2004 Toyota Prius Long-Term Road Test - Interior

2004 Toyota Prius Long-Term Road Test

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2004 Toyota Prius: Deal Breaker No More

November 09, 2010

Arm rest of Prius After Cleaning.jpg

Scott Jacobs wrote a hilarious blog post about how the armrest in the 2004 Toyota Prius reminded him of a couch his college roommate had that they had nicknamed the "deal breaker." If a woman came to visit them, and had to sit on the couch, she would never come back. The armrest of the Prius was like that for me. It was the first thing I saw when I opened the door to get in. Looking at the evil, dark stains I imagined it was emitting the foul odors some editors had remarked on. After months of shrinking from contact with the armrest I snapped into action.

I took the Prius to our local car wash and asked about shampooing the interior. They said it would cost a hundred big ones and take an hour. I didn't have the money or the time so I let them do their usual vacuum and wash. While I was waiting for it to be scrubbed, I browsed the car care products and my eyes fell on a can of foam upholstery shampoo. The advertising said it could be used on "the toughest stains." But it didn't say anything about deal breakers.

On my way back to the office from the car wash I pulled to the curb and hosed the armrest with foam. It was like I was trying to extinguish a flaming jetliner on an airport runway. Foam went everywhere, billowing like cumulonimbus clouds. I scrubbed the arm rest with the brush built into the top of the can. Inky rivulets of grime steamed off the arm rest and down the door panel. I blotted the mess with tissues I found in the backseat. I kept foaming and blotting. The next day, I did it again.

I can't tell you how satisfying it was to have it dry, fluffy and fragrant. I kept looking at the before picture to remind myself of how far it had come. I still think it seems impossible that it could have come back from the dead like that.

Philip Reed, Edmunds.com Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 86,740 miles

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2004 Toyota Prius: Big Digital Speedo

October 27, 2010

Toyota Prius Speedo.jpg

Our long-term(!!) 2004 Toyota Prius has a big digital speedo. Although it's better for elderly people who have trouble reading small fonts with a short focal length, the size and focal length of the speedo is good for everybody. (Yes, the lens of the display appears to have been cleaned with a shop rag or some steel wool.)

The digital speedo is also good for knowing your exact speed. Yeah, I know enthusiasts are supposed to like analog speedos and tachs, so you can see the relative position of the pointer.

But did you know that most modern sportbikes have digital speedos (usually combined with analog tachs)? It's definitely easier to quickly know your exact speed. I really like this setup on motorbikes.

It's not bad on the Prius either.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 86,200 miles

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2004 Toyota Prius: "B" Is For Bad

October 19, 2010


A lot of people wonder what the deal is with the "B" position on the shifter of the 2004 Toyota Prius (and most other Toyota Hybrids). Some people figure that B increases the level of regenerative braking and plows more juice into the battery.

Not so fast. Turns out the opposite is true.

Compared to coasting in plain-old D, engine speed goes up in B to provide more genuine engine braking. RPMs increase in this mode, just as they would if you had downshifted a regular transmission, with the drag coming from the engine pumping air through itself while the fuel injectors sit dormant. But the Prius planetary transmission's gear ratio regulating element, electric motor-generator MG1, has to expend some battery energy to command the engine's crankshaft speed up to create this extra drag.

It gets worse. Engine braking represents a lost opportunity for the electrical regenerative braking system, the system by which all hybrids collect most (and in some cases all) of the electricity that makes them hybrids in the first place. The mechanical engine pumping losses that are engine braking could and should be avoided so they can go through the regenerative path to the battery instead. But the use of B robs the charging system of this chance and, ultimately, robs your wallet in the form of lost mpg.

In a regular car it would be madness to tell someone they should use the brakes to slow the car when going downhill, but here in the Prius, a so-called "strong" hybrid with sizable electric motors, that's oftentimes better for efficiency and no serious threat to the integrity of your regular friction brakes.

That's because the regenerative braking system in a strong hybrid can develop a significant amount of slowing by using the electric motor as a generator. In the 2010 and 2011 Gen 3 Toyota Prius, for example, the regen system can produce decelerations of up to 0.6g. Our somewhat less-efficient Gen 2 Prius (rated at 46 mpg combined instead of 50 mpg for the Gen 3) doesn't do quite as well in this regard, but the regen braking effect it can produce is still significant.

Need perspective? Most normal stops are made at 0.2 to 0.3g. Impatient folk stop at 0.4g or so. You might touch 0.6g if you get surprised by a yellow light. Unless your license has several points on it, over 90% of your braking occurs below 0.6g.

Unless the grade is very steep or very long, the foot braking mode you'll be in on a downgrade will be an electronic one, with your battery as benefactor. Your brake pads and rotors can't overheat if they're not being asked to do much.

