By on March 23, 2017

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Limited – Image: © Timothy Cain

The Toyota Prius is struggling.

That’s not terribly surprising. Fuel prices are low. Efficient hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars are available at virtually every new car dealer. The Prius has lost its early adopter buzz.

Oh, and the 2017 Toyota Prius is a grotesque little creature, shaped for the wind; not your eyes.

Toyota sold fewer Prii in America last year than at any point since 2004. In 2017, Toyota expects to sell far fewer than in 2016.

Making matters worse is the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid I’m driving this week. The Ioniq is $2,485 cheaper than the Prius. The Ioniq is, at the very least, less unattractive. The Ioniq’s interior is both more attractive and more straightforward. And hear ye this: the Hyundai Ioniq is rated at 55 mpg city and 54 mpg highway; better than the Prius’s 54/50 ratings.

But the Toyota Prius has witnessed the arrival of a direct competitor from a major passenger car player before. Yes, the Toyota Prius saw the Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius killed that Honda dead.

Will the Toyota Prius become a serial killer and murder the Hyundai Ioniq, too? (Read More…)

By on March 22, 2017

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Can a hybrid vehicle really shine when there’s a plug-in sibling hogging both the spotlight and the technological podium? For some automakers new to the game, time will tell. But at Toyota, which first made “hybrid” a household word, it seems the introduction of a new Prius variant has tentatively confirmed doubts about the viability of the stock Prius.

We’ll gain better perspective as 2017 plays out, but so far, it’s looking like the Prius Prime plug-in is doing well, and the Prius is maintaining the status quo. Which is to say, it’s not doing well. (Read More…)

By on March 8, 2017

2017 Toyota Prius

Attentive readers will have, by now, recognized that my automotive choices tend to run towards the, shall we say, flamboyant side. Our family daily is an inky-black Dodge Charger with a vanity plate which is guaranteed to enrage bumper-ogling Methodists. New, oversized rims are scheduled to be fitted the minute all this snow goes away. Meanwhile, the Ram 1500 with which the Charger shares driveway space is painted Look-At-Me Red, accented garishly nicely with chrome 20-inch rims. I drove a Lincoln Mark VII with an uncorked exhaust for many years. My neighbours love me.

So what am I doing in a Prius when my tastes tilt to the extrovert end of the spectrum? Well, it’s always fun to see how the other half lives, and in this case, I wanted to see how the thing would fare on a 1,000-mile journey in the dead of winter.

(Read More…)

By on February 21, 2017

2017 hyundai ioniq hybrid

At 30,000 feet above Nebraska, a man who could generously be described as severely corpulent had finally reached the level of personal solace required to allow his mass to spill out of seat 27D and into my own. It was another 1,500 miles to New York, and I could already feel the damp warmth of his body begin to encompass my left side as his sweat began seeping through his pants’ cotton-nylon blend and into my dark denim. Hyundai had invited me out for the introductory press event for its new hybrid/EV five-door, the Ioniq, and I desperately wished I was back in California braving unseasonably heavy rains on low rolling resistance tires as some overfed stranger’s lap oozed across my thigh.

I would have given practically anything to be back behind the wheel of one of Hyundai’s demo cars — not because the Ioniq was the pinnacle of automotive excellence, but because, a day earlier, the company claimed the hybrid version could make the entire transcontinental journey for roughly $100. I’d have gladly paid the Benjamin and spent four headache-free days on the road to avoid four of the most emotionally traumatic hours of my life.

While saying that Hyundai’s new green machines are little more than a preferable alternative to being smothered by middle-aged flesh isn’t the highest praise, I can also say that the Ioniq Electric, Hybrid, and Plug-in Hybrid are all superlatively serviceable — surpassing expectations without ever becoming a sensation. This is adequacy at its most acceptable(Read More…)

By on February 15, 2017

2017 IONIQ HEV

Once upon a time, Toyota’s Prius was the only real choice for anyone looking to get into a futuristic “hybrid” car. The microscopic Honda Insight, looking like a tear dropped from a poet’s eye, held two seats — and that’s no good for taking your friends to book club.

