Overview & Reviews
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.
Used Toyota Prius Models
The current third-generation Toyota Prius debuted for 2010. Its general shape remained largely unchanged compared to the previous generation, though the sheet metal took on a more sculpted character. The interior received a more radical overhaul, with a more conventional center control stack and the hybrid system display relocated high on the dash. It's also a bit more comfortable for taller drivers, thanks to a height-adjustable seat and a telescoping steering wheel, though still not great. Changes have been very minor since. The pre-2012 models lack a few features offered on later versions such as power front seats and the Entune smartphone integration system.
The second-generation Toyota Prius was produced for the 2004-'09 model years. It sat five people in a four-door hatchback body that provided extra versatility in terms of carrying items. This Prius' hybrid powertrain was the same in concept as the current third-generation model, but it featured a smaller, 1.5-liter gasoline engine that produced 76 hp and 82 pound-feet of torque. With the electric motor spinning out power, peak net hp was 110.
Aside from its hybrid system upgrades, most buyers will find the interior to be the biggest area of difference between the second-generation model and the current Prius. The dashboard and controls were unconventional and futuristic, with stereo, climate, vehicle system and optional navigation controls residing in a touchscreen interface. There were steering wheel buttons for frequently used items, but ultimately, too much was put under the jurisdiction of the touchscreen (which could wash out in sunlight). The odd gear-selector action of today's Prius was carried over from this generation, but then it was mounted on the dash. Another important difference to note is the lack of a telescoping steering wheel and height adjustment, making for an even more awkward driving position for taller people.
During its successful tenure in Toyota's lineup, this second-generation Prius received minor changes. For 2006, a back-up camera, leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel and an auxiliary audio jack were added to the options list. A Prius Touring model was added the following year with a slightly firmer "sport" suspension, different 16-inch alloy wheels, a larger rear lip spoiler and several optional items. Side and side curtain airbags also became standard across the board. A "standard" trim level, which lacks cruise control and heated mirrors but in exchange had a significantly lower base price, was added for 2008.
In reviews of the Toyota Prius, our editors have cited outstanding mileage, ultralow emissions, hatchback utility and a reasonable price as the car's greatest strengths. Downsides include soft handling characteristics at highway speeds and, compared to regular midsize sedans, unimpressive maximum acceleration. Most Prius owners say their cars typically achieve real-world mpg ratings in the mid-40s.
The original Prius debuted in the North American market for the 2001 model year. However, Toyota had been selling it in Japan since 1997. This model was the second hybrid vehicle available to U.S. consumers after the Honda Insight. In just about every aspect, the original Prius has been eclipsed by the second-generation car. The first-generation Toyota is slower, smaller and not as comfortable.
Though less advanced than those in the newer generations, the older Prius' powertrain still paired a gasoline engine with an electric motor. Its 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine made 70 hp at 4,500 rpm and 82 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm. The electric drive motor was worth another 44 peak hp.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 2,454.00
Toyota prius nearing 500k miles - 2006 Toyota Prius
By JOSEPH S. - December 30 - 5:27 pm
I've owned a lot of cars. This prius is by far the most dependable, least amount of maintenance, and best mpg vehicle I've ever owned. I started using an oil additive after 200k miles and I'm currently at 492k miles. Still runs like the day I got it. My only issue is I'm getting tired of looking at it, but I refuse to buy a new prius till this engine quits.
Best car that Ive owned - 2005 Toyota Prius
By Richard Wolfe - December 29 - 9:53 pm
Its nice to drive by a gas station instead of driving in. Had car for over a year with no problems. Fun to drive with lots of room. We get 51 mpg going 70 mph on long trips.
Toyota Hits the Mark - 2006 Toyota Prius
By John - December 29 - 8:33 pm
Hands down the best car available. Toyota has really hit the mark with all of the fantastic state of the art features that this car contains. Well done!!! The touch screen display, 9 speaker 6 disc MP3 playing stereo, hands-free bluetooth, smart key system, is everything I could have wanted in a vehicle. Not to mention I am getting 54 miles per gallon!!! Bravo, I cant wait for the next generation.
