"Having driven this car for nearly 9 years, I can say with absolute conviction that it is the most reliable vehicle I've ever driven or otherwise been exposed to.
Acceleration is adequate, handling is very good, but the maneuverability is outstanding. Dead reliable. Towed only once for a failed Anti-lock Braking System sensor. All other complaints were quickly and easily corrected in the first three years under warranty. First set of brakes were replaced at 83,000 miles
Fuel economy for a five passenger sedan is surpassed only by later generation models. Summer fuel economy averages 47 MPG while in winter it declines to 40 MPG due to extended warmup periods and trailblazing snow-covered streets. Invest in snow tires if you live in the snow belt -- you trade greatly improved traction for noise and a slight decline in fuel economy.
As mentioned by others, the seats are not very comfortable for long trips, but my 6'5", 260 lb. frame fits nicely into four of the five seating positions. Trunk space is adequate for groceries and weekend trips but little more. The interior has adequately resisted the abuse of a family of four and two 60 lb. dogs. All accessories function.
The exterior shows rust ONLY where collision damage had been repaired years ago. Paint is bright and clear. Exterior trim remains where is always has been. The body is tight. It exhibits no squeaks, rattles or groans.
It isn't the most attractive vehicle, but it's cute like a puggle. A used Prius of this vintage is the PERFECT pizza delivery vehicle. It's cheaper than a new economy car yet remains as reliable. It delivers much better fuel economy than current econoboxes ever could in that type of driving.
I love it and will drive it until it retires."
"I bought a 2002 Prius used in 2005 and it is still my dream car. Extremely comfortable for 4 adults even though it looks small on the outside. Definitely fast enough to survive on freeways. I get about 45 mpg in the city and 40 with fast highway driving. Outstanding reliability. Only problem was one day my navigation system stopped working. Took it to the dealer and all they had to do was reboot / reinstall the DVD, which they did at no cost at all(this was not a dealer that sold me the car, by the way). One downside is storage: though the trunk is very roomy for a hybrid car, the rear seats do not fold down. Redesigning the Prius (in 04 I think) as a hatchback was a good idea. I put on a roof rack to handle any larger items, and I still get the milage I mentioned above. I would highly recommend this car to anyone and if it ever dies, I will replace it with another Prius without any hesitation."
"As Consumer Reports notes, realistic gas mileage is NOT as displayed on the maufacturer's stickers (standard EPA tests). I've average 43 mpg over 70,0000 miles. That about 60% city and 40% highway. Also highway is routinely better than city mileage.
It's seldom mentioned but I think it's important to note that the mileage display plays an important role in changing your driving habits. I drive slower; I drive more safely; I drive more fuel efficiently. Just because I can see the mileage change in real time I think about what I'm trying to achieve (get somewhere in time) and I routinely modify the way I drive to include fuel efficiency.
I'll never drive a lower MPG car again."
"We are the original owners of our 2003 Prius. It is an excellent spring, summer and fall car.
However, it's a lousy winter car in Wisconsin. To run the heater in the winter, it requires running the gas engine (instead of the nice balance of battery/gas engine) so the fuel economy suffers. Instead of the 48 mpg in good weather, the winter mpg is in the neighborhood of 36 mpg. And forget about performance on snowy or icy roads! It's awful! The light weight that is wonderful for fuel efficiency in good weather is a severe disadvantage in winter."
"Short trips, long trips, it doesn't matter. It is a real joy to drive! New Goodyear tires at 30,000, slightly oversized, really make the car hug the road in turns. If you don't exceed speed limits your mileage is excellent but if you insist on driving 75 mph or more and you really start to take a mileage hit. Even with gas prices above $3.00 I find that I consistently spend only 8 cents per mile for fuel. I find that statistic much more useful than tracking MPG. Purchased new in 2003 - zero problems. Always do suggested maintenance."
"Bought this vehicle used in 2004 and found it to live up to the MPG promises. Only problem was a computer chip issue that was replaced by Toyota at no charge! This was in 2008 and they instructed the dealer to provide a loaner. You expect the dealer to offer good service, but the manufacturer? Toyota and it's dealers are about service. The reliability of this vehicle has made me a Toyota customer for life. Never got such good service and affordable maintenance from any other car maker."
