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Toyota Prius



  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    I test drove an '04 Prius today and thought I'd post my thoughts. It had the Package #7 (AM) which included the extra airbags, smart entry, HID lights, and VSC. No nav. I think the window sticker was around $22,500.

    This is an impressive car for its intended mission: safely and comfortably carrying a reasonable load of passengers and gear while using very little fuel. It is smooth, quiet, adequately quick, and the hybrid system is unobtrusive.

    It makes virtually no compromises for the hybrid system. Other than the weird startup/shutdown drill, it drives just like other cars with only subtle clues that you're driving something different. I was really impressed how transparent the hybrid operation was.

    The design is very efficient. There is a ton of room inside and the car looks like I'd expect the next generation of cars to look. Toyota did a great job on the styling. The fit/finish is typical Toyota, although I don't think anyone would confuse it with a Lexus.

    The salesman and I had trouble "starting" the car - we had to pull out an info card to figure out that you MUST depress the brake WHILE pushing the Start button to get it "booted". (I was surprised that there was no dash indicator or warning system to let the driver know what they're doing wrong.)

    Once this was out of the way, I was immediately struck by how smooth the car was and the solid feel of the steering. This does not feel like a flimsy car at all - in fact, it felt more rigid and solid than many conventional small cars like the new Corolla. I never drove the car aggressively as it was raining cats and dogs, so I can't comment much on the handling other than the steering felt very good.

    The drivetrain is so quiet, you really don't notice when the gas engine comes on line, although there are occasional hesitations and light jerks as you transition between modes. Between the transmission shifts and the hybrid system working, you're never really very sure what is going on and I think Toyota wants you to think of it that way - you don't need to know - just press here to go faster and here to go slower and let us worry about it.

    Acceleration is adequate but no more and I suspect grades and a load could get things to a point where you would want more power. The salesman said the performance was comparable to a 4-cyl Camry, but I think this is stretching it a bit. When you floor it, it feels about like a ten-year-old 100-hp Civic would feel - not bad, but not super quick either. This would not be my choice of vehicle for passing on two-lane roads, but for moderate speeds trundling along in traffic or merging onto a freeway, it's fine.

    The interior was pleasant and very comfortable, but the materials and styling did little for me. The fabric on the seats is a mouse-fur velour-like material that looks like it would show dirt like crazy, especially in the ivory color. The center console with the cup holders seemed cheap and flimsy and there is tacky black plastic trim piece around the sound system that looks like it came off a $69 VCR. No one is going to confuse this interior with an Audi.

    I am a traditionalist when it comes to instrument panels and I just don't grok what is going on with the center-oriented panels on many small cars these days. The Prius supplements the main display in the center with a small digital panel set way up at the base of the windshield with speed, fuel, gear shift indicators, etc., but I would still have much preferred a conventional set of instruments and controls directly in front of the driver. This is something that was never broken so I don't understand why the car companies keep trying to fix it.

    This is a very cool car, but it is very antiseptic and appliance-like. I suppose one might get some fun out of flinging it around, but I don't think the car would ever encourage me to do so.

    I would caution anyone in the market to be sure to take a lengthy test drive, even if you have to work to find a dealer willing to let you do so. The car is very different. I liked it, but realized I'm looking for something simpler, more traditional, and sportier. So, at the other end of the scale, it's off to the Mini dealer tomorrow to try a Cooper. I'll probably end up somewhere in-between these extremes.

    - Mark
  • Mark, thanks for the review. My first choice was a Mini Cooper S. I came very close to picking up one a couple of months ago. I remember reading about reliability issues on the net and so I decided on ordering a Prius. After all, I really wanted a small economical car that gets good gas milage and of course low emissions. The Cooper S is about the same price as a Prius. Good luck with your search.
  • john1701ajohn1701a Posts: 1,897
    > When you floor it, it feels about like a ten-year-old
    > 100-hp Civic would feel - not bad, but not super quick
    > either

    But in reality, it is surprisingly quick.

