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Toyota Prius (First Generation)



  • Consumer Reports compared Toyota's hybrid Prius with its conventional Echo. Prius has been around (in Japan) since 1997, and Echo is an economized version. A base Echo sells for $10,525, and a Prius for $20,520. The difference in miles per gallon found by CR's drivers? Three miles per gallon (41 vs. 38).

    Is that all you get for your money? CR also tested the Honda's hybrid Insight, another $20,000 machine, and got 51mpg. It seats two and weighs 1820 lbs. Testers at got the same, after over a year of ownership. Total U.S. sales in its 18-month history are a miserable 7,500 units.

    These "mass market" mpgs are lower than what you find on "enthusiast" Web sites. That's because those intrigued by the technology (like this driver) do their best to see what it can get. In fact, you can get much more mpg out of both conventional and hybrid cars if you try. When we look at this subset, Prius owners average around 45mpg and Insighters around 62 (mine shows 69.7). But this group is much more obsessive about mileage than, say, SUV owners.

    So if you're an average Joe driver, it's pretty simple. Would you pay twice as much for a car that gets you three more miles per gallon?

    Of course not. But the hybrids are chic and politically correct. And no American auto company needs a bit of PC more than Ford. So, after helping to spend our $1.5 billion in the PNGV, they announced last week that they're going to stuff hybrid technology made by Toyota (!) in their Escape SUV. That's gratitude to us taxpayers for you.

    How much gas will this save? Consumer Reports got 17 mpg out of their Escape. Analogizing to the Echo-Prius comparison, expect an 8 percent increase in fuel economy for average Joes, or about 1.4 mpg. For this saving of about $100 in gas a year, you'll pay a premium of several thousand dollars, because Toyota's not going to give away this technology to Ford. In fact, this is where they will recoup some of their substantial Prius losses.

    Escape from Automotive Reality
  • dsgechodsgecho Posts: 89
    Prius and echo the same- bologna!!
    I have owned both vehicles and the echo is the base version@$9995. Nope- not even power steering. No AC [you appreciate this best in Aug. in TN]. But it is a wonderful car for the price and definitely has Toyo workmanship. Prius- power everything, AC,ABS, alarm system,much quieter overall,etc.I think echoes with all options get into the $15000 range but still do not have near the standard equipment that the prius does.Over a period of driving each several thousand miles you see the Prius gets consistently 10 mpg above what the echo does in the same situation generally. So this story of the echo/prius comparison is getting old. They are NOT the same cars and do the research properly to know that or do not write or post a review- please!
    Nashville, TN
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    This is not a valid comparison. Even if one were to factory order an ECHO and wait 3 to 4 months to get one with ABS, you would pay a bit over $15K and you still wouldn't have alloy wheels, climate control, cruise control, power windows, power mirrors, keyless entry, or engine immobilizer. You would not have nearly as nice or quiet of a ride and the back seat would be smaller. The seats are not as comfortable and the ECHO lacks some of the insulation that makes the Prius feel like it does. You also would not have your first 3 years of maintenance paid for, nor get road side assistance.

    CR is a decent information source, but this is a flawed comparison of costs. To get to the amenity level of the Prius, you would need to compare it to a Camry LE at about $21K and you would still be lacking a few things but would have a larger car.
  • carleton1carleton1 Posts: 560
    BUT, Toyota wanted accurate testing in the real world by ordinary people to perfect their technology.
    I agree that the Prius is a MUCH nicer sedan than the ECHO. I just wish Toyota would offer an LE version of the ECHO with Cruise, the nicer seats, nicer interior, and extra insulation of the Prius but keep everything else as is on the ECHO.
    Many people prefer a vehicle without the extra cost of PW, PDL, keyless entry, alloy wheels, engine immobilizer, etc.
    BTW, my wife and I prefer the seating height of Prius, ECHO, and Sienna over any other Toyota from Corolla to 4-Runner. We felt the Tundra seats were not high enough off the truck floor to be as comfortable as the height of P,E, and S.
    Again, let me THANK YOU for all the excellent data you provide. I just get to know a nice Toyota salesman here locally, and he is gone next time I go in: Tarik who let me test drive the ECHO. Bob at another Toyota/Dodge dealership. Terry at same dealership where Tarik was. Based on our experience, you are a rare salesman who has built up a customer base with satisfied buyers who will buy from NO ONE else but you. Selling vehicles is a very difficult job and it takes a very special person to satisfy both customers and dealership owners.
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    Wow. Thanks for the compliment. I know how difficult it is to find a good salesman because I have been a manager and have tried hiring them. The problem with the really good ones is keeping them. Every dealership is looking for these guys and heavily recruit them. As a salesman, we are always looking for a store to match our style and that is a real trick.

