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 on its third generation. 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.
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
In its first decade of production, the Prius hatchback was the sole body style available, but now, a larger Prius V wagon, a compact Prius C and a plug-in variant are offered (and covered in separate reviews). With the introduction of these newer models, the standard Prius is referred to as the Prius liftback. Despite the name change, it remains a four-door hatchback that seats five people.
The Toyota Prius' 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. Of course the Prius' real bright spot is its impressive fuel economy, which comes in at an EPA-estimated 51 mpg city/48 highway and 50 mpg combined.
Shoppers have a choice of 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 Prius Three adds a rearview camera, Toyota's Entune system and a navigation system. The Prius Four gains a power driver seat, heated front seats, faux leather upholstery and an upgraded stereo. The Prius 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 alternates between the two, often running on battery power alone. This maximizes the car's fuel economy potential. Under deceleration, the electric motors switch to generator mode, recharging the car's batteries. With such a focus on fuel economy, performance is far short of exciting, but power is adequate for merging onto highways. On the inside, the Prius' 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. The main downsides to the Prius are an uncomfortable driving position for taller drivers and disappointing interior material quality.
Read the most recent 2014 Toyota Prius review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Toyota Prius page.