Best car in the world - 2004 Toyota Prius
By Scott - December 29 - 8:43 am
This is the car that will transform the auto industry: proving for the first time that to be green, you dont have to sacrifice anything -- not comfort, power, safety, size or convenience, all as affordable as a regular car. It presents the question: with gas prices high and increasing, why isnt there a hybrid version of every car in the world? Its a cool car (I got the killer stereo and navigation system, and dressed it up with after-market leather seats), and I just love the feeling of burning less Mid-East oil than any other car on the road, and spewing less pollution into the air to make my kids asthma worse. Im taking care of my nation, my family and my community -- with a Prius!
Prius Touring Wheels and Tires - 2008 Toyota Prius
By Switchback - December 27 - 12:26 am
I have just over 300 miles on the car. I got 54 MPG (calculated from fillout to fillup at the pump - not the car computer) from St. George, UT back to Las Vegas (about 120 miles one way) at 65 MPH. This is slightly downhill back home. I have on it 17 inch G-Games wheels and Michelin 225/17 tires. I thought I would dress up the car a little, but also thought I might take a slight hit on MPG - LOVE the wheels/tires - dont forget to reset the tire pressure monitoring system. The dealer said you have to have about 2,000 mile on the car before it really breaks in and you get the best MPG.
Awesome Car - 2008 Toyota Prius
By Janet- NY - December 26 - 12:30 pm
I have had my Prius for 10 months and I never looked back. Sold my (lemon) Audi A6 and my new prius is great. Truly a smart car. Love the smart Key, gas mileage. Passing the gas stations all the time. Everyone who gets in the car also comments how roomy the inside is. If youre thinking about it, stop thinking and do it!
Prius II - 2005 Toyota Prius
By Tadashi - December 24 - 6:16 am
At first the Prius looks ugly but like a face only a mother can love the Prius look begins to grow on you. It is also nice to have a vehicle with a unique look. I get excellent fuel economy (lifetime avg of 54 mpg). The Prius has many high tech features but still needs to work on some comfort and handling issues. Although it is not bad, but could use some improvement. Given what I know I would definitely buy the car again.
Nice car, which it was less boring though. - 2014 Toyota Prius
By 36annie - December 22 - 11:30 am
My third Prius. Unfortunately. I had to buy this car because my wife is an eco-freak, and she swears by Toyotas too. Our old one was so boring, my teenage son crashed it when he fell asleep in stop and go traffic. This one is the same, much to my chagrin. I really try to like this car though, as it is the one I have to drive. Its got an okay stereo, and with my experiences with Toyota, these cars are really reliable too, and this one hasnt left me stranded apart from the time I had a blowout (they dont include spares :P). Its obviously got great gas mileage too. All in all, this is an okay car, but i just wish it was a tiny bit more lively!
My permanent car - 2005 Toyota Prius
By Howie - December 21 - 1:33 am
This is my second Prius. If anything, its better than my 01. Ive added leather interior and MX radio, because I think this is the last car Ill ever have to buy. I cant imagine a vehicle more perfect for me. The only other accessory it could use is a rooftop solar voltaic panel to charge the battery while I drive or when its parked. Im working on that one.
Sing a song of Sixpence - 2016 Toyota Prius
By Randal Mapstead - December 18 - 1:26 pm
I leased this car and plan to re-lease in three years. Bought it for the mpg and crash test ratings. I like the ease of the shifting selector. I like the "glide" factor when underway. I think the Dunlop tires wont last the 3 years. Cargo space is good for 2 people. Love the dash display info. Because its lower to the ground than my 2002 Highlander - Ive had to adjust getting in and out of the car. There are blind spots with the side mirrors. I removed the back seat head rests for a better rear view. The middle storage/cup consul is adequate. Like the 4 windows automatic up/down. Bought the Toyota brand rear cargo tray. There is a driver side door/window air noise. I have to buy after market sun visor extenders because it only covers half the window. Edmunds.com was helpful with negotiating the price.