Toyota is calling the Green faithful home again. The Toyota Prius is among the cleanest cars on the road today. It's also the most fuel-efficient five-passenger car sold in America, rated at 60/51 mpg City/Highway by the EPA.
The Prius is a gasoline/electric hybrid. Unlike electric cars, it does not need to be plugged in. A small, highly efficient keeps its battery charged, giving it mind-boggling driving range and the freedom to operate where and as any normal car would. No special knowledge or skills are needed to operate it. All you need to know is that it's a clean, highly fuel-efficient car.
The Prius has been completely redesigned and re-engineered for 2004, and the technology in this newest iteration is way ahead of the 2003 Prius as well as anything any other manufacturer has to offer. The only thing even remotely close is the Honda Civic Hybrid, though Ford will soon introduce a hybrid-powered Escape.
The new Prius is larger than before, moving it up from the compact to midsize class. It's roomy, with back seats that seat two adults and lots of cargo space. The fabric upholstery is as good as it gets. It's also more pleasant to look at with futuristic styling that attracts attention. It's not difficult to find in a crowded grocery store parking lot.
Making for an even better deal, Toyota has kept the base price for the new the same for 2004 as it was for the less-efficient 2003 model, while adding features.
All told, the 2004 Toyota Prius is an impressive technological statement, and a car that's easy to like and live with.
The Prius comes as one model, a four-door, five-passenger, hatchback sedan ($19,995).
Unlike last year's model, the new Prius is no stripper. Automatic, micron-filter air conditioning is standard, as are power windows, door locks and heated outside mirrors, remote keyless entry, cruise control, and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo.
Antilock brakes are standard, augmented by Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist, and traction control. Standard safety features comprise multi-stage, dual front airbags and three-point seatbelts and head restraints at all five seating positions; rear seat head restraints are adjustable. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags for driver and front-passenger and side curtain airbags for both front and rear passengers are optional ($650), and strongly recommended.
Other options include an intermittent rear window wiper ($180). A package adds the side-impact and curtain airbags, a keyless entry and start system, vehicle stability control, fog lamps and self-leveling HID headlamps ($2,255). The ultimate package has everything, including voice-recognition navigation system with Bluetooth capability, Homelink programmable remote transmitter, premium JBL AM/FM/Cassette/6-CD nine-speaker sound system, and immobilizing security alarm ($5,245). Dealer accessories include floor and cargo mats ($184), cargo net ($49), first aid kit ($29), rear bumper applique ($65) and wheel locks ($59).