2003 Toyota Prius: Best tankful to date is about 52 MPG
The original Prius debuted in the North American market for the 2001 model year. However, Toyota had been selling it in Japan since 1997. This model was the second hybrid vehicle available to U.S. consumers after the Honda Insight. In just about every aspect, the original Prius has been eclipsed by the second-generation car. The first-generation Toyota is slower, smaller and not as comfortable. But this in no way means that it is to be avoided. For a consumer interested in a used hybrid vehicle, this first-gen Toyota Prius could be a smart choice.
Though less advanced than the one in the current model, the older Prius's powertrain still paired a gasoline engine with an electric motor. Its 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine made 70 hp at 4,500 rpm and 82 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm. The electric drive motor was worth another 44 peak hp.
Selecting a used Prius based on year shouldn't be too difficult. Models built for 2002 and 2003 might have more of a draw, as it was then that Toyota started to offer additional optional features, such as a navigation system, side airbags and cruise control. Most first-generation owners seem quite happy with their cars and overall reliability has been very good. For additional peace of mind, these models came with an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty for the battery pack.
People’s perception of the Prius is by and large that of retired professors trying to save the World doing maybe 15 miles per hour. Well, maybe that is partly true, I certainly came across some of them, but should you decide to drive it hard the Prius will do the most unexpected things. Such as keeping up with absolutely everybody. 75? No problem. 80? No problem. Over 80, no comment.
Getting back to performance of the car -- I drive a combination of divided highway and city traffic. When you first get out on the road, if you are interested in maximizing the mileage per gallon, you don't gun it, you allow the car to gradually gain speed (0 to 60 in about 30 seconds). That part drives me crazy (having owned an early-1970s big block V-8), but once you get it up to speed you still get surprisingly good mileage. It's easy to turn into a Prius "geek" -- I've gotten into the habit of coasting down the garage driveway at work thereby boosting MPG. Best tankful to date is about 52 MPG.
During the peak heat of summer, which reaches 95+ degrees here, the A/C runs most of the time and our mileage drops to about 38 mpg. I don't think we have ever seen less than 36 mpg. During the rest of the year we consistently enjoy 44 mpg. That represents a mix of 60% city and 40% highway driving.
The only real dislikes are the car's lack of leg room, both front and rear. It's ok for those 5'8" and under, but for someone who is 6' or more one can only push the seat back just so far. For a car it's size it has a very spacious trunk, but most cars it's size also have 60/40 fold-down rear seats - a real oversight on the part of Toyota engineers.
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