Yesterday, we introduced a five-part series taking an in-depth look into some of the best used green cars you can buy today.
Ranging from the humble hatchback to a mighty sport-utility vehicle, we’ve selected five cars we think deserve your attention when shopping for your next used car.
Today, we’re going to examine the quintessential green car of the last decade: the venerable 2004-2009 Toyota Prius.
The 2004-2009 Toyota Prius, otherwise known as the second-generation Prius (or XW20 to Prius fans) was Toyota’s first attempt at a hatchback hybrid.
Replacing the under-powered and pedestrian 2000-2003 Prius Sedan, this model offered the benefits of a 1.5-liter gasoline engine developing 76 horsepower married to a 50 kilowatt electric motor through a continuously variable transmission.
With a minimalist dashboard and large central information display, this particular Prius is often thought of as the geek’s Prius, thanks to its touch-screen multifunction display and impressive vehicle infomatics.
Driving Experience, Economy
Step behind the wheel of the 2004-2009 Prius for the first time, especially if you’ve never driven a hybrid car before, and you’re bound to feel a little uncomfortable.
It isn’t just the short front seat cushions either.
2009 Toyota PriusEnlarge Photo
It’s because the Prius uses a drive-by-accelerator system that takes input from the accelerator pedal and then decides how and where power from the hybrid system will be applied to provide the requested power.
This can sometimes result in a delayed reaction from the car as it switches from all-electric to hybrid operation. As with all hybrids, the Prius responds best when smooth and gentle acceleration is requested rather than a stomping right foot.
In much the same way, early, light, smooth use of the brake pedal will engage regenerative braking instead of using the Prius’ friction brakes, helping you on your way to achieving the EPA-approved gas mileage of 48mpg city and 45mpg highway.
Because of its 50 kilowatt motor, the 2004-2009 Prius is quick off the lights.
But do so at your peril: its 1.5 liter-engine will enter into a cacophony of high-rpm unhappiness if you so much as contemplate proving that it can reach 60 mph in around 10 seconds. If you value your eardrums, and your sanity, take it a bit easier.
There’s one final caveat about the driving experience: the steering.
Primarily designed as a Japanese car by a Japanese firm for the Japanese market, the 2004-2009 Prius has the feather-light electrically-assisted power-steering.
Favored in the tight-streets of inner-city Japan, the steering is great for low-speed maneuvers, but can sometimes feel a little too remote at speed.