    Now, as to your question about Toyota's looses on the Prius, I can only parrot what I have read in the Automotive News. Toyota is very tight lipped about such matters but current speculation is a $4000 loss on each Prius sold once development costs are amortized. Toyota expects this technology to be around for a while and have a van coming out in a couple of years. By that time, battery costs should be down and development costs will be much lower so I'm not crying over Toyota's purported losses now. I'm just looking forward to the future.
  • kaz6kaz6 Posts: 331
    When I was looking for a new car I was very keen on the Prius. I love the styling and the technology. However, I am not able to spend that much on a new car. Aside from the intial costs, there is the anticipated costs down the road i.e. battery replacement.
    I now own an Echo and it is definitely an apples to oranges comparison. As far as the money one would save w/higher gas mileage; I don't think that is the sole reason for buying a Prius. If money were no object I'd have gone for the Prius but the Echo is great in its own way.
    Has anyone had to sell their Prius? I wonder what the real-world resale value is?
    And yes, Cliffy is a great source of info!
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    We haven't had one come through for a few months now, but the last ones we had sold for MORE than MSRP. It seems people were willing to pay to have it now, rather than wait.

    I have one customer who was offered $30K by her boss for hers. He was desperate to shave 30 minutes off his commute by using the HOV lanes and was willing to pay for it NOW. My customer turned him down and yes, she believes he was serious.
  • I am still not convinced that Prius is better than the Echo
  • carleton1carleton1 Posts: 560
    Prius has far more content but as with you, I will not buy new technology and would get the ECHO instead of Prius if we got a new sedan.
  • Thanks for your comments carleton1.

    I priced the Echo at $13,925 (Edmunds) loaded with all the options I saw on the Prius which retails for 19,995 (without delivery).

    I appreciate the feedback that Prius has some upscale features not found or available on the Echo - alloy wheels, climate control, cruise control, engine immobilizer. - But these are only worth say several thousand dollars. Consumers Report and the Cato article do appear to be making an imperfect comparison.

    The Prius's 70 horsepower is far less powerful than the Echo's 108 hp engine. This is a highly relevant difference.

    BTW, there is no comparison between the Camry with 157 horsepower and the Prius at 70 hp. I drive 300 - 400 miles a day on business travel and there is no way the Prius could do this comfortably with only 70 hp.

    I believe those consumers wishing to buy the Prius owners benefit from the statement they make about conservation and protecting the environment - which is fine. But there is no way the mileage benefits can justify the higher price for the Prius in my opinion. And eventually I would expect Toyota to charge to real price it takes to produce the car - such that they will not incur huge losses on this concept.
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    You can't really compare horsepower ratings or even torque ratings between the Prius and other vehicles. Horsepower is how well work is performed over time, while torque measures how rapidly you get there. The torque on the Prius is well over 200, but this is a very low RPM. Without seeing a torque curve, I can't say how it compares to the Camry or ECHO torque. I can tell you this car makes it up to speed quite well, but most of you know that already.
  • carleton1carleton1 Posts: 560
    .....The last nice local Toyota salesman (before he became Dealer Inventory Manager) ordered himself a Prius to also use as a demonstrator for HIS customers. He did the same thing buying a personal NEW Beetle before he left VW to sell Toyota. I told him it was interesting he went from selling "Junk" (Volkswagen is the German word for junk....we know as we purchased 5 and 2 were got NEW) to the most reliable line (Toyota).
    He told me the ONLY recurring problem this dealership had with any Toyota was with the Sienna Power Sliding Door which is VERY DIFFICULT to get properly adjusted.
    Have you encountered any other recurring problems in any Toyota? My sister got a NEW 85 Camry LE that she sold to her daughter. It now has over 200,000 miles with no problems and has received minimal maintenance since the daughter got it in 1994.
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    I'll agree on the power door issue. Beyond that, I can't think of anything off the top of my head on any current vehicles. We used to have head gasket problems on the trucks but that went away in early '97. We had a few of the early Prius cars come in with the power steering recall, but that was short lived. If there's anything else, I just don't know about it, but our shop guys might.
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    Oh, one more. "Off lease" Camrys almost always have engine sludge. This isn't a car problem but an owner problem. This problem is going away but for about 2 years, we were seeing the results of the cheap leases in the mid '90's. People were leasing for three years and totally neglecting basic stuff like oil changes. By '99, Toyota changed some things on the lease and fewer people did them and the "problem" seems to have gone away.
  • nofeernofeer Posts: 381
    I may be getting myself in trouble stating this opinion--why not by a diesel jetta and get better if not the same milage and nice size car with better acceleration? If you are going for milage why not a diesel?..My cousin has an echo and ravs about it. we haven't driven the prius, but many are price conscious. For close to 21k, there are alot of choices. I do like the idea of navigation in the prius probably less than a commparably egquiped camry,
  • jrct9454jrct9454 Posts: 2,363
    ...diesels are even rarer than Priuses [Priui??] in California. In theory, VW can sell some extremely limited number of TDIs here. In practice, they are made of "unobtainium".

