As with many of Toyota's vehicles, the Prius (from the Latin "to go before") has become a standard-bearer in its segment. While many automakers' hybrid models are still in their nascent stages, Toyota's Prius is already well into its third generation. This four-door hatchback hybrid has become a hit with consumers because of its stellar fuel economy, spacious cabin, relatively uncompromised driving characteristics and reasonable price.
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. Pleasingly, Toyota's solid reputation for reliability and durability is holding true for the Prius. 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
In its first decade of production, the compact Prius hatchback was the sole version available. But now, a subcompact Prius C, a larger Prius V wagon and a plug-in variant of the standard Prius are offered (and covered in separate reviews). With the introduction of these newer models, the standard Prius is often referred to as the Prius hatchback or liftback.
The Toyota Prius' hybrid powertrain consists of a 1.8-liter gasoline engine that's used in conjunction with two electric motors and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Total system power is 134 horsepower, and fuel economy rates an impressive 50 mpg combined.
There are four Prius trim levels: Two, Three, Four and Five. Standard feature highlights for the Prius Two include keyless ignition/entry, automatic climate control, Bluetooth, a touchscreen interface and an iPod/USB audio interface. The Three adds a rearview camera, Toyota's Entune smartphone integration system and a navigation system. The Four gains a power driver seat, heated front seats, faux leather upholstery and an upgraded stereo. The Five has larger alloy wheels and advanced LED headlamps. Options vary depending on trim level, but include a solar-powered ventilation system, an aerodynamic body kit, a sport-tuned suspension, a head-up display, an upgraded navigation system, adaptive cruise control and a lane-departure warning system.
Under full acceleration, both gasoline and electric power sources work together to provide maximum propulsion. In stop-and-go traffic, the Prius usually runs on battery power alone, which maximizes fuel economy. Under deceleration, the electric motors switch to generator mode, recharging the car's batteries. As expected, performance is far from exciting, but adequate for passing and merging onto highways. The Prius' space-efficient hatchback body provides a surprisingly roomy backseat and cargo area, making it a plausible replacement for a family sedan or compact SUV. The Prius' main downsides are a potentially uncomfortable driving position for taller drivers, excessive road noise and disappointing interior materials quality.
Read the most recent 2014 Toyota Prius review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Toyota Prius page.