Used 2004 Toyota Prius
Edmunds' Expert Review
The 2004 Toyota Prius is a full-featured midsize family sedan that just happens to be the most fuel-efficient and earth-friendly sedan on the market as well. The fact that it starts at just $20K makes it all the more attractive.
The Prius wasn't the first hybrid car on the market, but with four doors, a sizable trunk and room for four, it was the first such vehicle to offer the practicality of a typical economy car along with the outstanding fuel mileage of a hybrid. The second-generation model delivers all that and more, with an even larger interior, hatchback utility, new interior features and a hybrid drivetrain that's more powerful and cleaner than the previous version. For the uninitiated, a hybrid drivetrain uses a small gasoline engine in conjunction with an electric motor to provide power while keeping emissions and fuel usage to a minimum. Under full acceleration, both motors work together to provide maximum power, but under lighter load conditions, such as stop-and-go traffic, the Prius alternates between the two, oftentimes running purely on battery power alone. A regenerative braking system converts energy normally lost as heat into electricity to charge the car's batteries, so the Prius never has to be plugged in. A dashboard monitor allows you to see which engine is doing the work, and how much energy is being used at any given time, among other things. Toyota calls the Prius' latest drivetrain a Hybrid Synergy Drive. Although it works in much the same way as the first-generation model, it delivers considerably more power with fewer emissions. Toyota claims that its exhaust emissions have been reduced by 30 percent over the previous model, allowing it to earn both SULEV (Super Ultra Low-Emission Vehicle) and PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) ratings. With a combined city/highway rating of 55 miles to the gallon, the 2004 Toyota Prius is the most economical midsize sedan on the road. Despite its miserly fuel ratings, the Prius can still accelerate to 60 mph in a respectable 10 seconds. Apart from its high-tech drivetrain, the Prius offers comfortable accommodations for four adults. It's a little smaller than most midsize sedans, but even taller passengers have enough room in the rear seats. Improved interior materials and a unique design give the cabin an alternative look and feel, but all the features you would expect are there. Newly available options include a keyless ignition system, a DVD-based navigation system and xenon headlights. Its hatchback design makes loading larger items into the cargo a snap, and with 16.1 cubic feet of space, there's nearly as much room in the trunk as in a Camry. Unlike the original version that was more science experiment than economy car, the all-new Prius is a legitimate family sedan that offers everything you would expect -- like solid build quality and refinement -- and a few things you don't -- like a base price of just $20,000. Add in the eye-popping mileage and long list of standard features, and it's easy to see why the 2004 Toyota Prius will be one of the most talked about cars of the year.
Trim levels & features
The 2004 Toyota Prius is available as a four-door hatchback only. There is only one well-appointed trim level, but several new options are available. The standard features list includes power windows, locks and mirrors; air conditioning; a tilt steering wheel with satellite audio and climate controls; a six-speaker CD stereo; cruise control; trip computer; and 15-inch aluminum wheels. Options like a DVD-based navigation system, Bluetooth hands-free phone technology, keyless entry and ignition and a JBL premium audio system with a six-disc CD changer are also available, along with an auto-dimming mirror, rear wiper and xenon headlights.
Performance & mpg
There is only one engine and transmission combination available. The Hybrid Synergy Drive power plant consists of a 1.5-liter gasoline engine and a single electric drive motor. The gas engine produces 76 horsepower and 82 pound-feet of torque while the electric motor generates the equivalent of 67 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. An electronically controlled continuously variable transmission is standard on all models. Toyota claims a 0-to-60 time of 10 seconds and mileage ratings of 60 city/50 highway due to the car's improved efficiency during low-speed operation.
All models come standard with four-wheel antilock brakes, multistage driver and front passenger airbags and traction control. Electronic stability control and side-impact/side-curtain airbags are optional.
As you might expect, the 2004 Toyota Prius is no speed demon, but when it comes to the kind of daily driving that most drivers encounter, there's more than enough power to get around. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) takes some getting used to since it doesn't use traditional gears, but it does make the best use of the hybrid drivetrain's power. Cabin noise is minimal and the suspension is comfortably soft without feeling too floaty. The lightweight body doesn't feel as rock solid as a Camry, and the driving position can be a bit awkward for some, but the overall comfort level is comparable to most other sedans in its class.
Many of the design cues found in the original Prius have been carried over, but the overall look is more upscale than before. Materials quality has been improved and the addition of metallic accents on the vents, center console and doors brightens things up a little. The gauge cluster is still positioned toward the center of the dashboard, but the display is now larger for easier viewing. The optional DVD navigation system is not only Toyota's most comprehensive system ever, it can be voice operated as well. Another option, the Smart Entry and Start system, unlocks the car when it senses the transmitter in your pocket. Once inside, you merely press the start button and you're off.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
Try to forget for a minute all your preconceptions about electric cars, alternative fuel vehicles and anything else that uses giant electric plugs or joystick steering levers. The 2004 Prius is a real car for real people, and although the previous version became a status symbol for environmentally conscious Hollywood superstars, the second-generation model is just as capable of scoring points with middle-class families from the Midwest.
What is it about the all-new version that transforms it from high-tech curiosity into a mainstream family sedan? Size for one, as the Prius has moved up from its former compact classification to official midsize status. Power is another, with an all-new drive system that offers quicker acceleration along with even greater efficiency. And finally, features, as the options list has grown to include items like a DVD-based navigation system, xenon headlights and even a keyless entry and start system.
More importantly, despite all the improvements, the Prius still carries a base price of just $20,000 a bottom line that makes it as attractive for its price as it is for its technology.
