By KBB.com Editors
At the cutting edge of automotive design and technology, the 2008 Toyota Prius is propelled by a hybrid powerplant consisting of a battery-powered electric motor teamed to a gasoline engine. The two units can work in tandem or individually, allowing the Prius to earn uncommonly good fuel economy figures while producing extremely low (and, under certain conditions, zero of currently regulated) emissions. Unlike many fuel-efficient sub-compacts (in fact, the roomy Prius actually qualifies as a midsize sedan), the Prius can comfortably accommodate four adults, has a surprisingly smooth ride and can be loaded with such high-tech features as a rearview monitor and DVD navigation. For environmentally savvy families seeking to conserve both fuel and the great outdoors, the Prius is second to none.You'll Like This Car If...
If you're concerned about the environment, this car produces minimal greenhouse emissions in stop-and-go driving. Speeds below 30 miles per hour are handled by the electric motor -- the gasoline engine comes on only when you need more power or are driving at highway speeds. Nothing says "I'm Green" like a 2008 Toyota Prius parked in your driveway.You May Not Like This Car If...
If saving money is as important as saving the planet, you can buy a Toyota Corolla for a lot less money and still get pretty good fuel economy and low emissions. The Prius' long-term ownership costs are an unknown, as is the life of the battery pack and the cost to replace it.What's New for 2008
For 2008, Toyota will increase Prius production and add more packages to the already lengthy option list.Driving It Driving Impressions
The 2008 Toyota Prius is a very technologically advanced machine that employs a 1.5-liter gasoline engine rated at 76 horsepower and a battery-powered electric motor that generates 50 kilowatts (67 horsepower). The Prius emits no sound when started. One simply pushes the start button, selects D from the dash-mounted shifter and depresses the accelerator. The Prius moves forward in utter silence because initially the electric motor is doing all the work. As the Prius gets up to speed, the car's computer brain signals the gasoline engine to switch on, at which point the electric motor surrenders control in a seamless operation that is virtually undetectable. The differences between driving the Prius and a conventional gasoline-engine car are very subtle -- silent acceleration from rest and gasoline-engine shutdown at stops.Favorite Features
Although offered on more and more vehicles at all price levels, push-button start still qualifies as one of our favorite features.
Graphic Power Display
The graphic power display lets the driver monitor the interaction between the gasoline engine and electric motor, even when you can't feel it.
The Prius's long wheelbase provides 112-cubic feet of interior space, nearly matching the mid-size Camry. However, with its rear 60/40-split bench seat folded down, the hatchback Prius can undoubtedly carry far more cargo than Toyota's bread-and-butter sedan. The center dash houses a large LCD screen that shows the power transfer map between the gasoline engine and electric motor, as well as the display for the climate, rear backup camera and navigation systems. There is even an optional remote key fob transponder that tells the Prius you are its owner, allowing the doors to be unlocked and the car to be started without the use of a key.Exterior
The Prius' design is still unconventional, but somehow palatable to the everyday consumer. Compared to the first Prius, the 2008 model is much larger, with a fastback rear hatch design, bigger wheels and tires and a wider stance. A generous serving of side glass makes for good visibility, and the big rear hatch opening can swallow a 25-inch TV with no problem.Notable Standard Equipment
Every Prius features a 76-horsepower 1.5-liter gasoline engine teamed to a 50-kilowatt (67-horsepower) electric motor. Also along for the ride is a CVT automatic transmission, anti-lock brake system (ABS), air conditioning, rear defroster, power locks, power windows, power mirrors, illuminated remote keyless entry, AM/FM stereo with CD, front side-impact airbags, front and rear side-curtain airbags, tilt-wheel with touch controls, rear wiper/washer, traction control, a tire pressure monitoring system and alloy wheels. The Touring trim adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a larger rear spoiler, xenon headlamps and fog lights.Notable Optional Equipment
Options include DVD navigation, JBL audio with Bluetooth hands-free communications, xenon headlights, leather seats, satellite radio, six-disc CD/MP3 changer, auxiliary audio input jack, garage door opener, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), rear backup camera, Smart entry and starting system and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.Under the Hood
It may look nice and simple, but beneath the Prius' hood is a complex array of computers, wiring and mechanical intricacy. Do-it-yourselfers will be lost. The engine itself is a basic Toyota four-cylinder internal combustion unit, aided by the electric motor that delivers its power in the form of impressive torque. Power to accelerate and pass is surprisingly strong, and the Prius rarely feels bogged down, even with a full crew onboard.
1.5-liter in-line 4 with 50-kilowatt Permanent Magnetic Synchronous Electric Motor
76 horsepower @ 5000 rpm/67 horsepower @ 1200-1540 rpm (110 net horsepower)
82 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4200 rpm/295 lb.-ft. of torque @ 0-1200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 48/45
We can tell you the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the Prius begins at just under $22,000, but there is no guarantee you'll find one for that price. Demand last year nearly outstripped supply, and this year consumers with lots of cash on their hands may bid up prices as fuel costs continue to rise. A look at the Fair Purchase Price shows that typically the Prius is selling for about MSRP, but again that number may vary depending on where you live. The Prius is a hot commodity in California and other states where it qualifies for a coveted HOV-lane sticker and thus allows single commuters into the carpool lanes. We expect the Prius to retain a good portion of its original value, although not as high as its big rival, the Honda Civic Hybrid.