    You can't go by FEEL.

    When you punch the pedal all the way to the floor, the entire acceleration is initially provided exclusively by electricity... which is completely SILENT & VIBRATIONLESS. You don't actually feel anything until the engine kicks in later.

    Try it again basing your assessment on what the speedometer displays. You'll be surprised.

  • john1701ajohn1701a Posts: 1,897
    > This is something that was never broken so I don't
    > understand why the car companies keep trying to fix it.

    Taking your eyes off the road and being forced to refocus has always been a problem. True, it wasn't "broken", but it wasn't a good design either. The relocation above the steering-wheel, which blocked the view for people of particular height, and pushing it further way is a real improvement.

    And of course, the switch to digital helps to significantly reduce moving parts... which do break. Just ask people you know if they've ever had an analog (needle) speedometer bounce at certain speeds or be non-responsive until warmed up.

  • john1701ajohn1701a Posts: 1,897
    > I would caution anyone in the market to be sure to take a
    > lengthy test drive, even if you have to work to find a dealer
    > willing to let you do so

    I totally agree. There's simply way too much to absorb if you only get a quick drive around the block. Seek out hills & highways, the acceleration is much more than people commonly believe. Then of course, find some 30-40 MPH roads to try play on; Stealth (electric-only) driving is a blast.

    Most dealers are getting TRAC 2004 Prius. So you can rent one for a day.

  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    The brochure says net max power output of the hybrid system is 107 hp and the weight is about 2900 lbs. Published 0-60 times are around 10 seconds. These sure sound like mid-90's 100-hp Civic numbers to me and exactly match the feel of the car on the road.

    - Mark
  • oldfoxoldfox Posts: 29
    I keep seeing references to stealth mode on this site yet saw a post on another site that said the stealth only mode was not available on the 2004. Something to do with EPA regulations.

    Any Clarification?
  • The Prius can run on the gas engine only, the
    electric motor only, or a combination of the two,
    whatever the car feels is more appropriate for the
    power demand that you're asking for.

    Outside of the North American market, there is a
    little "EV only" button on the 2004 Prius. You
    press this to force the Prius to run on the electric
    motor only (for short distances) and not turn on
    the gasoline engine. You'd probably use this if
    you're just doing a VERY short trip (like taking
    the car out of the garage, or changing parking

    So yes, the 2004 US Prius has stealth (just like
    the 2001-2003 Prius), but the 2004 US Prius does
    not have the EV-only button (for manual override
    to use electric-only driving).
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    I found a Prius to take for a long test drive today, even though another dealer in town told me it would be a month before they had any cars to test-drive. I drove a tan package 9. I agree with many of the comments made by Mark, but I have some different opinions also.

    First, I'll say I was very impressed overall by the car. It exuded quality, and although no one will confuse it with an Audi, it looked well worth its $20-25,000 target price (a little less than Audis go for these days). Even the hard plastic parts, such as the inside door panels, were of good quality. It also felt very solid, with no squeaks or rattles. I thought the interior fabric was comfortable and looked durable--if it's mouse fur, at least it's top-notch mouse fur.

    The salesman had just been to training and was therefore pretty knowledgeable about the car. He knew, for example, that I had to step on the brake before starting the car. About the only thing he didn't know was how to bring up the engine display. After he fiddled with the display for quite awhile, I found it accidently by pushing the Info button on the steering wheel.

    The ride was comfortable and quiet, but not floaty. The only bumps were over some tall tar strips, and even those bumps were well-controlled. The only significant noise when cruising was some A-pillar wind noise, which was surprising to me given the .26 CD, the fact it was not a windy day, and it showed up at as slow as 50 mph.

    It took a little while to get used to the CVT, with no perception of gear changes, but after awhile I forgot about it. I did feel the engine kick in, kind of like the feeling when the a/c compressor kicks in on a small-engined car, but it was not really noticeable when underway. I too thought acceleration was only adequate, but should be more than acceptable for the target market (p.s. I pesonally would never compare the Prius with a Mini Cooper S, as I see them as totally different kinds of cars, but to each his own.)