    Automobile Magazine ran a comparison test in their Nov issue that ran a Prius, Insight, and VW Lupo diesel cross-country to compare useability. Winner? The Lupo, hands down. One caveat: the Lupo had to have a caravan of VW technicians ferrying cans of EU low-sulfur diesel fuel to take part, since the crap that we buy as diesel in this country would immediately foul the car's emission system.

    The latest diesel engines from EU ARE THE ANSWER; but we won't get them until our oil companies agree to sell the exact same fuel they already produce in Europe, here. Why this is so difficult is mostly a matter of economics, and the perception that no one in the US really cares about fuel economy.

    Even Honda, which has avoided diesels like the plague, now agrees this has more promise than hybrids...but outside of the EU, demand is not great enough to move the whole question along. Another oil boycott might do it...
  • carleton1carleton1 Posts: 560
    No comparison between any diesel and Prius if air quality is of any concern.
    Diesel engine exhaust STINKS, diesel fuel causes problems in low temperatures, diesel engines pollute the air with not only stink but also noise pollution. Diesel engines are a plague almost as bad as Anthrax.
  • jrct9454jrct9454 Posts: 2,363
    Sorry, but none of these objections apply to the new generation of turbo, direct-injection, common-rail diesels that are now rapidly closing on 50% of the market in Europe. They are quick, quiet, clean, and economical...but they require fuel that is nearly free of sulfur to be all of those things. And, they emit a small percentage of the greenhouse gases that everyone is so concerned about these days [including many of the people who bought Priuses].

    No smells, no smoke, no fuss. But the oil companies have to cooperate.

    Do a little reading on this topic of air quality; the European Greens are the ones leading the charge to the new diesel technology. The main sticking point for us is NOX emissions - the US regs put heavy emphasis on this, and the standard cannot be met unless you have quality fuels. The EU has the fuel already, and they tend to focus on the total weight of all emissions, and CO2 in which the new generation diesels excel.

    The best hybrids, by admission of all of the car makers, would be ones powered by small diesels accompanied by the electrical or perhaps another kind of energy-storage assist. Until then, for every place but the US, clean-air advocates are voting for the new diesels. I think they're right.
  • carleton1carleton1 Posts: 560
    And do you know the name of the chemical compound produced by current diesel engines that causes the horrendous foul, stinky odor?
    I would appreciate any links you may provide to support the claim of low emissions for these TD engines you mention.
    I have yet to see any Volkswagen that feels as nice inside as the Prius. Volkswagen does not take them to the Annual Auto Show. We sit inside every Volkswagen (and all other vehicles)each January and I have yet to see ANY Volkswagen that has the quality feel of the Prius.
  • jrct9454jrct9454 Posts: 2,363
    ...I wasn't trying to start an argument. My reading on this topic takes in every monthly and weekly auto mag, as well as Automotive News and the Detroit News online. But for a good summary, try the Automobile Magazine November's the most recent print edition, but will soon be replaced on the newsstands by the Dec. edition. At that point, the article might be available online at their website.

    But the whole topic of the EU diesel revolution has been well documented for the past several years in all of the EU magazines. The english-language ones I follow regularly include CAR and AutoExpress, which is a weekly that has a good, if cluttered website.

    And please understand: I'm not "claiming" these engines are low-emission. They ARE low-emission, meeting the current [and in most cases future] EU emission requirements, which are just as stringent as ours with the exception of NOX. As I said, the Europeans put more emphasis on CO2 and less on NOX, but even their NOX rules will get tighter in 2004.

    I'm not "selling" VWs; but EVERY European car maker is producing diesels this very day that can get 35-50 mpg in a package that has good room inside and capable of good road behavior.

    I think the Prius, and the upcoming hybrid Civic sedan, are the best of what we have available to us at this moment in this country if you care at all about resource consumption. But that does not make them the best alternative out there.

    To answer your question, the big problem with diesel exhaust, particularly as it comes from older, untuned bus and truck engines in this country, is the combination of truly putrid sulfur mixed with too much carbon particulate matter. The latter is fixed with the new injection technology; the former can only be fixed with the right catalysts, but they are poisoned by the sulfur in US fuel...which is why we have to get the sulfur out of both diesel and gasoline to take the next step in emission controls.
  • jrct9454jrct9454 Posts: 2,363
    ...was titled "Fuel's Paradise", and was written by Jamie Kitman, who is the resident "Greenie" on the Automobile staff. Because it is the current print issue, nothing has been posted online - naturally they want you to buy the magazine. There is a sidebar as part of that article that sums up the current situation re: fuel for diesels in this country vs EU, and what needs to be done to solve the problem here.

