In 1997, the Toyota Motor Corporation all but revolutionized the car industry with it’s hybrid electric vehicle, the Prius. Originally sold only in Japan, the Prius eventually made its ways to North America in 2001 and quickly became a huge hit with drivers. Using both gas and electricity to power the engine, the Prius manages to maintain many of the advantages of a gasoline car, without most of the disadvantages of an electric car. While Toyota’s hybrid vehicle is well known for its amazing gas mileage, it’s highly commended for sacrificing very little in terms of its actual driving characteristics. Even accelerating is mostly uncompromised in current models, a rare feat for a hybrid vehicle. With gasoline prices reaching unheard of prices in recent years, the very affordable Prius is in high demand, forcing many people to sit on a waiting list before getting theirs.
Although there was a 1997-2000 Toyota Prius model, it was never made available in the United States. The 2001-2003 Prius was the first of its kind in the US. Only available in a 4-door sedan model, the early Prius was powered by both a 4 cylinder gasoline engine and a permanent magnet AC electric motor. The engine on the 2001-2003 Prius was slightly upgraded over the 1997-2000 model. From 2001-2002, the vehicle was available in 6 different colors, including aqua, blue, gray, green, white, and metallic. The colors golden pearl and black were added for 2003 models. A published retail price of under $20,000 only helped to increase the hybrid’s growing popularity.
In 2004, Toyota released a new Prius model in a 5-door hatchback body style. With a slightly longer length, the Prius moved out of the compact car category and is now considered midsize. Increases in horsepower and a more aerodynamic body shape are said to improve the vehicle’s overall speed and acceleration. New colors were also added for recent models, including a dark red, beige, maroon, and several shades of blue. Like past models, the Prius continues to receive positive reviews
In 2007, Toyota added a new model to the Prius line, referred to as the Touring Edition. The primary differences between the Touring Edition and the standard models are 16 inch wheels, a European tuned suspension, and high density discharge headlamps. These features make the Toyota Prius Touring Edition about $1,000-$2,000 more expensive than the standard models.
Toyota does have plans to release a new model of the Toyota Prius in 2010. While the third generation should retain the same aerodynamic shape, expect the overall design to evolve in some ways. There’s also been talk of significantly reducing the size and cost of the hybrid’s system by as much as 50%. No matter what direction Toyota decides to take their Prius line, you can be sure future models will be leading the way in the hybrid vehicle revolution.