Introduced to the U.S. market three years ago, the 2001 Prius wasn't the first hybrid vehicle on the market, but with four doors, a reasonable amount of passenger and cargo space and as much as 52 miles to the gallon in the city, it didn't take long for it to become the most popular. By combining the practicality of a small gasoline engine with the efficiency and cleanliness of an electric motor, the Prius' hybrid power plant not only offered excellent mileage and clean emissions, it never needed to be plugged in.
The 2004 Prius builds on the previous system with its new Hybrid Synergy Drive. Toyota boasts that the new power plant is a "full hybrid system" that can run solely on electricity, gas or a combination of both. Its 1.5-liter gas engine produces 76 horsepower, up six from before, and 82 pound-feet of torque. The electric motor is also more powerful, generating the equivalent of 67 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, up 23 and 37 notches, respectively.
Such meager numbers might seem unimpressive for a midsize sedan, but with the Prius' lightweight and slippery shape, it feels more powerful than the numbers would suggest. Toyota claims that its hybrid's 0-to-60-mph time has dropped from 12.7 seconds to a more respectable 10 seconds, on par with most four-cylinder sedans. Out on the road, it's hesitant from a stop, but once it begins to build speed, there's plenty of midrange power. It's not quick by any means, but unlike the previous version, you're not reminded of the fact that you're driving a hybrid vehicle every time you step on the gas.
Even more impressive is the fact that although the Prius delivers much improved acceleration, its EPA mileage figures have been improved as well. With a combined city/highway rating of 55 miles to the gallon, the Prius is not just the most economical midsize sedan it's one of the most economical cars on the road, period. Toyota also claims that its exhaust emissions have been reduced by 30 percent over the previous model earning it both SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle) and PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) ratings.
None of these stats would be as impressive, however, if the car itself wasn't a practical everyday vehicle. Although the original Prius offered adequate space compared to most compact sedans, with a price that was several thousand dollars more, you were paying for the privilege of its economy. Now longer, wider and taller, the second-generation model offers more space in every direction. It's still not as big as a Camry, but two adults can sit comfortably in back.
Many of the design cues found in the original version have been carried over, but the overall look is more upscale than before. Materials quality has been improved, and the addition of metallic accents on the vents, center console and doors brightens things up a little. The gauge cluster is still positioned toward the center of the dashboard, but the display is now larger for easier viewing. In place of the ungainly column shifter used in the previous version, the latest Prius sports a smaller, easier-to-manipulate lever just to the right of the steering wheel.
Instead of a traditional twist-and-turn ignition key, the Prius uses a newfangled fob that merely slides into the dashboard as a signal to the car's computer to get ready to go. You then hit the "start" button, wait for the cadre of computer control units to spring to life, and then go. To up the Jetsons factor even more, there's also an optional keyless system. Just keep the fob in your pocket or purse, and when you lift the door handle the car automatically unlocks. To start the car, you just get in and push the start button as the computer automatically senses the presence of the fob without your ever having to pull it out.
Once activated, there's no hum from the engine or any other sign that the car is running, but press the accelerator, and it takes off with a quiet murmur that grows into a moderate buzz once the small four-cylinder gas engine kicks in. With little engine noise and a soft, forgiving suspension, the Prius feels refined beyond its budget sticker price. The standard continuously variable transmission (CVT) has no gears, so choices are limited to forward, reverse and neutral. A BrakeAssist feature is also available for keeping your speed down on long descents.
As in the previous version, an information display in the center of the dash can be toggled to show either a pictogram of the power flow between the two engines, or more detailed numerical charts if that's what you're into. The screen also serves as the interface for the climate controls, a setup that usually makes for overly complicated operation, but in this case it's straightforward enough not to be annoying. Also included are standard steering wheel satellite controls that allow you to bypass the screen entirely when adjusting either the radio or the climate control system. A newly available DVD-based navigation system also makes use of the screen should you check it off the options list, and like all Toyota nav systems, it's easy to use at a glance.
Other options include a premium JBL audio system, satellite radio, high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an alarm system. For added safety, you have the option of adding side airbags for front occupants, head curtain airbags that cover the front and rear and a Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system. All models come standard with antilock brakes, a tire-pressure warning system and traction control.
The '04 Prius' larger exterior dimensions translate directly into a more spacious interior, with more room for the driver and passengers in almost every direction. Although legroom up front has been reduced by just over an inch, there's still enough room for drivers over six feet tall to get comfortable. The steering wheel position takes some getting used to and the seats could use better contouring, but considering the car's modest price, there's not much to complain about.
Additional leg- and shoulder room in back make the Prius a legitimate four-person car, but headroom is still tight for taller passengers. Not only has cargo space increased to a more Camry-like 16.1 cubic feet, it's easier to access thanks to the Prius' new hatchback design. Fold the rear seats and there's plenty of room to haul bulky items that would otherwise never fit into the trunk of a traditional sedan.
Hatchback practicality is just another reason why the Prius is more than just a green machine with funky styling. If you want nothing more than an inexpensive, well-built sedan to cart the family around, the Prius would serve you well. The fact that it also gets incredible mileage while generating significantly lower emissions than any other car on the road makes it all the more appealing. Throw in traditional Toyota build quality, a sharp-looking interior and the pseudo-celebrity status you'll get just for driving one, and the Prius is one high-tech hybrid anybody could love.
Used 2004 Toyota Prius Overview
The Used 2004 Toyota Prius is offered in the following submodels: . Available styles include , and 4dr Hatchback (1.5L 4cyl CVT).
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Should I lease or buy a 2004 Toyota Prius?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.