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The original Prius helped make hybrid vehicles mainstream back in the early 2000s, and it continues to be one of the most recognized hybrid nameplates. Its eccentric exterior styling and—ahem—untraditional interior design are unmistakable albeit polarizing. Still, the Toyota has always been about making the world a greener place by maximizing fuel economy and minimizing emissions. The compact hatchback is losing ground to newer hybrid alternatives such as the Hyundai Ioniq and the Kia Niro, but the Toyota brand maintains an unrivaled reputation for reliability. While the 2019 Prius is the polar opposite of driving enjoyment and high performance (or any type of performance, for that matter), its comfortable interior and trademark powertrain deliver what many consumers want.
If you want the space and versatility of a family sedan along with extra power and refinement, a luxury midsize sedan makes for a refreshing alternative to the pullulating herd of luxury SUVs. These premium sedans provide more elegant cabin materials, more advanced technology, more engaging performance and, yes, more precious price tags. You won't find many hybrid options; in this group, only BMW and Lexus offer upscale hybrid motoring. But you will find some of the most satisfying driving experiences that today's market has to offer.
During the 1970s, the intermediate class in the U.S. was generally defined as vehicles with wheelbases between 112 inches (2,845 mm) and 118 inches (2,997 mm). The domestic manufacturers began changing the definition of "medium" as they developed new models for an evolving market place. A turning point occurred in the late 1970s, when rising fuel costs and government fuel economy regulations caused all car classes to shrink, and in many cases to blur. Automakers moved previously "full-size" nameplates to smaller platforms such as the Ford LTD II and the Plymouth Fury. A comparison test by Popular Science of four intermediate sedans (the 1976 AMC Matador, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Torino, and Dodge Coronet) predicted that these will be the "big cars of the future." By 1978, General Motors made its intermediate models smaller.
The Prius NHW11 (sometimes referred to as "Generation II") was the first Prius sold by Toyota outside of Japan, with sales in limited numbers beginning in the year 2000 in Asia, America, Europe and Australia. In the United States, the Prius was marketed between the smaller Corolla and the larger Camry. The published retail price of the car was US$19,995. European sales began in September 2000. The official launch of the Prius in Australia occurred at the October 2001 Sydney Motor Show, although sales were slow until the NHW20 (XW20) model arrived. Toyota sold about 123,000 first generation Priuses.
Outstanding efficiency and ample "oomph" when you need it. Both come standard in the Malibu Hybrid with its 1.8L hybrid engine and powertrain. A host of hybrid-exclusive features like the Driver Efficiency Gauge let you monitor your fuel usage and regeneration. A larger 8-inch diagonal, reconfigurable Driver Information Center comes standard in 2019.
As of January 2017, the Prius is sold in over 90 countries and regions. Worldwide cumulative sales of the Prius passed the 1 million mark in May 2008, exceeded 2 million units in September 2010, and reached the 3 million milestone in June 2013. As of January 2017, global sales of the Prius family totaled almost 6.115 million units representing 61% of the 10 million hybrids delivered by Toyota Motor Company (TMC) worldwide, including the Lexus brand. Sales of the Prius family are led by the Prius liftback with 3.985 million units, followed by the Aqua/Prius c with 1.38 million, the Prius +/v/α with, 614.7 thousand and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid with 79.3 thousand units.
This is one of the least expensive luxury midsize cars in its class, and you can get a lot with just the base trim. But should you opt for the 3.3T Sport ($55,250), you can get an upgraded engine, better wheels, added performance and features from the base model’s two option packages. Still, the standard G80 arrives with leather upholstery, an infotainment system and more. Choose between three trim levels, although the base trim comes with features that are better than many other standards in its class. It has a 3.8-liter V6 engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission and rear wheel drive (all-wheel drive is an option).
The EPA estimates the thriftiest Prius Eco will earn up to 58 mpg in the city and 53 mpg on the highway. The other front-drive versions are EPA rated at 54 mpg city and 50 mpg on highway. Those who drive mostly highway miles and like to travel with the flow of fast-moving traffic might be disappointed to learn that the Prius delivered 46 mpg on our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test (which we conduct at a steady 75 mph), undershooting its EPA rating by 4 mpg. While we haven't tested an all-wheel-drive model, the EPA estimates it will earn 52 mpg city and 48 highway.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) rate the Prius as among the cleanest vehicles sold in the United States, based on smog-forming emissions. The 2018 model year Prius Eco ranks as the second most fuel efficient gasoline-powered car available in the US without plug-in capability, following the Hyundai Ioniq "Blue".
