Used 2006 Toyota Prius Review
The Toyota Prius wasn't the first hybrid car on the market in the U.S., 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, introduced in 2004, delivers all that and more, with an even larger interior, hatchback utility and a hybrid drivetrain that's more powerful and cleaner than the previous version.
For the uninitiated, a hybrid drivetrain typically 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 power sources work together to provide maximum oomph, but under lighter load conditions, such as stop-and-go traffic, the Toyota 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. Although the current powertrain 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. Although the Toyota car is rated to get combined city/highway mileage of 55 miles to the gallon by the EPA, our experience has shown that its real-world mileage is about 45 mpg.
Apart from its high-tech drivetrain, the 2006 Toyota Prius offers comfortable accommodations for four adults. It's a little smaller than most midsize sedans, but even tall passengers have enough room in the rear seats. Top-notch interior materials and a unique design give the cabin an alternative look and feel, but all the amenities you would expect are there. The Prius features an innovative automatic climate control system that runs entirely on electricity. This means the A/C will continue to cool even when the gas engine is not running, such as at a stoplight. It also features a humidity sensor and smart programming so the A/C compressor runs only when it is necessary. The benefit is that you can leave it in auto-mode year round without worry of wasting any energy. The Prius' hatchback design makes loading larger items into the cargo area a snap, and with 16.1 cubic feet of space, there's nearly as much room in the trunk as in a Camry.
The Prius hybrid is a legitimate family sedan that offers everything you would expect from a Toyota car -- like solid build quality and refinement -- and a few things you don't -- like a low base price. Add in the eye-popping mileage and long list of standard features, and it's easy to see why the 2006 Toyota Prius remains one of the most talked about cars available today.
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 two electric drive motor/generators. 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. Net horsepower is 110, mainly because the two power sources hit their peak at different times. Regardless, power delivery is smooth and consistent from rest all the way to top speed. The Toyota Prius features an elegantly simple continuously variable "transmission" of sorts, called a power split device. It provides the ease of a conventional automatic transmission, but there are no gears to shift, drive belts, torque converter or clutch. The motors work in concert with the gas engine, through a planetary gearset, to provide seamless power and maximum efficiency at all times. Fuel mileage is rated at 60 city and 51 highway, though real-world mileage is typically in the mid 40s.
All 2006 Toyota Prius models come standard with four-wheel antilock brakes with BrakeAssist and traction control. Electronic stability control and side-impact/side curtain airbags are optional. Government crash tests on the Toyota car resulted in a four-star (out of five) rating for everything but the driver in the frontal-impact test, which earned five stars. In IIHS testing, the Prius earned a top score of "Good" for its protection of occupants in frontal and side-impact crashes.
As you'd expect, the Toyota Prius is no speed demon (zero to 60 mph in about 10.4 seconds), 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 shift 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.
Materials quality is impressive, and the overall look is upscale. The gauge cluster is positioned toward the center of the dashboard, but the display is clear and easy to see. The optional touchscreen DVD-based navigation system features a backup camera display and can be voice-operated.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.