, Toyota is already on its third generation of the Prius. This four-door hybrid has become a hit with consumers because of its stellar fuel economy, relatively uncompromised driving and acceleration characteristics and reasonable price.
The Toyota Prius (its name comes from Latin and means “to go before”) exists as a partial solution to the automobile’s problem of tailpipe emissions. The Prius, like other hybrid vehicles, has a special powertrain that combines a gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine with an electric motor. This powertrain, along with other advanced features, allows the Prius to deliver higher fuel economy and lower emissions compared to regular cars.
Due to its popularity and relatively long sales history, Toyota’s original hybrid car is a strong candidate for a shopper interested in a used hybrid vehicle. So far, it seems Toyota’s reputation for reliability and durability is holding true for the Prius. Early concerns about long-term durability have turned out to be mostly unfounded. However, potential buyers of a used Prius should take extra care during the research process. As the Toyota Prius is quite complex, future repairs and part replacements could be quite expensive.
Current Toyota Prius
The Toyota Prius was completely redesigned for 2010. However, it remains a four-door hatchback that seats five people. The car’s hybrid powertrain consists of a 1.8-liter gasoline engine that produces 98 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque that’s used in conjunction with two electric motors and a special planetary gearset that functions as a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Total system power is 134 hp.
Under full acceleration, both power sources work together to provide maximum oomph. But under lighter load conditions such as stop-and-go traffic, the Prius alternates between the two, often running on battery power alone. This maximizes the car’s fuel economy potential. A regenerative braking system converts energy normally lost as heat into electricity to charge the car’s battery pack. The current powertrain is a little more robust on the highway than the previous-generation car, although not really any quicker away from a traffic light. It is more fuel-efficient, however, with an EPA combined fuel economy estimate of 50 mpg — which is tops in the hybrid game.
Other changes for this new model include a more sculpted take on the iconic hybrid shape established by its predecessor. The interior was given a more radical overhaul, with a more conventional center control stack than the old car. The hybrid system display now resides high up on the dash next to the digital speedometer, while stereo and climate controls are laid out in a traditional manner with physical buttons rather than a touchscreen (which reappears if you order the optional navigation system). The result is a car that’s easier to acclimate to. It’s also a bit more comfortable for taller drivers, thanks to a height-adjustable seat and a telescoping steering wheel.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the Prius’ superb interior packaging, which helps extends the car’s appeal beyond simple fuel efficiency. Its hatchback body style allows for an impressive amount of cargo to be lugged around, while a surprisingly commodious backseat makes it a plausible replacement for a family sedan or compact SUV.
In reviews, we’ve found the current Toyota Prius to build upon its revolutionary predecessor’s successful formula of fuel efficiency and versatility. It’s now a more normal car to drive and use, making it easier to transition from a traditional car. While Honda’s less expensive but smaller Insight is worth a test-drive, those looking for a hybrid should still start their search with the Toyota Prius.
Used Toyota Prius Models
The second-generation Toyota Prius was produced for the 2004-’09 model years. It sat five people in a four-door hatchback body that provided extra versatility in terms of carrying items. This Prius’ hybrid powertrain was the same in concept as the current third-generation model, but it featured a smaller, 1.5-liter gasoline engine that produced 76 horsepower and 82 pound-feet of torque. With the electric motor spinning out power, peak net hp was 110.
Aside from its hybrid system upgrades, most buyers will find the interior to be the biggest area of difference between the second-generation model and the current Prius. The dashboard and controls were unconventional and futuristic, with stereo, climate, vehicle system and optional navigation controls residing in a touchscreen interface. There were steering wheel buttons for frequently used items, but ultimately, too much was put under the jurisdiction of the touchscreen (which could wash out in sunlight). The odd gear-selector action of today’s Prius was carried over from this generation, but then it was mounted on the dash. Another important difference to note is the lack of a telescoping steering wheel and height adjustment, making for an even more awkward driving position for taller people.
During its successful tenure in Toyota’s lineup, this second-generation Prius received minor changes. For 2006, a back-up camera, leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel and an auxiliary audio jack were added to the options list. A Prius Touring model was added the following year with a slightly firmer “sport” suspension, different 16-inch alloy wheels, a larger rear lip spoiler and several optional items. Side and side curtain airbags also became standard across the board. A “standard” trim level, which lacks cruise control and heated mirrors but in exchange had a significantly lower base price, was added for 2008.
In reviews of the Toyota Prius, our editors have cited outstanding mileage, ultralow emissions, hatchback utility and a reasonable price as the car’s greatest strengths. Downsides include soft handling characteristics at highway speeds and, compared to regular midsize sedans, unimpressive maximum acceleration. Most Prius owners say their cars typically achieve real-world mpg ratings in the mid-40s.
The original Prius debuted in the North American market for the 2001 model year. However, Toyota had been selling it in Japan since 1997. This model was the second hybrid vehicle available to U.S. consumers after the Honda Insight. In just about every aspect, the original Prius has been eclipsed by the second-generation car. The first-generation Toyota is slower, smaller and not as comfortable. But this in no way means that it is to be avoided. For a consumer interested in a used and affordable hybrid vehicle, this first-gen Toyota Prius could be a smart choice.
Though less advanced than those in the newer generations, the older Prius’ powertrain still paired a gasoline engine with an electric motor. Its 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine made 70 hp at 4,500 rpm and 82 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm. The electric drive motor was worth another 44 peak hp.
Selecting a used Prius based on year shouldn’t be too difficult. Models built for 2002 and ’03 might have more of a draw, as it was then that Toyota started to offer additional optional features, such as a navigation system, side airbags and cruise control. Most first-generation owners seem quite happy with their cars and overall reliability has been very good.
Toyota Prius PLUS at the Geneva Motor Show 2011
Toyota Prius Alpha 2011
Toyota Prius: Intelligent Parking Assist
Toyota Prius – interior design, detailing and features
Toyota Prius: Audio System
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