Probably, the Toyota Prius is the most talked about car currently on the road. Toyota essentially re-wrote the book about what an eco-conscious car is with this thing. Sure, it’s not without its negatives (weight, battery recycling, highway fuel mileage etc.) but overall, if you want to show the world your green cred while tooling around the Toyota Prius is pretty much THE way to do it. Just ask Honda, who’s going pretty much goofy trying to get people into their Insight hybrid. At the rate Toyota sells these things, pretty soon, saying “hybrid” to a person will give them a mental picture that equals “Prius”. Unless there are more alternatives out there for sale, Prius will be to hybrid what Kleenex is to wiping your nose. The name will simply become the product.
Speaking of selling, Toyota, who just rolled out the latest generation of Prius, has finally gotten around to announcing prices.
There’s no big price hike here, if that’s what you’re worried about. Going on sale in May, the third-generation Prius will be available in one grade with a starting price of $21,000. The Prius will be offered with five levels of popular standard equipment combinations. There will be a new base model with a lower level of standard equipment is scheduled to be available later this year, essentially a factory stripper aimed at “… the most cost-conscious businesses and consumers,” says Toyota. Also who that is aimed at is people who are looking at the Honda Insight, that starts at just under $20K.
The Prius will come in five trim levels (to use an old term). The first level is the stripper version. The second features most of the Prius stuff you’re used to like the Multi-Informational Display with energy monitor and fuel consumption history. All the new Prius feature a bigger engine, at 1.8 liters, and the Prius II (as this version is referred to) also features AM/FM/MP3 CD player with six speakers, cruise control, seven airbags including driver knee airbag, four-wheel disc brakes etc. etc. etc. all for the low-low price of $22,000
The Prius III give you a nicer stereo (JBL AM/FM/MP3 six-disc CD changer with eight speakers) with integrated satellite radio capability as well as hands-free phone capability via BluetoothÂ® wireless technology, but it also makes your wallet a grand lighter, ringing out at $23,000. The Prius IV gets you all the previous stuff plus a Smart Key system, Leather-trimmed interior, heated front seats with driver lumbar support, and a Plasmaclusterâ„¢ ionizer whatever the hell that is. The Iv also cashes out at $25,800. Finally we get to the Prius V with which you get 17-inch alloy wheels and P215 tires, LED headlamps with auto leveling and washers and Integrated foglamps, all for a measly $27,270.
Or, the short version is that the new Prius costs about what the old one did, but you get more stuff but it’s still more expensive than Honda’s challenger.
So now, the real question becomes one of just how much of a dent Honda will make. If they make a considerable one, as Toyota is planning for with their upcoming budget hybrid, then perhaps the Prius will end up being the upper end of the hybrid game, and everything else will move more & more down market.
Time will tell.
Update: 2010 Toyota Prius Review