By Cars.com EditorsMay 13, 2009
About the video
Cars.com's Joe Wiesenfelder walks you through the 2008 Toyota Prius. It competes with the Honda Civic Hybrid.
(rhythmic upbeat music) Hi, I'm Joe Wiesenfelder from cars.com with a car that will be listed along with the Model T and the Mustang, that's how great the impact of the Toyota Prius has been on the automotive market.
The second generation here introduced in 2004 is the only hybrid left that is its own model. All other hybrids, and there are now many, are based on another gas only version. It's very distinctive and it's one of the only hybrids that gets noticed. The slope of the windshield, and also the rear window, the squared off rear end, and even the slab-sided nature of it with the small wheels, whether you like the look or not, you're likely to see more of it because it's aerodynamic which is important for efficiency. You even see a similar profile in the Honda Civic Sedan. Fortunately, there are other advantages to the shape of the car, having this gradual slope puts the dashboard out way in front of you which gives it a nice open feeling. Unfortunately, the pillars end up kind of in your line of sight, but Toyota puts these little windows in there to try and mitigate it, in the end, it's not that bad. Also, the main instruments are way far forward on the dashboard, right below your line of sight. People seem to complain when the gauges are in the middle of the dashboard, but having them in front of the driver and that far forward is actually an advantage, I think. There are a few reasons I think the Prius is your best choice if you're trying to save money. One of them is cost, it starts between 21 and $22,000 which is nice and affordable. The interior is modest, the materials aren't super, you can get leather, but generally for the price, you are getting a hybrid and it's completely workable. The second reason is efficiency. Now, we've got the display here that most hybrids have now, especially Toyota's, that show you where the power is flowing, et cetera, from the battery to the motor, the gas engine charging the battery, et cetera. The point is this is still a very efficient hybrid, even among the cars and it's partly because they combine their electric motor with a four cylinder engine running in a special mode. I have had problems in previous test vehicles that had the optional auto-dimming rear view mirror, which this one doesn't have, the reason is the bar back there would cast a shadow on the sensors and then a car would come over a hill or something, all of a sudden its headlights would hit the mirror, you get blasted with light, it didn't dim fast enough. I think you're better off with this plain old standard rear view mirror. Exhibit C, space efficiency, not only is it a relatively small car on the outside, it's technically a mid-sized car on the inside. driver's seat is all the way back in my driving position, I'm six feet tall and I have knee room, leg room. The dome roof gives me headroom, too. The fourth reason is versatility because this is a hatchback, the Prius gives you a good amount of cargo space to begin with. And also, there's a good deal of hidden storage under the floor, and if that's not enough, the seats fold down, standard feature. It gives you the kind of space you're not going to get in a hybrid sedan, in fact, hybrid sedans tend to put the battery where the folding seats would usually be. So, they have limited cargo capacity, even compared to the non-hybrid. This one maximizes it, you get good versatility, you get good efficiency, it's a good cost and it's very roomy inside, that's why I say, even though it hasn't been updated in a few years, the Prius is probably still your best bet if you're looking to burn less fuel and save money. <v Announcer>For additional information on this car or any other go to cars.com and our blog, "Kicking Tires."