    Inside, I was glad to see the display with speedometer, gas, drive mode etc. right in front of me--I thought all the displays would be in the center. I thought the driving position was just about perfect (5'9", 32" inseam) except I wanted to raise the front of the seat cushion a bit--but could not as there is no height adjuster. That's quite an omission in a $26,000 car. Even Hyundai Accents have dual-knob seat height adjusters. Otherwise the driver's seat was comfortable enough, but I think I'd want a little more lumbar support for long trips. Both arm rests were cloth-covered and comfortable. I thought the center console was actually pretty nice, with the fold-out cupholders and HUGE amount of storage space. I like the slide-out CD tray below the cup holders. The power point was a little hard to reach, on the lower right of the center stack, and there was no power point in the rear for GameBoys etc. (c'mon, Toyota, this is a gas/electric car--share the power!). I thought it was interesting that with all the high-tech controls on the Prius, Toyota still uses the quaint stalk for the cruise control. Maybe there was no room left on the steering wheel! I played the (upgrade) JBL stereo for a few seconds; it sounded fine--not a big deal for me. The two glove boxes ala Sienna was a nice touch.

    The rear seating position (on the side) was just about perfect for me, very comfortable and tall, with tons of legroom. However, there's only about 1" of head clearance--anyone over 5'10" may have problems back there. I'll have to have my oldest son check it out before I place my order. There was a center armrest and two cupholders, plus a separate overhead light for the rear--not as nice as individual reading lights, but better than nothing. The rear is very easy to get into and out of, with large doors. The assist grips are damped--a nice touch.

    There's lot of room in the trunk, and I found out you can remove the cover over the tools and gain a few inches of height. The pull-out cargo cover seemed a little flimsy to me, like a K-mart roller shade, and I had trouble stowing it neatly.

    Outside, the standard wheels look very sharp. I noticed no exterior flaws, and the paint was smooth. I think the car looks much better in person than in pictures--futuristic without going over the top. The tan color was fine, and I like that color, but I already have one tan car so I'll probably go with something else, red or silver perhaps, on the Prius. I noticed the folding mirrors--thank you, Toyota!

    The salesman was very accomodating and showed me all around the car after the drive, pointing out the jumping point in the fuse box ("for those cold Minnesota days when you haven't run the car for awhile.") The engine compartment looked tidy, but I sure would not want to work on that engine. "Professional mechanics only" I think.

    So the Prius is definitely tops on my list. I'll need to have the whole family go for a drive to see how we all fit, and see how the DW likes it (she would be the main driver), but she think's its cute, and the more a car is an appliance for her, the better. I think she'll like it. And I don't mind that there isn't much power there, since my 15-year-old son will be driving soon.
  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    Nice review backy. Very comprehensive and you saw a lot of details I missed.

    I pretty much agree with everything, although I still despise the split instrument/dashboard layout. Just personal preference I guess, along with years of flying airplanes on instruments where you avoid, at all costs, looking across the panel to the center of the stack - it is just a bad place to put information. But the sub-panel showing speed works fine and I have to admit that it is easier on my eyes which are starting to have more and more trouble focusing on near objects.

    And I agree 100% with your comment about a Mini Cooper and a Prius not being comparable - I'm cross shopping only because they're in the same price ball park and I'm looking for a relatively economical and small 4-seat car with some pizazz beyond the typical Corollas, Sentras, Focuses, etc. In the case of the Prius, it's the mileage and high-tech features (along with a good feeling about doing my part in the planetary climate experiment we're all participating in), and in the case of the Mini, it's the sportiness, handling, and retro look. BTW, I just drove the Cooper S, and wow, that thing is a hoot. If you have a dealer in your area, schedule a test drive, just to see the other side of a $23K small car coin. If the Prius is built on Venus, the Cooper is built on Mars.

