Time to pay trib­ute to the ground­break­ing Prius

Auto Express - - This week - GRA­HAM HOPE Edi­tor Gra­ham_hope@den­nis.co.uk

WHAT’S the most sig­nif­i­cant car to have been launched in the past 20 years? I’m sure we’d all have dif­fer­ing opin­ions, but there’s an un­de­ni­able case to be made for the Toy­ota Prius. Yes, in­cred­i­ble as it may seem, it’s now a full two decades since the wraps were pulled off the first pro­duc­tion Prius at the 1997 Tokyo Mo­tor Show.

A few months later we were be­hind the wheel for the first time, and came away suit­ably im­pressed. “Over­all the Prius is a re­mark­able piece of en­gi­neer­ing,” we gushed. “With its small-change run­ning costs and min­i­mal emis­sions, it could well be a glimpse of the fu­ture.”

How quaint those words look now, with the streets of our ma­jor cities full of Prius mod­els, and Toy­ota so con­fi­dent that it is en­trenched in the pub­lic per­cep­tion as the leader in this field that it mar­kets it­self as: “We Are Hy­brid”.

Of course, it hasn’t all been plain sail­ing over the past 20 years. I re­mem­ber well many com­plaints over the pre­vi­ous ver­sions’ dumpy styling, now ad­dressed on the ul­tra-bold cur­rent car (above), plus com­men­ta­tors who re­named it the “Pi­ous”, a ve­hi­cle that would only be driven by eco-preach­ing do-good­ers who bore no re­la­tion to av­er­age mo­torists. How wrong they were, eh?

As we ac­cel­er­ate at pace to­wards an elec­tri­fied fu­ture, with new brands and tech ar­riv­ing ev­ery month, I think it’s worth paus­ing and pay­ing trib­ute to the Prius at this landmark in its evo­lu­tion. In many ways you could ar­gue that it re­ally has laid the foun­da­tions for the cur­rent land­scape. With around 6.4mil­lion sales to date, it’s con­vinced a lot of peo­ple about the mer­its of elec­tric power. And whether you agree with me or not now, there’s one thing I’m sure of; in 20 years’ time its rep­u­ta­tion will have grown again as the pioneer of an eco rev­o­lu­tion.

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