    Also in this issue is their wrapup on their extended test of the Insight, which only confirms that the Prius is a much more useable package than the Insight for everyday use. The new hybrid Civic should be a huge improvement...but not available until early Spring.

    And one final thought: hybrids are currently being subsidized by both Toyota and Honda as rolling research projects. They both lose somewhere between $3000 and $8000 per vehicle at current prices, depending on who's quoting and how much of the amortized research cost is included. For this to be a viable, real-world future technology, the cost of the "storage media" [batteries, right now] HAS to come down. After over a decade of trying, both Honda and Toyota concede [and GM and Ford and MB] that they just haven't achieved that "Big Breakthrough" in battery technology that everyone was hoping for. This is another reason economical, clean diesel technology has to be on the table; fuel cells are clearly coming, but no one has figured out yet how to make them really efficient, since pure hydrogen storage is out of the question, and the reformers needed to convert gasoline or diesel to hydrogen "on board" is easy technically, but very wasteful.
  • jrct9454jrct9454 Posts: 2,363
    ...every internal combustion engine produces Nitrous Oxides. The nitrogen comes from the air...remember, we breathe a combination of oxygen and nitrogen, and so do our cars and trucks. The kicker is how to reduce the NOX in the exhaust, which is linked in most studies to the production of "smog" in urban areas.
  • carleton1carleton1 Posts: 560
    Thanks for the answers. I had thought the NOX was a byproduct of the combustion of the Nitrogen that is in the air.
    It appears that the exhaust emissions of many newer vehicles has less pollution than does the air the engine uses for combustion.
    I have an aversion to diesel engines based on my experience with diesel engine tractors my father had on our farm and the fact that diesel engines in the NEW trucks our FA Battalion took to Vietnam when we were deployed in 1965 had many more problems than the old gasoline powered 6 cyl GMC trucks of Korean War 1950's vintage.
    Neighbors have diesel engine pickups and the horrific odor and noise are very objectionable.

    Bottom line: Because of my aversion to diesel engines, the Prius is a much more attractive "Clean Air" vehicle than any diesel. Toyota is the most widely accepted #1 brand for reliability.
  • jrct9454jrct9454 Posts: 2,363
    ...that simply no longer apply.

    The engines in personal use pickups [especially the heavier ones] are allowed to get away with ridiculously looser emission controls than passenger cars. This too will change in the future, which is why everyone is working on as close to zero-sulfur fuel as the technology will manage.

    I haven't owned a diesel since our '81 300SD, but after driving one of the new generation in Europe, it would be my first choice if any of the current MB, BMW, VW, Peugeot, etc. direct-injection turbos were available here.
  • I know that the first three years of service are covered by toyota. But what does a 15k, 30k, etc service cost after that? I figure that there must be added cost for the electrical portion but the Engine should be easy since the driver can't easily abuse it on the road.

    Also, is the forst three years covered regardless of mileage?
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    The 15 and 30K services are covered by the warranty. Beyond that, there isn't too much added expense to this car. About the only thing different is that you must change the inverter coolant ever 30K miles. I don't know what that costs.
  • I'm sorry to be non-specific. I refer to the 15k and 30k services on a car for the life of it (i.e. 150k would be the 30k) as the same functions are performed (usually). You did answer my question with the "not too much added expense" and thanks for that.

    BTW A prior posting insinuated that the squeaky dealer geets the prius. The story was that matches are made for the cars that arrive. Is this the story as you know it? would it change by region? I expect to see one arriving through Long Beach but I am thinking that there may be a delay as the web site for the dealer lists progress for all prius orders and I have noticed a lack of progression. (Could be "the watched pot" syndrome.)
  • gweilogweilo Posts: 118
    Look at the BMW/hydrogen article in the edmunds home page. Fuel from water that burns back to water. Real cars(how about a 12 cyl?)based on current engine design that can stand up to wind.
    Step one.
    Step 2?
    Power plants run on water, emitting water.
    Sign me up.
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    Sorry for the delay in responding. I've been on vacation.

    The squeaky dealer does NOT get higher priority. These cars are allocated on a customer basis and not a dealer basis. I have not heard an answer from Toyota on whether these are true "custom" builds or not but I suspect they are. That being said, I just delivered my first car that did not arrive in the order it was placed. I'm betting this was an aberration. Every other car arrived in the exact order that it was placed.
  • nofeernofeer Posts: 381
    So would the ownership of the prius be on par with a corolla, or civic, would it be a good car for a teenager or college kid. Away from Calif.( i live in KY, my son in MI) we can get the vw tdi, which would you trust for ease of use and durability. One prius owner told me about a 8 year, 80k warranty? if the prius gets 50 and so does the diesel VW, why not the TDI
    Hows the prius on the highway and passing?
This discussion has been closed.