History/Description: To date, Toyota has sold more than a million hybrid vehicles, with success led by the flagship Prius. Now in its third generation on sale in Canada, the second-generation of Toyota’s iconic ecological warrior has transitioned fully into the used car marketplace.
The second-generation Prius was available from 2004 to 2009 solely as a five-door, front-drive hatchback. Of course, the main draws to a vehicle like this one are related to environmental responsibility and reduced fuel bills more than performance and styling. An active community of online owners backs this up.
The Prius was powered by a small gasoline engine and electric motor system that offered net output of 110 horsepower. An on-board battery is recharged by a generator that’s driven by the gas engine, so there’s no need to plug the vehicle in. In some situations, the Prius can even drive along solely on stored power, using no fuel whatsoever.
Prius offers a unique driving experience to be sure—though compromises are minimal. It’s not an entirely different machine to drive than any other small car, and it came with the same features and hardware you’d find in any other compact car– including premium audio, Bluetooth, power accessories and air conditioning.
What Owners Like: Most last-generation Prius owners rave about exceptional fuel economy, great manoeuvrability, a quiet and comfortable city ride and plenty of available high-tech features. Relatively generous on-board storage capacity is also noted.
What Owners Hate: Common complaints include rear visibility, modest-at-best power output for passing and merging, and uncomfortable seats. Be sure you’re able to get comfortable in the driver’s seat of the Prius you’re considering.
Common Issues: The low fuel usage and emissions of the Prius make it an attractive used car buy, though many shoppers aren’t comfortable with the unproven reliability of hybrid cars in the long term.
Thankfully, the last-generation Prius looks fairly reliable. Niggling electronic issues will likely prove more prevalent than major drivetrain-related problems. For instance, the stereo system, digital instrument cluster and navigation systems may work sporadically or quit altogether. Make sure all function as expected on a test-drive.
Another documented issue is the Prius’s inverter coolant pump. Out-of-warranty repair costs could be upwards of $600 should this part fail, though Toyota issued a Technical Service Bulletin to address it. Ask the seller or local Toyota dealer for more information.
Finally, check for proper operation of all exterior lights, which may be affected negatively by ‘bad’ wiring. Any check-engine lights should be diagnosed as well.
Interestingly, actual documented problems with battery packs, electric drive motors or the engine and transmission are few and far between. Still, an inspection by a dealer-trained mechanic practiced in Toyota hybrid models is advised to anyone shopping out a used Prius.
The Verdict: If you’ve decided that a well-maintained Prius will be joining your family soon, you shouldn’t expect any serious issues.