    To be shopping these two cars is totally irrationale, and Peter Egan explains it well in his Nov 2003 column in Road and Track where he is shopping for a sensible commuter car and ends up almost buying (for the same money) a 1987 C4 Corvette convertible. I think car buying should, to some extent, involve some emotion and passion, and I think one can be passionate about both a Prius and a Mini, while I just can't work up any passion for a Corolla or Focus.

    - Mark
  • I came very close to getting the mini for my daughter. So, I did the usual research and found out that there is a software problem with one version of the transmission (auto) that causes a noticable hesitance from start. It is really there and I bought the 2004 Solara for her instead.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    Well, I'd love to have a small sporty car like the Mini too, but with three kids still at home that's not an option for me right now. I need vehicles that can seat at least five people. But in a few years...

    I agree the Prius does not inspire passion like the Mini, but there is something about it that is exciting nonetheless--maybe it's the unique, slipstream styling, or maybe it's knowing I'm saving tons of money on gas and am doing one little thing to help the ecology by driving a Prius instead of buying another 15-mpg-in-the-city minivan.

    Oh, and about the Prius' displays--I really don't like the touch-screen display. I'd much rather have simple, conventional controls, like on my Elantra--boring but foolproof. It took the salesman and me five minutes to figure out if the a/c was on or off (it was a cool day, and all I wanted was fresh air). I told him, this is defintely a case where new owners will want to read the owner's manual cover-to-cover as soon as they get home from the dealership (although I do that with all my new cars anyway...). Now if they'd add effective voice-activated controls, that would be cool, and useful.
  • dupiedupie Posts: 22
    Hi: Well I picked my Prius yesterday Salsa Red with package # 3. You are right the ride is great,the steering is like I have never experienced before, the exceleration needs a little getting used to, and over all Toyota has done a great job on the second generation Prius.
    I do agree that the cruise control is some what not to my liking in the position that it is in.
    Fit and finish are typical Toyota, good with out going over board to make a Lexus out of it.
    If you flow in the main streem of traffic this is an excelent car, not a speedster but comfortable and at a price that fits many budgets across this country. My 04 Toyota Prius and I will have a long term relationship for some years to come.
    Thanks to John 1701a and others in the Prius grups I found a car that works for me.
    By the way I have a $ 50,000 dollar Corvette if I want to go fast.
  • 33283328 Posts: 8
    Sounds like a couple people know where to find a drivable demo in the Twin Cities. Will you share your knowledge and save me some calling around? My wife and I ordered an '04 about 2 months ago and I'd really like to take one for a drive. Thanks.
  • civicwcivicw Posts: 135
    I had a chance to check out the Prius today - very impressed with the overall package. Right after the Prius I sat in the Scion xB and it's even roomier than the Prius for at least $6K less. Just like markjenn, I'm looking for a small, fun to drive, non-generic car that seats 4, and for me the xB is it!
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    Denny Hecker's in Inver Grove Heights had one today that I drove. The salesman said they couldn't even sell it until "tomorrow", so better hurry over before it's gone.
  • There were at least two new 2004s for sale, no waiting, at Iowa City Toyota (about 4 hrs. from Chicago, 5 hrs from Minneapolis). I stopped off after hours last night and walked around one of them-- it looks great--solid and integrated, better than the pictures. Hope to test drive it soon.
  • Hi, I am still waiting for my Prius with package #4. Since I've only test drove a fully loaded Prius recently, can you let me know what the steering wheel buttons looks like in the non-loaded Prius. I would think that there is a cover for the upper right of center button area where the NAV and Phone option buttons would be. The rest of the other buttons should be on the steering wheel right?? Thanks, Tony.
  • 33283328 Posts: 8
    Backy - Thanks for the info. My wife and I took the Denny Hecker Prius for a spin this morning. Cool little car. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of power it seems to have - it's a bit odd with the CVT, but I didn't feel like it was underpowered at all. I was a bit disappointed with the "buzziness" of the engine though.

    Other observations (if you care)...

