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Toyota Prius 101: All The Basics You Need To Know

Red 2022 Toyota Prius parked on the road

Toyota Prius 101: All The Basics You Need To Know

With over 6 million units sold globally, the Toyota Prius is the most popular hybrid car. It’s also one of the most affordable fuel-efficient cars you can buy—a vehicle well-suited for the daily life of an average American.

Thanks to its exceptional fuel economy, reliability, affordability, and safety, the Prius also serves as a great first car for used car buyers. So, if you are considering buying one, here are All the Basics You Need to Know About Toyota Prius .

A Brief Prius Background

Debuting in America in 2001, the Toyota Prius was the first mass-produced hybrid car. Its “Car for the Middle Class” message was well-timed for a period focused on rising fuel prices and short oil supplies.

The Prius offered a hybrid powertrain, futuristic technology, and exceptional fuel economy at the price of an average sedan. With most drivers getting behind the wheel for 25 miles or more each day, the Prius was a blessing.

At the same time, Toyota was able to show its capabilities as it highlighted the flexibility of a hybrid powertrain. But, America needed time to embrace this new automotive concept. Toyota only sold 15,000 units in the Prius’ first year. But, today, about 3.4% of the automotive market is hybrid, and there are 1.7 million hybrid cars on U.S. roads.

What to Expect When Buying a Toyota Prius? What Does the Prius Offer?

The Toyota Prius is a line of hybrid cars that includes EVs and PHEVs (Curious about these terms? Check out this helpful article .) that has been around for two decades and is currently in its fourth generation.

Toyota offers eight different trims for the 2022 model in the current-gen Prius lineup. Each is powered by a 1.8-liter gas/electric setup with standard front-wheel drive and with all-wheel drive available on some models. The latest Prius hybrids offer an estimated 50 mpg combined mileage and give or take a few miles; this has been a consistent rating among the newer generations.

How Good is Toyota Prius Safety?

Consumers focused on fuel economy are also likely to be equally concerned with safety. Something that Toyota kept in mind as it began to update the Prius. Since 2014, Prius models have enjoyed a 4- or 5-star safety rating in government crash tests. At the same time, safety gear for the hybrids includes airbags, vehicle stability control (VSC), brake assist, traction control, and electronic brake-force distribution. Newer models can have advanced safety technology like automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring.

Because Prius is focused on saving gas, Toyota engineered the hybrid system for the economy, not performance. In other words, you likely won’t win a stoplight challenge in a Prius, but there are few other gas-powered cars on that sip gas like this Toyota. So, hitting triple digits on the highway isn’t likely, but that saves fuel and lives.

What is the Cost of Ownership for a Toyota Prius?

The Prius’ hybrid powertrain’s very nature helps reduce ownership costs. These efforts begin with fuel savings but also because the Prius is an EV. That means fewer moving parts (the gas engine doesn’t operate when the car is in electric-only mode) and less need for repairs. Of course, no vehicle is perfect, but Toyota’s track record for reliability and being a leader in hybrid cars bears this out.

Maintenance for a Prius is similar to conventional cars. The engine still requires regular oil changes, tires and brakes wear out, and the suspension will need periodic adjustment. However, the hybrid battery doesn’t usually require regular servicing (read below about battery longevity).

How Long Will a Toyota Prius Last?

The hybrid battery is the heart of the Prius. Initially, Toyota guaranteed this power source for eight years or 100,000 miles, but later models are now covered for ten years or 150,000 miles. But, Prius models can readily be driven beyond these coverage limits. With 20 years of real-world examples, it’s not unusual to see a Prius with 150,000 to 200,000 miles on the odometer. One story tells of an Austrian taxi driver who drove his Prius for more than 600,000 miles, all with the car’s original battery.

Different Prius Generations

First-Generation Toyota Prius (2001-2003)

Person driving a car on the road
Image by Car and Driver

The first-gen Prius started in 2001 with a 1.5-liter (70 horsepower) four-cylinder engine and a 44 kW electric motor. Its 40 mpg combined fuel economy and unique design helped call attention to this breakthrough car.

Second-Generation Toyota Prius (2004-2009)

Image by Car and Driver

Toyota brought in the second-gen Prius with a new liftback design that featured excellent passenger space and luggage room. The new model was sized between the Corolla and Camry and offered six more inches of wheelbase than the first Prius. Safety was improved, and a reformulated battery helped improve gas mileage.

The second-gen Prius also benefited from new technology that improved recharging from regenerative braking. Plus, the upgraded interior and advanced infotainment system helped attract buyers seeking more mainstream touches. At the same time, Toyota introduced 10-year warranty coverage on the hybrid system, demonstrating the company’s confidence in the product.

Despite the pressure, Toyota received to put a hybrid powertrain in a more conventional-looking car (something it also does today), the automaker continued to go for a Prius with an unconventional design. The streamlined body helped with fuel economy and drew attention to the car.

Third Generation Toyota Prius (2010-2015)

Grey Toyota Prius Driving on the road
Image by The Car Connection

Combined horsepower for the third-generation Prius reached 98 as Toyota merged a 1.8-liter gas engine with a 57 kW electric motor. This pairing helped produce a driving experience with satisfying torque. At the same time, the automaker lightened the hybrid system by 20%, enabling the Prius to hit the magic 50 mpg mark.

Toyota further massaged the Prius’ exterior for an even lower drag coefficient and better high-speed control. In 2012, the first Prius PHEV was released. Thanks to a separate 4.4 kW lithium-ion battery, this model could travel 11 miles on electric-only power.

Beyond new hybrid technology, Toyota added more safety and convenience gear. Disc brakes on all four corners and daytime running lights became standard while lane-departure warning and pre-collision systems could be added to some models. A selectable drive mode could adapt the Prius for better efficiency or more engaging performance. And, you could add self-parking tech

Fourth-Generation Toyota Prius (2015-Present)

White Toyota Prius
Image by Car Magazine

The current (fourth-gen) Prius debuted in 2015 with many offerings, including PHEVs. The new Prius embraces a longer and sleeker look and a combined EPA rating that exceeded 50 mpg for some models. Safety ratings also got better. The latest Prius also marked the switch to a lithium-ion main hybrid battery for improved rigidity and a lower center of gravity.

An improved PHEV, the Prius Prime, was introduced in 2016. Its electric-only range gets bumped to 25 miles, and the EPA rates the Prius Prime at 133 mpg-e. In 2018, Toyota refreshed the Prius and added an all-wheel-drive option for some variants.

With eight different versions, the Prius offers numerous powerplant and drivetrain options to appeal to more customers welcoming the hybrid car lifestyle.

Buying a Used Hybrid at Trust Auto

If you’re ready to switch to a low- or zero-emission car, then check out the hybrids and EVs at Trust Auto in Sykesville. Our team of dedicated professionals can help you find the perfect vehicle for your needs and budget. Give us a call or visit our dealership today.