When the vehicle is turned on with the "Power" button, it is ready to drive immediately with the electric motor. In the North American second generation Prius, electric pumps warm the engine by pumping previously saved hot engine coolant from a coolant thermos before the internal combustion engine is started. The delay between powering the car on and starting the internal combustion engine is a few seconds. The third generation Prius does not have a coolant thermos. Instead, the engine is heated by recapturing exhaust heat. A button labelled "EV" maintains Electric Vehicle mode after being powered on and under most low-load conditions at less than 25 mph (40 km/h). This permits driving with low noise and no fuel consumption for journeys under 0.5 miles (0.80 km). Prior to the 2010 model, the North American model did not have the "EV" button, although one can be added to enable the "EV" mode supported internally by the Prius Hybrid Vehicle management computer. For the N.American market, the third generation can remain in EV mode until 70 km/h (43 mph) depending on throttle and road gradient.
But any Prius comes with a trade-off: performance. The Prius is neither quick nor engaging to drive. Additionally, its infotainment system isn't the easiest to use and lacks Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone integration. But for shoppers seeking the most return per gallon, that's easily forgivable. Along with the Honda Insight, the Prius is one of our top recommended hybrids for 2019.
The Prius is all about fuel economy and the base L Eco's 56 mpg combined EPA estimate is difficult to ignore. Unfortunately, the L is a little light on features. As such, we recommend getting the LE. It comes with some useful upgrades, such as blind-spot monitoring, a rear wiper and a traditional spare tire, while keeping the price reasonable. The LE is also available with the Prius' new all-wheel-drive system.
Along with updated styling, the Prius grew for 2016, increasing cargo space. A new platform improved handling and ride. Though output from the carryover engine decreased slightly, thanks to lighter hybrid components fuel mileage estimates increased to 54 mpg in the city and 50 mpg on the highway; an Eco version was even more efficient. Lithium-ion batteries are now used on some variations. Six trim levels are offered.
The Wall Street Journal reported in February 2007 on concerns that quiet cars like the Prius may pose a safety risk to those who rely on engine noise to sense the presence or location of moving vehicles. Blind pedestrians are a primary concern, and the National Federation of the Blind advocates audio emitters on hybrid vehicles, but it has been argued that increased risks may also affect sighted pedestrians or bicyclists who are accustomed to aural cues from vehicles. However, silent vehicles are already relatively common, and there is also a lack of aural cues from vehicles that have a conventional internal combustion engine where engine noise has been reduced by noise-absorbing materials in the engine bay and noise-canceling muffler systems. In July 2007, a spokesman for Toyota said the company is aware of the issue and is studying options.
Safety or driver assistance features are no substitute for the driver’s responsibility to operate the vehicle in a safe manner. The driver should remain attentive to traffic, surroundings and road conditions at all times. Visibility, weather and road conditions may affect feature performance. Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for more important feature limitations and information.
As the Prius reached ten years of being available in the US market, in February 2011 Consumer Reports examined the lifetime and replacement cost of the Prius battery. The magazine tested a 2002 Toyota Prius with over 200,000 miles on it, and compared the results to the nearly identical 2001 Prius with 2,000 miles tested by Consumer Reports 10 years before. The comparison showed little difference in performance when tested for fuel economy and acceleration. Overall fuel economy of the 2001 model was 40.6 miles per US gallon (5.79 L/100 km; 48.8 mpg‑imp) while the 2002 Prius with high mileage delivered 40.4 miles per US gallon (5.82 L/100 km; 48.5 mpg‑imp). The magazine concluded that the effectiveness of the battery has not degraded over the long run. The cost of replacing the first generation battery varies between US$2,200 and US$2,600 from a Toyota dealer, but low-use units from salvage yards are available for around US$500. One study indicates it may be worthwhile to rebuild batteries using good blades from defective used batteries.
Styling is a matter of personal taste, but we think the Mazda 6 is one of the sharpest-looking sedans in the class. Its swooping lines and creases may not suit everyone's taste, but an anonymous box the Mazda 6 is not. It also backs up its bold looks with outstanding performance. We're not talking about pure speed — although the available turbocharged engine has ample shove — but rather a complete package of taut handling, prompt transmission response, and precise steering that adds gusto to virtually any driving scenario. A cool, modern interior and a dial-controlled infotainment system cap off the Mazda 6's all-around excellence. The lack of all-wheel drive or a hybrid version will keep the Mazda 6 out of contention for some buyers, and its relatively small trunk won't endear it to more practical sedan shoppers. But for drivers seeking a racier edge to the family sedan experience, the Mazda 6 is among the best. See the 6 in our Sedan rankings
What all-wheel drive won't do is help in the stopping department. Prius AWD-e models come shod with the same 15-inch, low-rolling-resistance Dunlop Enasave 01 all-season tires as front-drive Prius models. A good set of winter tires, even fitted to a front-drive Prius, would bring greater traction benefits to stopping as well as going. Mounted and balanced on a spare set of wheels, complete with TPMS sensors and wheel covers and shipped to your house from Tire Rack, these would run about $900. By comparison, the upcharge for all-wheel drive in a $25,900 Prius LE is $1400, and in the $28,740 XLE, it's $1000. Those are the two middle trims in Toyota's new Prius trim naming strategy; all-wheel drive is not available on the top-of-the-line Limited or the entry L Eco.