    It was pretty tight on headroom up front for me. I'm 6'3" and I probably only had a quarter of an inch or so between the top of my head and the "roof". On the other hand, my vertically challenged wife (~ 5'2") felt like she was part of the dashboard when she pulled the seat forward to a comfortable position. Something we always struggle with when trying to find a car that fits us both.
  • Tony,

    I test drove a Package7 (AM) today in Kansas City and the upper-right steering wheel where the NAV controls are on a fully-loaded BC was brushed "stainless" like the trim around the left-side controls.

    Can anyone tell me what the "B" does on the gear-shift. The Prius cheat sheet for starting and parking only said it's an engine brake but no salespeople or other consumers could figure out actual functionality - even when we pulled down to "B" in park and while driving.

    Awesome vehicle.

  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    According to the Toyota salesman I took the test drive with the other day, the "B" is for brake assist down steep hills. He also said I'd probably never need it. Anyone get a different story?
  • The first '04 Prius showed up in San Antonio this week at Red McComb Toyota. It's a beautiful car, but this $20K vehicle had $7000 worth of options and an MSRP of $26,995!! Even the hatchback rear wiper - they have the gall to call this single item "package #1" - on a Prius is optional. Looks like if you want to be a greenie in Texas you'd better have a lot of the other green stuff in your wallet.
  • Thanks Seth for the info. "Stainless" cover it is then...
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    Well, so much for the Toyota ads that claim that "fully loaded" Priuses with all options will be under $26k. But you know, Mr. McCombs just shelled out a lot of money to sign Daunte Culpepper, and Randy Moss makes a lot too, so he needs to sell a lot of those high-content Priuses. ;-)

    You can always order a Prius with fewer options. Package 3, with the rear wiper (yes, it should be standard on a car with a rear window like that) and side/curtain airbags is my favorite. Nav systems are fun, but MapQuest is free.
  • A while ago, mrvadeboncoeur posted, "reverse beep (inside only) is kinda annoying, but there is a disable dance listed in the repair manuals".

    Has anyone here actually disabled the reverse beep? I haven't found the procedure online, and I haven't found '04 Prius repair manuals at auto stores. Where can I get a repair manual? I understand that other Toyotas beep in reverse as well. Is the procedure the same for those cars? If so, it might be possible to pick up a manual for something more common, like the Celica, and go from there. What do you think?
  • backy:
     i don't think the salesman is right about the "b" being the brake assist down a steep hill. his explanation sounds like what is on a land rover discovery where the car actually brakes for you while you're going down a steep hill. the "b" on the prius is for battery charging mode when you going down an incline. it is very similar to the one on the classic prius.
  • djasonwdjasonw Posts: 624
    B Mode merely simulates what an automatic transmission car can do when decending a steep hill (i.e. putting it in 1 or 2).
  • to those to have driven both a mini and the new prius. what do you really think? i am in a position right now whether to put a deposit down on the mini or wait to test drive the prius. i am currently own an '02 prius and somewhat like it. it does not drive well in a windy day and a little loud (both engine noise and wind noise). i heard many good comments on the new prius based on your observation and experience. however i love the mini because of its look and my nostagic memory ( i did own a '61 mini for some time). i have two little girls who are still in their carseats. granted the mini is small but i live in a crowded city. if the prius drives as well as the mini then there's wouldn't be a problem. i can't get hold of a prius to test drive until early next year. please help!!!!
  • john1701ajohn1701a Posts: 1,897
    "B" stands for ENGINE BRAKING.

    It works much like a Jake-Brake on a big rig. The engine is forced to spin even though fuel isn't being fed to it anymore. That causes drag, which results in deceleration assistance.

    It does not change the gearing. In fact, there aren't any gears in a Planetary-CVT, so it doesn't work like 1 or 2 in an automatic.

    It does not increase battery recharging either. In fact, it slightly reduces it.

  • john1701ajohn1701a Posts: 1,897
    > Has anyone here actually disabled the reverse beep?

    Yes, the instructions have been tested and proven correct.

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