Toyota Prius Overview
The Toyota Prius is legendary. It’s the best-selling hybrid vehicle of all time, one of the world’s most recognizable cars, the butt of a many jokes, and also one of the most efficient vehicles available. From its introduction in Japan back in 1997, to the edgy, controversial styling of 2016, this hybrid 5-door hatchback has evolved dramatically. Today, we’re digging into the history of the Toyota Prius through the years.
Toyota Prius Through the Years
1st Generation (1997 – 2003)
- The Prius was introduced to Japan in 1997, two years before the original launch date.
- By the year 2000, the Toyota Prius was the 2nd mass production hybrid ever sold in the US, following the Honda Insight.
- The 2000 Prius features a 1.5L 4-cylinder hybrid engine that produced 70 hp, mated with an electric motor that produced roughly 45 hp more.
- Estimated fuel economy was around 42 mpg city and 44 mpg highway.
- While the efficiency was excellent, the first Prius was quite slow, driving 0-60 in around 13 seconds.
- In 2002, Toyota added front side-impact airbags, DVD-based navigation, cruise control, and daytime running lights.
2nd Generation (2004 – 2009)
- The 2nd generation Toyota Prius was an immediate hit, earning the title of 2004 North American Car of the Year, along with many other awards.
- Some consumers had to wait in line up to 6 months to purchase a 2004 Prius.
- The Prius grew now larger than the Corolla, but still smaller than the Camry.
- Toyota’s 1.5L engine stayed, but it was tuned to offer 8% more power than before.
- The electric motor was updated to be smaller and lighter while still offering more power.
- Total horsepower was up to 110, up 40 hp from the last generation.
- To improve fuel economy, stop-start technology was added, a temporary all-electric driving (EV) mode was introduced, and more.
- With all improvements, the 2nd gen Prius now achieved around 48 mpg city and 45 mpg highway.
- The 0-60 time was much improved, now clocking in around 11 seconds.
- The US moved on to generation 3 for the 2010 model year, but the 2nd generation Prius sold in Chinese markets until the end of 2011.
3rd Generation (2010 – 2015)
- Unveiled at NAIAS 2009, the 2010 Toyota Prius was redesigned and improved.
- This Prius offered an optional solar-powered ventilation system.
- Eco and power modes were added to EV and normal modes to allow the driver to adjust the car’s driving character.
- Toyota added an improved hybrid powertrain, mating a 1.8L 4-cylinder engine to an 80-hp electric motor, for a grand total of 134 hp.
- This Prius was slightly faster, traveling 0-60 in just under 10 seconds.
- Fuel economy improved to about 51 mpg city and 48 mpg highway.
- In 2012, Toyota added the Prius C, Prius V, and Prius Plug-in
- The Prius Plug-in was a plug-in hybrid, utilizing more electric power and less gasoline.
- The Prius C was a compact version of the Toyota Prius.
- The Prius V was a larger version of the Prius, offering more passenger and cargo space.
- Interior and exterior design was slightly refreshed in 2012.
- Also in 2012, a 6.1-inch touch screen with infotainment came with every Prius.
- By 2015, the rearview camera was standard-issue.
4th Generation (2016 – )
- In 2016, the Prius underwent a more dramatic redesign, featuring complex and edgy sculpting.
- Toyota now offers the “Prius Eco,” featuring smaller, lighter battery that achieves up to 58 mpg city and 53 mpg highway.
- With the standard Prius battery, this car will achieve 54 mpg city and 50 mpg highway.
- Batteries are now stored beneath the rear seat, rather than under the rear deck.
- The engine is still a 1.8L inline-4, but it’s paired with the latest 2-motor hybrid system, producing a total hp of 121.
- According to Toyota, this is based on Japan’s measuring standard, so it can’t be compared to the 134hp found in the 3rd gen Prius.
- The 0-60 time of the 2016 Toyota Prius is roughly the same as the previous model, but most agree overall driving power in 2016 feels more substantial than previous generations.
Toyota Prius Commercials
Toyota Prius Fast Facts
- Prius means “ahead of its time” in Latin.
- Celebrity drivers include Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts, Leonardo DiCaprio, and many more.
- In non-US markets, you can buy a 2016 Toyota Prius with AWD and light towing ability.