2004 Toyota Prius
Gas prices are going up, smaller cars are better than ever, and once again, U.S. car buyers are turning their sights toward higher gas mileage.
For that, there's nothing that beats the 2011 Toyota Prius, with its 50-mpg combined EPA rating.
But will that Prius hold up? Will the battery pack and electric components work properly after the shine has worn off?
It's a valid question, and one that Consumer Reports considered recently when they reported on a 2001 Prius that had covered more than 200,000 miles.
Now the magazine covers another high-mileage Prius, this one the far more numerous second-generation model built from 2004 through 2009.
Their reader Anthony Frey drove his 2004 Prius hybrid from his home in Iowa City to the magazine's test facility in Connecticut. The car arrived with more than 215,000 miles on the clock.
Antony Frey with his 2004 Toyota Prius, Spring 2011, photo courtesy Consumer Reports
In standard acceleration and gas-mileage tests, Consumer Reports found that acceleration time had increased slightly, from the 10.5 seconds it had logged for a brand-new 2004 Prius to 11.3 seconds.
It also said that fuel economy had dropped from 44 mpg to 42 mpg, which it suggested might be attributed to different tires.
With gas at $4, that difference would cost owner Frey $4.32 every 1,000 miles, so it's not terribly significant in the grand scheme of things.
Consumer Reports concluded, "If you’re looking for a low-cost hybrid, you could do worse than a used Prius—even one with 214,000 miles on it."
One more piece of evidence for hybrids' essential durability is the frequent use of hybrids as taxi cabs in major cities around the globe.
That's some of the most grueling duty you can imagine, and it should help lay buyers' fears about durability to rest.
If they're tough enough to stand up to pounding taxi drivers in big cities, what could you possibly do that would be worse?