"We've owned a 02 model for 4 years. Almost all parts for the car have to be bought from the Toyota dealer, no auto parts stores carry anything for it. To replace the starter battery was a little over $300. It doesn't take long to eat up any savings you get on the gas milage. We've had 2 major electrical malfunctions with the car that needed to be fixed by Toyota. Has not been a very reliable car for us. The car only has 64,000 miles on it. For gas milage its great-for reliability be very cautious."
"This is our first Prius.... Bought the 2002 for my son going to college. I have just driven it on a 800 mile trip...and am I impressed...Got 47 mpg overall (70 mph)....and was surprisingly comfortable for three....I read up on the 1st version of the Prius and discovered about the larger battery (for starting engine), and installed it right away. ....Haven't had ANY problems since we bought the car last fall...love all the toys, compass, outside temp, cruise, LCD touch display, etc...
So...I just bought a 2008 Prius for the wife...I'm an engineer and really see that this is one ingeniously designed car....all cars in the future will be hybrids"
"I truly love my Prius.. I have no major issues with this car. There are a few things you should consider before buying one (any year).
Child car seats make putting your seat all the way back difficult (mainly a rear facing infant seat). If you have two car seats, no one could sit in the middle of them comfortably. Two rear facing infant seats and you have to pull front seats all the way up for someone to get in to back middle seat.
The gas mileage IS great. It cost me $17.50 @ 1.79 a gallon to fill and I get about 38 to 41 MPG. I believe newer models are better MGP wise.
I have a 2002 and have had it for 6 years now. The black on the windows tends to get rusty, you have to take care of it. My paint is still great, interior so-so (I have children), and all controls inside still working. 108,000miles on it now.
Test drive it - Really! Hybrids make lots of noise when 'on' and if you are not use to them, it can scare you when they are 'off' at stop lights et.
Once you have one you will not want to lose it!!!"
"As my Prius with 73,000 miles approaches its 7th anniversary, I consider how remarkably well this car looks and runs with so little required maintenance. Mechanically, the car remains tight and just as much fun to drive as it was initially. Fuel economy improvements continue as we still learn more about how to exploit its capabilities.
Despite daily battles with a pair of mutts in the back seat, the interior is only now starting to show its age with a couple of small punctures in the seat cushions. Paint is still glossy and clean. Rust spots appear ONLY where collision repair work was performed.
I downgraded the comfort rating because, despite the fact that my 6'5", 260lb. frame fits in the driver seat. 2 hour and longer trips require effort and frequent stops to relieve mild back aches due to seats designed for smaller folks.
As a used car, this is the ULTIMATE pizza delivery vehicle - clean, quiet, maneuverable and fuel efficient."
"I agree with the other reviewers: this Prius is surprisingly roomy, and very reliable. The only downside is styling, there is nothing fancy about this car. Unless you consider the standard LCD screen, which most people riding in my car for the first time think is super high-tech. I've gotten an average of 36-42 MPG over the last 5 years, and I drive aggresively (hard starts and stops) and use the A/C a lot. The car has held it's value very well, and has spoiled me with everything I get to take for granted: riding in the carpool lane by myself, great gas mileage, no car repair bills, 6-CD in-dash player.
I love the tight turning radius, the few blind spots due to the generously-sized windows, the easy to read center-mounted digital speedometer, and the roomy cockpit."
"This Hybrid is my first! I bought it used in 2003 and I love it. It was hit in an intersection 3 mo. ago and it handled beautifully. The anti-lock brakes saved my life. I was able to manuver the car without hitting anything and it repaired beautifully. I feel very safe in this small car. Plus I fill my tank once a month...boy was I surprised when I had to fill the Chevy Cobolt rental 3x in one month! I'll never go back to a regular car. Hybrids should be the standard until they perfect the electric car."
"I bought this car new, just before the 2nd generation came out. Perhaps I should've waited a few months, because having a hatchback and all would be great. However, the 1st generation has done a brilliant job. I'm still getting 50 mpg and have had very few maintenance issues. Very very happy!"
