2008 Toyota Prius
2008 Toyota PriusEnlarge Photo
For the 2004 model year, the Prius received a complete facelift, losing its small sedan body and becoming a mid-size hatchback, capable of comfortably seating five moderately-sized adults.
Replacing the original battery pack with a smaller and lighter unit, Toyota engineers were able to move the battery pack under the very rear of the Prius’ load bay giving it a much larger and more practical load bay.
As a hatchback, the 2004-2009 Prius has a much more practical load-carrying ability, being able to carry very large objects with the rear 60/40 seats down.
As with the original Prius, the electrically-assisted power steering in the 2004-2009 Prius is extremely light. Designed for the Japanese domestic market -- where steering is generally much lighter -- it may take a while to get used to the rather sensitive steering.
This also has an effect on the feedback to the driver, with very little road vibration transmitted to the wheel.
The Column gear selector was replaced by an on-dash gear selector, and the dash redesigned to include a much larger multi-function display.
The 2004-2009 Prius was the first to feature the ability to operate entirely in electric-only mode, thanks to an EV-button which forced the car to use just its battery pack to power the car.
However, this feature was not offered in the U.S. market cars, despite the wiring existing to enable the feature. As a consequence, some U.S. Prii have had this feature enabled using a D.I.Y. modification.
Just like its predecesor, it is possible to fit a tow-bar -- but it is an unspported and unsanctioned modification. If you really need to tow a lot, we'd suggest buying another car.
The 2004-2009 Prius featured a plethora of gadget-savvy features, with voice-activated climate control and satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and rear-view cameras all offered as options.
Included as standard on later cars was a 3.5 mm audio input jack, and MP3 CD auto-changer, keeping both driver and passengers musically entertained on longer trips.
Information about the car’s fuel economy was conveyed through a larger multifunction touch-screen display centrally mounted in the dash.
With the addition of aftermarket accessories, it is possible to turn this display into an entertainment system, playing video from an iPod, iPhone or portable computer to keep passengers entertained on long journeys.
Toyota Prius in the snowEnlarge Photo
The 2004-2009 Toyota Prius was the base for the first homebrew Plug-in Prius modifications, although it wasn’t an officially sanctioned Toyota update.
With many different aftermarket kits and conversion options available, the 2004-2009 Prius is the most commonly converted Prius. However, with conversions costing a lot of money, you need to think long and hard about investing in converting an older car.
Converting the 2004-2009 Prius to a plug-in hybrid can be expensive if you opt for a garage-installed conversion. It can also void your insurance in the event of a loss, make the car heavier, and also reduce luggage space.
We’ve actually converted a 2005 Prius to a Plug-in hybrid and achieved over 1000 miles on a single tank of gasoline. However, it isn’t easy -- and, as we found out when our converted car caught fire, it comes with its own set of risks.
Given the number of factory-original plug-in cars that will be coming to market over the next few years, we’d advise not converting a Prius to a Plug-in Hybrid at this time.
With 2004-2009 Prii being much newer than the first generation cars, most are still happily driving on their original battery packs.
With a smaller, lighter battery pack, the second generation Prius battery pack has a much longer life. As with any car, provided it is looked after and regularly serviced, we don’t expect many Prii of this age to need new batteries.
As with the older cars, replacements are readily available if the worst happens, however.
With a more aerodynamic design, a more powerful 76-hp, 1.5 liter engine and a 50-kilowatt electric motor, the 2004-2009 Prius is more fuel efficient than its predecessor.
In official EPA tests, the 2004-2009 Toyota Prius gained a rating of 48 mpg for city driving and 45 mpg for highway driving.
Much like the previous generation car, Consumer Reports took a 2004 Toyota Prius with 215,000 miles on the clock and tested it for fuel economy and acceleration against its official ratings back in 2004.