2001 Prius New Car Test Drive
The Toyota Prius sedan has a different way for getting you from point A to point B: This 'hybrid' vehicle combines environmentally sensitive electric power with traditional four-cylinder gasoline power. This gas-and-electric combination makes the compact, four-door sedan extremely clean running and produces amazing fuel-efficiency-up to 52 miles per gallon in stop-and-go city driving.
With most urban areas choked with commuter traffic during morning and evening rush hours, the Prius makes for a comfortable and quiet cocoon to help maintain your sanity when the surrounding traffic can barely maintain the speed limit.
The Prius is Toyota's first foray into the 'green' automotive marketplace, and joins the much smaller Honda Insight as the only gas-and-electric-powered vehicles for sale in the U.S.
The hybrid system is easy because it requires no commitment from the driver: You don't have to tell the car to switch to either the gas or electric motor-it does it automatically. Plus, you also don't have to plug the Prius in at night to recharge it, as the gas, electric and battery system is self-contained and recharges itself while you're driving. Under medium acceleration, the gas and electric motor work together to provide the power you need to merge on the highway. When you only need a little power, say for stop-and-go driving in traffic, the gas engine shuts off. What throws you off during your first drive is how the cabin goes silent when you come to a complete stop-since the engine isn't needed, it shuts down. Normally, with this quiet a cabin you'd think that the engine had stalled. Plus, when you're sitting in traffic with the gas engine off, the Prius emits zero emissions. This helps the Prius earn the tough SULEV rating, for super low-emissions vehicle.
The Prius ($19,995) is available only in a single model, albeit a fully loaded one. Standard equipment includes an automatic transmission, remote keyless entry, ABS, alloy wheels, air conditioning with automatic climate control, an AM/FM cassette, and power everything. A navigation system and CD player are among the few available options.