Fun fact: our 2004 Prius has over 85,000 miles on the clock. The original brake pads still have some meat left and the rotors still look good and run true. That's regenerative braking for you.

But you can overdo it. The battery in a Prius can only hold so much, and a long grade can top it fully, at which time the computer begins to rely more heavily on the friction brakes. Keep one eye on your battery monitor and shift into B if there's still grade remaining when the gauge reads full.

Of course fully electric cars have no possibility of engine braking, so this B mode discussion is a moot point. But their batteries and electric motors are so large that they can soak up just about everything the longest grade can throw at them.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 85,354 miles

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2004 Toyota Prius: Hot, Hot, Heat

September 27, 2010


I try not to double-up on same-car posts in one day, but I had to share this picture of the outside temperature gauge in our 2004 Toyota Prius.

It ain't kidding. Rght now, here in Yorba Linda, California, 16 miles inland from the Pacific, it is 106 degrees F outside. The weather service is predicting a high of 108 degrees.

At least the electrically-driven AC compressor starts off strong and begins pumping cold air almost immediately after I press the "Power" button to start the car.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2004 Toyota Prius: Soap and Water

September 23, 2010

arm rest 001.jpg

My roommate in college had a denim couch that he absolutely loved, but the rest of us hated. It had a sickening dark sheen to it from plenty of pizza grease, cigarette ash and spilt beer. We nicknamed it "Deal Breaker" because its vile presence would horrify any woman that came to our apartment.

After a few weeks and 10k+ miles in the Mojave, the Prius has become the new "Deal Breaker." The combination of dirt and sunscreen has made the drivers side arm rest akin to that damned couch. When I drove the Prius, I made sure my skin and clothing did not touch the armrest.

I think it's time for a thorough cleaning.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

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2004 Toyota Prius: Full-Fledged Freak Out

June 28, 2010


This array of dash lights appeared on our Prius yesterday while driving on the freeway. No obvious trigger incident occurred.

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2004 Toyota Prius: How Long Should a Seat Last?

June 14, 2010


I've been driving our long-term Toyota Prius quite a bit lately, and I can't shake the feeling that the driver's seat isn't as comfortable as it used to be. I start getting fidgety after 30 minutes or so, and get out after an hour with a stiff lower back.

From the photo alone, you can tell the Prius' interior has taken somewhat of a beating, but is the seat cushion really wearing down after 70,000 miles, or am I just getting old?

Wait, don't answer that.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 70,188 miles

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2004 Toyota Prius: Stop Beeping!!!

June 07, 2010

Beeping, plus commentary/enraged ranting. Why did someone think the Prius was the only car that needed this?

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 66,815 miles

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2004 Toyota Prius: Storage Galore

June 04, 2010

prius storage galore.jpg

The second-generation Prius has some of the most plentiful and useful storage areas of any car. The center armrest bin is absolutely enormous, the cupholders are generously sized and fold away nicely, and that hidden center compartment is perfect for an iPod (and a left-over taco as I discovered last night). You also get that split-level glovebox, in addition to a pretty useful hatchback trunk.

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2004 Toyota Prius: Unintended Rattleation Fixed!

June 02, 2010

Toyota Prius dash top speaker fixed.jpg

What, did you expect me to rip the dash apart and fit some sort of apoxy to the grand widget of the speaker's watchamadoo? Um, no. I went down to the video/photo department, grabbed some tasteful black gaffer's tape and went at it. I could trim the nearest corner a bit, but given that the speaker points away from the driver toward the windshield (how is that good for sound quality I wonder?) you can't really see my handywork. Perhaps we'll get it fixed for real someday ... say in 2016 when we finally get around to selling the Prius.

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2004 Toyota Prius: Unintended Rattleation

June 01, 2010

Toyota Prius dash top speaker.jpg

The elderly Prius is emanating a horrible, hollow, plastic-on-plastic rattle over broken pavement. I'm sick of it; it's driving me nuts. Luckily, I've been able to figure out it's coming from the dashtop center-channel speaker. As such, I'm going to fix it. More on that tomorrow.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 69,663 miles

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2004 Toyota Prius: Play That Funky Old School Music, Hybrid

May 07, 2010


A month or so ago, I mentioned that our Prius felt a little old school because it didn't have a rear backup camera. Well, I still feel that way, but there is something else that really drives the point home.

Yes, our Prius has a tape deck. A full logic control tape deck at that. You probably don't even know what that means do you? Well, I remember, sort of, but I don't usually give that information out freely.

It does bring up another question though. How soon before cars don't even have CD players? Seems like every new car has an auxiliary jack at the very least, if not a dedicated iPod connection of USB port.

I bet most interior designers would be glad to get rid of that big, wide slot that takes up so much dashboard real estate. What do you think? 5 years, 10 years?

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 68,234 miles

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