"Our Prius is wonderful! It handles well in all conditions. We live on a mountain and it gets up that steep hill in snow better than our Saabs did - and that was pretty impressive! The only things I wish were different is the seats could be a little more comfortable on long rides and I wish it were able to accomodate a plug-in kit. I'd buy another Prius in a heartbeat - but only if I couldn't get an all electric vehicle! Maybe Toyota could make the Prius all electric - or at least as a plug-in."
"I purchased this car new in 2002 and have put 186,000 miles on it at of January, 2012. It's MPG performance is great, though it has dropped a bit as the car aged. For the first 100,000 miles we averaged around 40 mpg (which is what it was rated); in the past two years this has dropped to around 34 -- higher in the summer, lower in the winter (we live in Buffalo, NY). It drives like a dream -- very tight turning circle, good acceleration, handles well on street or highway. It does require snow tires in the winter, however -- but with them it does just fine."
"I brought my 03 PRIUS used with 117k last year and have put over 30k miles in the last year, with the gas savings alone I could have practically bought another!! Obviously the design and comfort is not that of a luxury vehicle but the savings out weigh that in my book plus the green points you gain in others eyes make it just about as cool as driving a BMW:) or at least I feel that way!! It is small enough to fit in any parking spot and really pretty comfortable for a economy model. I bought this model because of all of the reviews of each year since the car was put into production it seemed like this one had the least reported problems. My mom also has an 03 Prius that she has put 420k miles (and still going!) on and literally never had to do anything other than oil changes and tires until 350k and since then she has put new brakes and about $300 worth of misc fixes so I feel like I will get my money out of my little guy!!"
"The car handles well, accelerates quickly, has plenty of room for passengers and luggage. Visibility is good, reliability is great EXCEPT that in desert driving I had to replace the main battery once already three years ago and the replacement is needing to be replaced. Fortunately it's covered by the manufacturer's warranty.
The seat is not the most comfortable for long road trips, but is more than adequate for commuting to work.
I've driven the newer wedge-shaped models and still prefer my original classic Prius.
I love this car and highly recommend it!"
"I own six vehicles and this is by far my favorite car. After 6 months to order and 7 years of ownership, I'm not ready to give it up...yet. Avg mileage city summer = 39. Avg mileage city winter = 41. Best highway mileage extended trip = 47. Longest trip between fillups = LA to Vegas and back."
"I leased this car new in 2003 and bought it once the lease was up. The first thing I had to do was learn to drive a little differently to get the most milage. The room inside is what surprises most people. Four large adults fit comfortably with plenty of leg room. Any problems I have had have been minimal and covered by warrenty. I don't want to ever give it up. I average 38 MPG in the winter and 45MPG in the summer."
Pros: "Durability, gas mileage, comfort, ease of use"
Cons: "Tire wear, stability at higher speed"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Our Prius is going on 10 years and we haven't had any major issue; on a new technology vehicle like first gen Priuses, it is pretty amazing.
Batteries were changed under warranty by Toyota and the car keeps on going with the same great gas mileage!"
"The Prius is a great car. Gas mileage only improved with additional miles (get almost 55 mpg at times).
However, between the additional initial cost of the vehicle, and the incredible costs of repairing ANYTHING hybrid related, you will NEVER make back the extra cost in gas savings.
As you continue to drive more miles, the hybrid components that need to be repaired and/or replaced keep increasing.
Have 300k miles on this one, and needs over $15k in repairs (new hybrid battery, etc.).
Buy a comparable Corolla for $6-8k, and between lower initial cost, and lower repair costs, you will save significant $$$ in the long run.
It's a pretty nice car otherwise. Though the 2001 is somewhat anemic in the "pep" department."
"I wanted a comfortable, easy-to-own, high-mileage vehicle that made me feel good about my "carbon footprint." I bought this car in 2003 and have not had a minute's trouble with it. I have replaced only the battery and the tires (which I would do with any car) and it runs like a top. Still gets 46-48 miles/gallon. Great!"
"An excellent car all around. Get lower gas mileage than most since I live in SF and am always going up and down hills - range around 39 to 42 - if I do a lot of freeway driving it gets better mileage. The tires pick up nails easily. I figure it is a heavy car. I had a strange problem with the 'starter' battery as it lost juice when I left the car unused for over a week and a half. Other than these problems, it is a great car, easy to drive, good pickup, quiet. Can't work on it yourself. Low emissions. I have a 2003."