Buying used – The answer to a New Year green resolution
If you’ve resolved to be less profligate with your driving in 2014, a more or less painless way to start is to look at a used Prius II, says Dave Moore.
The Toyota Prius II, sold here new between 2003 and 2009 was effectively our first practical hybrid. You see quite a few around and they’ve been here long enough for depreciation to make them an affordable way to fulfil that resolution you’re going to make about being easier on gas and the environment for the new year.
Unlike the rather ugly initial version of Toyota’s foray into building the world’s first family hybrid, the Prius II really hit the nail on the head.
Its batteries have proven that they can last as long as conventional engine does, which means not forever, but for hundreds of thousands of kilometres. The first Prius didn’t really achieve that and as far as styling is concerned, only its mother could love it.
The Prius II being a hatch, to the Prius I’s sedan design, is also more practical, though its load space is not huge. Passengers aren’t too badly off either, though the occupant in the centre-rear will feel a little snug.
But the reason we’d look at a used Prius is to be kind to our environment in terms of emissions and kind to our wallets in terms of fuel costs, while it’s also a less- expensive way of finding out if we can live with a hybrid at all.
The Prius II’s performance is lively enough for most drivers day to day with its 1.5- litre engine and electric assistance, and though the deployment of electric and petrol power and combinations thereof is a taste to be acquired, the car’s levels of refinement when touring and cruising are a plus point.
It’s no backroad pocket rocket however, and outright performance, grip and ride quality do take a back seat to low rolling resistance and of course saving gas.
While high specification Prius models cost quite a premium over the range-starter car when new, the beauty of used models is that prices close-up a lot when they’re a few years old. Strengths: The Prius II is very easy to drive and while the factory quoted 4.5L/ 100km combined fuel economy ratings take some care and concentration to achieve, it’s actually fun trying. All Prius IIs are wellequipped and while the car’s power deployment graphics can be difficult to understand without a handbook, the internet can be of help.
Six airbags are standard, as are anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist and Toyota’s vehicle stability control. Climate control, all-round electric windows, a CD player and electric windows are part of the standard package. Best to buy: We’d get the best and latest we could afford, ignoring the over complicated top specification models and looking at entry-point cars. Many Prius IIs have come in as used imports and are by definition a lot cheaper than New Zealand models, but we’d still seek cars with a local origin, which are more likely to have documented history and useable sat- nav. You often get electronics you can’t even use in imports.
Toyota’s own Signature class offerings are a good way to go, especially as you’ll probably need factory servicing anyway. Weak points: The secondgeneration Prius is as well put together as any Toyota, and surveys in Europe and the US show owners are happy with the quality and ownership experience.
However, there have been issues with the 1.5- litre Miller- cycle engine, though from what we can gather it appears to have affected US models more than others. It has been reported to stall and then refuse to start. Toyota traced the fault to unreliable engine software and recalled and rectified problem cars.
You’ll have to live with:
The Prius’ less-thanresolved ride quality and rather numb steering. It also has a quirky driving style, less-than-racy appearance and demeanour, but it does have its benefits in terms of running costs and the smugness it can give you when you own your first Prius II – don’t underestimate that feeling either. The battery pack does restrict load space somewhat. What to pay? If you stick between $ 10,000 and $ 15,000 you’ll still get a good choice of Prius IIs on the internet or in dealerships. We’ve seen a good 2006 with about 80,000km for $15,000. Go for slightly higher mileage like the two circa 100,000km 2004 cars we saw and you can snap one up for between $ 10,000 and $12000. However, our best buy was a 2008 Prius II which had travelled just 50,000km with a good warranty for $14,000.
What do they cost to run?
While recent reports have it that Prius batteries will last a long time with some markets offering warranties of 150,000km and eight years plus, it’s worth looking at an extra warranty if you can afford one. A signature Prius would take care of that. As we said before, the factory fuel economy ratings are hard to match, but nevertheless, fuel use rates shouldn’t be worse than 5 to 5.5L/00km at any time, – still better than any non-diesel out there. But wait: You might like to check out the Honda Civic and Insight hybrids while you’re hunting for your perfect Prius II. The Hondas and Toyotas have slightly different ways of deploying hybrid power and punters prefer the way one drives compared to the other without really putting their fingers on exactly why.
Toyota Prius II: Much less quirky to look at than the original model, but still unmistakably a Prius.