There's a new Toyota Prius on the market - and the car still beats everyone else in one important way
Matthew DeBord/Business Insider
Over the past 20 years, the Toyota Prius has been the world's most successful "alternative"-fuel vehicle, largely because it doesn't depend on that fuel - electricity. Rather, it runs a gas-and-electric motor at the same time, most of the time, to maximize MPGs and minimize emissions.
Over 3 million Priuses have been sold globally - 3 million!
The Prius said "Hello, world!" for the first time in 1997, in Japan. Back then, the car was effectively a Toyota Echo sedan with the "Hybrid Synergy" drivetrain dropped in. That was enough to get the ball rolling, and in 2001 the Prius came to America, and America never looked back. "Hybrid" became a household word, and as gas prices rose in the 2000s and SUVs slipped in popularity, the Prius had the first-mover advantage to end them all.
When I lived in Los Angeles - a big market for the Prius, thanks to gas prices in the region that are higher than the national average and lengthy commute times - it was hard to go a day without seeing a Prius. And if we had friends over, the streets were lined with Priuses.
Oddly, we never owned one, but when it came time to get a new car on the East Coast, I headed straight for a Toyota dealership and all but drove home an hour later with a 2011 Prius. As a moderately used car for the suburbs, the Prius has no peer. Best off all, it costs me $18 to gas up - once a month.
That's the beating heart of Prius love, if you ask me. You may not like the offbeat looks, the extremely disconnected driving experience, the plasticky interior, or the wimpy horsepower, but all is forgiven when you get change from a twenty at the filling station that first time. Hallelujah! Praise Prius!!
My car is a third-generation model. In 2015, Toyota launched the fourth generation, with some interesting upgrades, including more aggressive styling. Would this undermine all that has made the Prius loved and hated in equal measure?
Toyota lent us a 2016 Prius Three Touring, which tipped the cost scales at $28,100 as tested, so we had a chance to find out.
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