This week I reviewed the Prius that I first looked at in 2000. This 2005 version of the Toyota Prius Sedan hasn’t changed a lot but the look is, albeit subtle, nicer looking in my view. Although the 2001 model was at the beginning, this is now becoming serious and in contention because it is getting the eye from consumers in a more serious way. I encourage everyone to go out and test drive one. For starters it is a bargain for the dough. Why, because surely Toyota is NOT selling them for what it would take to make a profit. The R&D (Research and Development) costs must be huge and no sales would be made if the price reflected that cost. And over how many units would they need to amortize those costs to make a profit? I suspect they are subsidizing the real cost a selling price in the twenty grand range.
Well, you know what I mean. And so, it is for the consumer to embrace the concept of an alternative fuel vehicle. Hydrogen is way off and the infrastructure will take 20 years to get into place to service Fuel Cell vehicles anyway, at a minimum. The HiWire (Fuel Cell Technology) prototype from GM is the hot ticket conceptually, in my view. I love that oversized skateboard design. But that design has been in the works for over 50 years and was first seen at the LA Auto Show in the late 1940’s.
Handling & Performance:
As with prior year models the Prius presents a smooth ride and power is provided by a 76 hp gas engine and 67 hp from an electric motor. The smooth transfer of power is the responsibility of the ECVT for Electronic Controlled Variable Transmission. Ok, so you’re not going to experience head snapping acceleration and it will take over 10 seconds to go from 0-60 mph. From there to a seeming top speed of about 95 it is a slower rate yet. Nothing is perfect, however and the other strong points out weighs the relative slowness. I’ll bet, aside from the quite engine / battery combination, you won’t be able to tell the difference from driving most of the gas only options you have. The Prius starts out on battery and switches to the gas engine when you demand more horsepower.
EPA fuel economy is reverse from typical gas engines, and Prius is better in town than on the highway. The reason, of course, is it uses it’s impressive electric motor torque starting out and kicks in the gas engine, as more power is needed. Honda Insight Hybrid starts off on the gas engine and is assisted by the battery when the throttle demands more power.
This technology is so cool. I like the idea of recharging the batteries from the reverse energy of slowing and braking. You can see that on the Energy Monitor LCD screen.
My comment in 2000 was that “I suspect when gas prices go higher American consumers will lose the BMW and Mercedes Benz” and begin looking to realistic economy. Well, here we are 4 years later and gas has gone from under a buck to over two bucks a gallon. The writing is on the wall and even luxury cars like the Lexus RX 400 and the Ford Escape SUV have Hybrid versions.
Futuristic, and rather likeable.
Fit and Finish:
Pretty basic but better than many in this price vehicle. The general interior finish is unique, because of the display of information and placement of the speedometer relative to more traditional vehicles.
The Prius and the Honda Civic Hybrid are sedans and thus worth the price of admission. But the Insight has always been overpriced, in my opinion, because it is only a two seater.
I like the information LCD screen that shows a graphic of how the power plants are functioning, temp, audio, etc. And an option package is available for $5,000 to include a voice activated NAV system, Smart Key system, side and curtain air bags, security alarm, cassette player and upgrade to 8 CD changer, vehicle stability control and fog lights. Standard however is having many of the controls on the steering wheel. Temperature controls, audio, phone and system information conveniently on the wheel is very convenient. All controls are also available “On Screen” with touch screen control. If you opt for the Nav system you’re gonna love the instant GPS address information with the touch of a button.
Look at the competition and if you still don’t get all the education you want, go on line to Google, or Ask Jeeves etc. and look for “Hybrid Vehicles” for a host of information on the subject. Discuss the warranty before you buy and be sure it is the latest and greatest coverage. Batteries are expensive and the drive train is not time tested. The platform has only been on the market for 5 years. The first to hit the market was the Insight in 1999.
You will ultimately be the judge, but take my advice and test drive the Prius and Civic Hybrid’s before you can’t even find one for sale. I haven’t driven the Hybrid VW, and so as others also become available I will review them as quickly as possible. Presently, for me, it would be a toss up between the Civic and the Prius.
Toyota Prius $20,875, Honda Insight $19-21,000, Volkswagen Golf $16-19,000, Honda Civic $13-19,000.
It’s a Hybrid with great fuel economy, and the ride is quiet and comfortable with roomy interior and decent size trunk and fold down seats for even more cargo area.
It’s a Hybrid with allthe unknowns of a new product as to reliability and affordable maintenance; batteries can run $1-2,000, for example. Earlier on warranty offered was better than today’s.
1.5 liter 76 hp 4 cylinder engine, ECVT, power steering, front disc and rear drum ABS brakes with brake force distribution and assist, power heated mirrors, dual airbags, traction control, climate control, audio with CD player, remote keyless entry with engine immobilizer, cruise control, outside temp gauge and digital clock, LCD multi info display screen with energy monitor, fuel consumption, air, outside tem and audio status, tilt steering wheel with temp and audio controls, 60/40 rear split fold seat, front and rear intermittent wipers, power door locks and windows, cloth seats, center console, 2 auxiliary 12 v power outlets.
60 City and 51Highway MPG
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Copyright © 2004 – An Automotive Love Affair
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