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2008 Toyota Prius Review

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2008 Toyota Prius



MORE: Compare Toyota Specs and Prices-Toyota Buyers Guide

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Toyota Prius has the distinction of being the first mass-produced 5 passenger hybrid vehicle – and looking a bit like an insect. Say what you want, the vehicle gets an average of 46-mpg according to revised EPA testing.

I drove the 5-passenger, 5-door hatchback 2008 Toyota Prius with the 1.5-liter Hybrid Synergy Drive System (or HSD). The MSRP or base price for a Prius is $22,325, and that's with very few convenient standards (6-speaker audio system; remote keyless entry; and cargo tonneau cover is as exciting and free as it gets). My ride totaled in at $27,899 and that's with a $2,000 package discount. A $6,550 package included leather trimmed steering wheel and seats; voice-activated navigation system; Bluetooth; Vehicle Stability Control (VSC); auto-dimming rear mirror; Smart Key system; and fog lamps. Also, $199 mats and a $165 glass-breaking sensor bumped the price up.

The Prius HSD engine configuration is not a done deal – it is still being treated as a work in progress. The HSD is defined as a full hybrid system, capable of operating on gas or electric modes, as well as modes that combine most. It can get up to 110 horsepower.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: You get a very futuristic feel when you sit behind the driver's seat of a Prius, from the hidden storage compartments to the all-electric or digital dashboard. You'll get thrown off at first; no gages to read and vehicle information is situated much higher toward the front top of the dash (makes the interior very dark – too dark – at night). A key fob replaces a turnkey, "Park" is a button, and the automatic shifter is the smallest I've ever seen. Features like fog lights, a Smart Key system and floor mats shouldn't be billed as extras. Power seating and a moonroof at the price mentioned would have sold me, no questioning.

Reliability & Safety Factor: Excellent reliability. However, Prius repairs cost as much as 8.4% more than other vehicles (limited part supply). Standard safety included anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic-brake distribution (EBD), and brake assist (BA). Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) was extra and should be built into the standard price.

Cost Issues: I'm not so sure where the value of $27,899 – and remember, that's with a current $2k discount that could change any day – sits in the Prius. Is it the 46-mpg thing? This is one of the highest-priced economy cars on the market, and mentioned features and packages are average. I guess its simple economics – if you got it, and the Prius does, you charge more for your product.

Activity & Performance Ability: For only having 110-horsepower, it moved. I received many comments on the Prius' smooth ride and roominess. As far as other economy competitors I've tested like the Subaru Impreza and Honda Fit, it has the most space. Due to the shape of the back glass, visibility is an issue. You can definitely hear when the gas shuts off; much more abrupt than the Toyota Camry.

The Green Concern: The Prius takes the EPA Cake – they call the 2008 the most fuel-efficient car sold in the United States. It is certified by California as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle. There has been some questioning lately on whether or not Toyota's Prius assembly line strategies reflect how green the car really is.

The Prius is a vehicle in itself; no other competitor or even another Toyota product is like it. It is definitely rated as one of the best economy hatchbacks – it just might not give you the best in what's available in new standard or free interior features.

2008 Katrina Ramser

MORE: Compare Toyota Specs and Prices-Toyota Buyers Guide