A Brief History of the Toyota Prius- 4 Generations and Still Going Strong!

  • Few cars in history can be looked back upon as truly revolutionary and industry-altering. One such vehicle is none other than the Toyota Prius: Another proud Nippon innovation. The main selling point, of course, is the mileage, it just keeps getting better with age (like good wine): First: 16KM/L, Second: 22KM/L, Third: 31KM/L, Fourth: 40KM/L). Seriously! Crazy efficiency!

    The technology used to develop the Prius has now found its way into various Toyota family models, ranging from delivery trucks to luxury sedans. But who can forget the original Prius? It was a game changer, fairly silent, good on gas, and all around futuristic. Let’s take a look in detail at the first true game changer of hybrid vehicles!

    First Generation: 1997-2003

    The first generation Prius was, at best, a basic sedan with a futuristic hybrid engine. In total 37,425 Prius vehicles were produced in the Aichi plant until 2000, followed by another 33,411 at the Motomachi plant from 2000 to 2003. In total, just over 700,000 of the original silent beasts were produced.

    One of the initial selling points of the first generation Prius was the pollution score and the gas mileage. The first generation received a 3/10 pollution score in the US, resulting in its classification as a ULEV – Ultra Low Emission Vehicle.

    Although I appreciate the technological advances afforded by the initial Prius, let’s face it. It just isn’t a looker. The styling was basically bland – both inside and out. Trunk space limited. In my opinion, it just reeks of old people. When it came out I was all excited for the technology, but the looks. Oh, my. It just screams pensioner. Quiet like a ninja, though. I actually think the prototype looked better than the production version, check it out above.

    Second Generation: 2003-2009

    The second generation of the Prius was more radically styled and suitable for city driving than the first generation option. Rather than a sedan, the hatchback version proved to be more popular, with better trunk room, better visibility, (except for that random bar between the top and bottom windows) and more room for all five passengers.

    The second generation is my favourite of all. Big lights, great sound system, and not too futuristic to be off-putting. I have owned two of these models, the basic and the fully loaded version, and will probably buy another one used if I can find a good deal online. Not too futuristic, not too basic, the perfect combination of new and old. Plus the big ol’ headlights make night driving a breeze. These models are popular taxi models in Japan.

    Third Generation: 2009-2015

    I often drive this version for work. Although I prefer my second generation version, the third should not be overlooked. I just don’t like the middle console, it feels more ‘Star Trek Enterprise’ than a car.

    This generation of the Prius saw a price reduction when purchased new in Japan – reduced to 2.05 million yen from 2.33 million, which is basically a three thousand dollar US reduction. Other countries also saw price reductions to compete with other hybrid options, such as the hybrid Honda Civic.

    The third generation also spawned a lot of body options. I don’t know why, but this one seems to be ‘super quiet’. Every time I drive down a narrow street, I am fearful of mowing down an elderly lady, popping out of a veggie shop without looking. I often drive it with the windows down and music on, just to warn the locals.

    They are marketed in many other countries under the main Prius name, but in Japan, they have slightly different branding. Check them out below:

    Prius C (Aqua in Japan)

    Cute as a button, can fit into tight spaces, and is great for city driving. I rented one, once but I felt like it was trying too hard. Kind of like a Mercedes A class. It is a Mercedes on the label, and it kind of smells like a real Benz, but at the end of the day, it is a compact car. Not an SL. Not by a long shot.

    It’s not all bad, perfect for the city really, but if you want full power and enough room for the family, go for the real version. More difficult to park, but you will thank yourself after a trip to Costco.

    The Prius V (Prius Alpha in Japan)

    This version is a little nasty to look at overall but crazy convenient. You can fit all your chirren, and their goods up in this one. A minivan/hatchback hybrid to travel the world with all your camping gear. Although multifunctional and convenient, I just can’t pass the ugly factor – overstretched and the bumpers are just nasty.

    Fourth Generation: 2015 ~


    I. Want. This. The cockpit looks like something from RoboCop. Hot Dayum!

    The newest Prius in the line is simply sexy. Sexy good on gas, sexy roomy, sexy… you get the picture. The newest version is lighter, faster, has better batteries, and has absolutely amazing combined mileage.

    The newest Prius on the line was introduced to try to open up the market to those wanting excitement, ecology, and fun, rather than the older clientele. It lives up to those ideals. Less hatchback, and more sedan, this model just oozes beauty and sophistication. After all, the English advertising campaign states “Let’s Shatter All Expectations”. It does. Fast, great handling, and overall sexy.

    When I finally win the lottery, I am going to buy them and stock them in the garden for the future. I simply don’t think they can make a sexier one than this. In fact, I have already test-driven three (different dealerships of course) just to get the chance to touch them. Hold them. Dream of them. Nirvana.

    Happy Ecological Driving!

    Toyota Global Website

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