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 second 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.
The current and second-generation Toyota Prius was introduced for the 2004 model year. It features a four-door hatchback body and can seat up to five people. The car's hybrid powertrain features a small 1.5-liter gasoline-fueled engine that's used in conjunction with two electric motors and a special planetary gearset that functions as a continuously variable transmission. The result is adequate power, high fuel economy and reduced tailpipe emissions.
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. A regenerative braking system converts energy normally lost as heat into electricity to charge the car's battery pack. The gas engine produces 76 horsepower and 82 pound-feet of torque, while the electric motors generate the equivalent of 67 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque.
In most other ways, the Toyota Prius functions like a regular family car. The interior is comfortable for four adults and comes standard with most modern convenience features. On the Prius's dash, there's an information display that can be used to show the operational status of the hybrid system. The vehicle's hatchback design provides extra versatility in terms of carrying items, and the rear seat can be lowered flat.
The 2009 Toyota Prius is an impressive technological feat. It offers much better fuel economy than conventional cars and radically less environmental impact. We wouldn't have expected the pairing a small gas engine with a battery-powered motor to create a social phenomenon, but that's what the Prius has done, and it continues to be in demand.
The Prius is the best-selling gas-electric hybrid in the United States and in the world. Toyota sold just 5,600 in 2001, but annual sales expanded to 54,000 in 2004 and 108,000 in 2005. Sales for the first quarter of 2008 were up from the same period in 2007.
Introduced as a 2001 model, the Prius was redesigned for 2004 and updated for 2006. The 2008 Prius gets some new options, notably leather upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
We find the Prius to be a comfortable car that's easy to like and live with. It's roomy, with adult-size back seats and lots of cargo space. It's pleasant to look at, with sleek, futuristic styling, easy to spot in a parking lot. In short, we like the Prius.
The EPA ratings for the 2008 Prius are 48 mpg City, 45 mpg Highway, and we're guessing everyday fuel economy for most owners should fall somewhere between 40 and 50 mpg.
While the Prius excels at fuel economy, its performance in terms of emissions is even better. Prius is certified as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV); meaning that it meets the Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) exhaust standard; plus a zero evaporative emissions standard, a 150,000-mile durability demonstration, and an extended emissions system warranty. That makes the Prius an excellent choice for buyers who want to reduce air pollution and America's dependence on oil. The Prius isn't cheap, but it costs less than a lot of other vehicles that are commonly promoted as family transportation.
It's important to understand that the Prius is not an electric car. You never plug it in. And there's no worry about driving beyond the range of the battery. A small, highly efficient four-cylinder gasoline engine charges the battery as you drive. No special knowledge is needed to drive the Prius. It works just like a regular car: You get in, you twist the key, you put the lever in Drive and you go. When it gets low on gas, you fill it up. The test procedure used until recently by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency exaggerated the fuel efficiency of all hybrids, but the EPA has revised its test procedures to more closely simulate modern driving habits.