Learn more about the 2004 Toyota Prius with pricing, rebates & incentives, pictures, safety data, technical specifications & more. Select a research category to learn more about the Toyota Prius.
Price Range: $20,295 - $20,295 | MPG: 60 City / 51 Hwy
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The Environmental Protection Agency's City/Highway fuel economy rating of 60/51 mpg puts the Prius at the top of midsize sedans sold in the U.S. The City rating is deceptively high, however, because the Prius uses the electric motor for much of the EPA's city driving test cycle. (Ironically, Toyota is legally barred from warning consumers of this.) The EPA's Combined rating (which reflects EPA's guess of a car's overall fuel economy) of 55 miles per gallon, is higher than that of any compact sedan sold in the U.S. Its emissions are the lowest of any conventional car availabe to U.S. buyers, bettered only by electric cars. Price-wise, it's not out of line with comparably powered midsize sedans.
Even so, standing on the accelerator returns a pleasant surprise. Thanks to the electric motor, the Prius launches without hesitation, although don't count on a chirp from the front tires. At freeway speeds, merging and overtaking are accomplished with little fuss. Those wishing to experience the car's outer limits should expect a leisurely progression to the car's top speed of around 100 miles per hour, however, as much of this is done by the gasoline engine's rather anemic horses.
The Prius' source of power is a conjoining of a gasoline engine and an electric motor. In a bit of hyperbole, Toyota calls the combination the Hybrid Synergy Drive. Hybrid it is; synergistic it isn't, not really. It earns the hybrid label by combining two, otherwise disparate, means of generating power to motivate a vehicle. To be synergistic, though, the resulting power output should total more than the sum of what the two systems produce when functioning independently. The hybrid system does not do this. But by complementing the internal combustion engine's horsepower with the electric motor's torque, it does make better use of the energy stored in each gallon of gasoline while leaving fewer nasties in its wake. The electric motor, which begins cranking out its torque virtually the moment it starts spinning, gets the car moving and helps it accelerate while it's underway. The gasoline engine steps to the fore in relatively constant and higher speeds, highway driving, where horsepower is more critical for maintaining a car's momentum.
The hybrid system improves fuel economy further by turning off the gasoline engine when it's not needed, like when the car's waiting at a stop light or even when putting around town at low speeds. Any time the driver's right foot requests more motivation than the electric motor alone can deliver, the gasoline engine instantaneously fires up and joins in.
The transmission is somewhat non-traditional, too. The Prius uses a continuously variable transmission, which constantly matches the most efficient drive ratio for the power output to get the car moving and to keep it moving.
The Prius scavenges as much as is possible of the kinetic energy contained in a car in motion, linking the brakes to a generator that recharges the battery when the brakes are applied. Along the same lines, the transmission offers a setting that helps recharge the battery when the driver merely lifts off the accelerator and lets the car coast, most beneficially downhill. In sum, with all these regenerative methodologies, there's no need (and no way, for that matter) to plug the car into an electrical outlet to charge the battery.
The 2004 Prius rides on regular, commonly available tires, versus the special, low rolling resistance tires on the 2003. They're not sporty treads, so don't look for quick and precise lef.