Finding and Using Reviews of the Toyota Prius

Before you buy something, it's always a good idea to find out what other people think of it.  The manufacturer and sales representatives will list its good points, but they may be exaggerated and won't be balanced by any bad points.  What you really want to do is make contact with other owners.  With the Internet, this is possible.  I would recommend you joining the Yahoo! discussion group "toyota-prius".  There you will find frank and honest discussion of the Prius, bad points as well as good.  But, it takes a lot of effort to pick through the archives of a discussion group and you'd be forgiven for wanting to read an organized and comprehensive examination of the product to get started.  This is when you turn to an independent review.

In theory, an independent reviewer has no reason to lie about a product and should be trusted to present the unadorned and reliable truth.  Unfortunately, reviews are a lot easier to write if you don't bother to find out the truth.  Why would you do basic research when you're paid by the word or by the review and you can just copy what other reviewers are saying?  Who will find out you're wrong and how will they discredit you?

The Prius is a difficult product to review.  It is at the same time familiar (it's a car, after all) and radical (it works completely differently).  The reason why it is so different is sometimes difficult to grasp (is it the fuel economy or the super-ultra low emissions?).  What's obvious, unfortunately, to someone who doesn't have a grasp of how important this car is, is that from the outside it looks rather small, costs quite a bit more than other cars that look similar and doesn't have a great 0 to 60 time.  A few reviewers have just gone with those observations and fabricated everything else they need for a review.  The rest appear to have plagiarized their work and presented the same misconceptions in different words.

Recognizing Bad Reviews of the Prius 

Before I point you to some useful reviews, here are a few things to watch out for when you find reviews yourself.

Confusion of the Prius with the Echo

The Echo is a perfectly good car.  The general styling of the Prius and Echo are somewhat alike, but there the similarity ends.  The Prius is a larger and more luxurious car than the Echo.  If the Echo looks good to you, fine, but if you're considering the Prius don't be misled by reports that you'll be getting a fixed-up Echo.  To make the confusion worse, the Prius and Echo engines share the basic dimensions of displacement, bore and stroke.  They are probably built on the same basic cylinder block casting.  But, the Prius and Echo engines are more unlike than the Echo and Camry engines.  Nothing you can say about the Echo engine means anything to the Prius.

Confusion of the 2001 Prius with the Japanese Prius

The Prius was launched in Japan in 1998 and served that market well for more than two years before being launched in other countries.  Driving in Japan is uniquely urban and many features of the car display this city driving heritage.  The fuel consumption on the EPA urban cycle is better than many smaller cars, the turning circle is extremely small and the steering retains its sensitivity from lock to lock.  But, Toyota wisely changed the car for the higher proportion of freeway driving in other countries, particularly the US.  Maximum power and torque of the engine were increased and the motor/generators were also beefed up to improve acceleration, both from a standstill and in passing situations.  The Japanese Prius was criticised in the US for being sluggish.  This was probably justified, but with the model year 2001 changes you should not think that this applies today.

Confusion of the Prius with the Honda Insight

The Honda Insight is another perfectly fine car.  Being a gasoline/electric hybrid, like the Prius, it achieves excellent fuel economy and low emissions.  In fact, being a two-seater coupe with an aluminum alloy body, it achieves significantly better fuel economy.  But, also being a two-seater coupe, it is not suitable for people needing a family car.  The Prius is a five-seater with four doors and interior room comparable with the older (smaller) Camry and Honda Accord.  It is difficult to see how reviews could mix up these cars, but they do.  If you're looking for a family car, don't be distracted by comparisons of the Prius with the Insight.  If a light, sleek two-seater would meet your needs, you should be looking at the Insight as well.

Some Good Reviews of the Prius

Climbing out of Laramie

The MY2001 homepage is

Last edited June 24, 2002.  All material Copyright © 2001, 2002 Graham Davies.  No liability accepted.