Having been completely redesigned for 2004, the Toyota Prius remains virtually unchanged for 2005, save for a price increase of $540 and the availability of a voice-activated, DVD-based navigation system and Bluetooth connectivity.
The gasoline-electric hybrid Prius comes in a single, well-equipped model line, which includes a continuously-variable transmission, CD player with six speakers, air conditioning, 60/40 folding rear seat, power locks, windows and mirrors, cruise control, 15-inch alloy wheels, variable intermittent wiper, intermittent rear washer/wiper, and tilt wheel.
Two option packages are available, which include a “smart key” with proximity sensor, six-disc CD with nine speakers, automatic garage door opener, fog lamps and auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The Prius is a full hybrid and can run solely on its batteries under certain conditions. It does not require recharging. It gains its maximum potential in urban driving, shutting off its gasoline engine when stopped at a light. Price-wise, it slips in between the Honda Civic Hybrid and the new-for-2005 Honda Accord Hybrid, both of which look and act more like conventional gasoline vehicles but which cannot run on electricity alone.
The Prius’ decidedly weird styling wraps around a comfortable and spacious interior, although the dash is odd as well, and its gearshift and parking button are more awkward than need be. The horsepower numbers look miniscule on paper, but with the electric motor assisting it, acceleration feels up to the standard of most comparable gasoline-powered cars; the electric motor increases torque from 82 lb-ft to 295. The variable power-assist steering feels numb and the car follows every road imperfection, especially when it encounters highway ruts. It’ll take a long time for its fuel savings to catch up to its sticker, but when you’re talking about a car that Hollywood celebrities are falling over themselves to own, perhaps you can’t put a price on cool.
The Prius is built in Toyota City, Japan.