April 13, 2004

Consumer Reports recommends Toyota Prius

Yonkers, New York – Consumer Reports has rated the second-generation Toyota Prius “Very Good” overall in tests of five affordable family vehicles for the May 2004 issue. The Prius achieved 44-mpg (5.4 litres per 100 km) overall in Consumer Reports’ fuel economy tests, the highest ever recorded by CR for a five-passenger vehicle, and it is now a viable alternative to any small sedan or family sedan.

2004 Toyota Prius
2004 Toyota Prius. Photo: Grant Yoxon. Click image to enlarge

The Prius now ranks sixth overall among a total of 15 family cars retailing for about U.S. $25,000 or less that have been tested recently by Consumer Reports. The 4-cylinder Honda Accord is CR’s top-rated vehicle in that category.

For this issue, Consumer Reports tested the Prius against four-cylinder versions of the 2004 Chevrolet Malibu, Mitsubishi Galant, and Dodge Stratus,and the new six-cylinder Suzuki Verona. Consumer Reports is only recommending the Toyota Prius from this test group.

The Malibu’s overall score was only slightly lower than that of the Prius. The other three cars in the group scored significantly lower than the Prius and Malibu. The Galant, which was redesigned for 2004, is a sound car with good acceleration and a smooth transmission. But it lacks the ride comfort, refinement, and interior quality of the best in this class.

Introduced for 2004, the Verona is an example of the modern global auto economy. The car is built by Daewoo as the successor to the discontinued Daewoo Leganza. Since Daewoo cars are no longer sold in the U.S., Suzuki sells the car here as the Verona. GM, which owns a significant stake in both companies, sells the car in Canada as the Chevrolet Epica.

Even with a few tweaks since its last redesign in 2001, the Dodge Stratus is still not up to par with the other cars in this group. The car handles securely, but the cabin is noisy, the ride uncomfortable, and the access, a chore.

“The 2004 version of the Prius is a considerable step up from the first generation, with a spacious interior, quicker acceleration, improved gas mileage, and cleaner emissions, all for about the same price,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports Auto Test facility in East Haddam, Connecticut. “However, if your needs require a well-rounded family sedan, there are several models, including the 4-cylinder versions of the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Mazda6 and Nissan Altima, that have scored better overall in our tests and are similarly priced.”

To be recommended, the vehicle must have performed well in Consumer Reports’ tests, have at least average reliability based on CR’s surveys of its subscribers, and done well in independent crash testing. To earn top scores in this price range, midsize sedans should be able to seat five people comfortably, perform well, and attain reasonable fuel economy. The Stratus scored too low in our tests to be recommended and CR lacks reliability data on the Chevrolet Malibu, Mitsubishi Galant, and Suzuki Verona.

Full tests and ratings of the five tested cars appear in the May issue of Consumer Reports. The complete report is also available to subscribers of www.ConsumerReports.org.

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