As technology did what it has been known to do (advance), other automakers picked up the torch, outfitting conventional family sedans with battery packs and Atkinson-cycle engines. The segment soon became more diverse, just in time to see the public’s enthusiasm for hybrids taper off.

Now, from Japan’s neighbor, comes a new Hyundai model — offered as a hybrid or electric, and with a plug-in on the way — that undercuts the world’s most recognizable hybrid in price. Your move, Toyota. (Read More…)

By on February 1, 2017

chevrolet-volt-small-overlap-test

Tech-obsessed and financially stable Americans have an almost fanatical devotion to Tesla’s Model S. The model was deemed “Most Loved” by the Consumer Love Index two years in a row and the Tesla brand currently sits atop Consumer Report’s Owner Satisfaction Rankings.

One place it hasn’t received top marks, however, is in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s recent evaluation of electrified vehicles. The Model S failed to earn the coveted Top Safety Pick+ designation, losing out to the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius.

During the trials, the renowned Tesla only managed an “acceptable” rating in the challenging small overlap test, which simulates crashing into an overpass support beam or telephone pole. (Read More…)

By on January 25, 2017

2016 Toyota Prius - Image: Toyota

2017 will be the fifth consecutive year of U.S. year-over-year sales decline for the venerable Toyota Prius.

The core member of the four-pronged Prius lineup — this non-Prime liftback — was once a seemingly unstoppable presence in America. Annual volume shot beyond 100,000 units in 2005 and rose to an all-time high of 181,221 sales in 2007.

But America’s post-recession enjoyment of lower fuel prices and an accompanying turn to SUVs and crossovers (plus a measure of distaste for the current model’s egregious exterior styling) led to a 98,866-unit U.S. sales result in 2016, a 12-year low for the Prius.

2017 will be worse. “We’re going to follow the market,” Toyota Motor Sales USA’s vice president for automotive operations, Bob Carter, told Wards Auto.

What’s that mean? (Read More…)

By on December 21, 2016

2016 Mazda MX-5 – Image: © The Truth About CarsOver the last year, the PR departments of 12 automobile manufacturers delivered 38 new vehicles to my driveway. Scheduling quirks and limited autumn availability saw that number slide from 2015, but week-long exposure to new vehicles was nevertheless extensive in 2016.

It’s a good gig. Sure, we work hard to maintain GoodCarBadCar.net — Mrs. Cain has even put in a fair number of hours since the October birth of our second baby boy — while I also contribute a couple of times per week to Autofocus.ca and work daily for The Truth About Cars. But in addition to our favored steed — the 2015 Honda Odyssey EX that we pay for with our own money — I get to drive (and fuel, and clean, and write two reviews about) a new automobile every week.

Those automobiles were collectively valued at $1.8 million in 2016, down from $2.2 million in 2015. The average price of the vehicles sent to GCBC Towers rose 4 percent to $46,671.

Every now and then, though less often than you’d think, I’d prefer a vehicle to hang around for an extra week. At least as often, I’d be content for vehicles to leave before their week was up. With the year now coming to a close, here are the best, the worst, the most surprising, the most disappointing, the most efficient, and the least economical vehicles I tested over the last year. (Read More…)

By on November 9, 2016

2016 Toyota Prius TouringIt’s an all-new version of a car that generally finds 140,000 U.S. buyers per year. But the Toyota Prius is quickly fading from the American mainstream.

There’s no doubt that hybrids, in a general sense, are struggling. Combined sales of hybrids and plug-in hybrids are down 6 percent in the United States this year, according to HybridCars.com.

But the Toyota Prius — the all-new, fourth-generation version of the sector’s progenitor —  is fading at double speed. Despite its newness and its vast objective improvements, Prius sales are down 12 percent this year.

And October was way, way, way worse than that. Much worse.  (Read More…)

By on October 25, 2016

2016 Toyota Prius Touring

Buick grabbed much of the limelight when Consumer Reports released its 2016 reliability survey results yesterday, earning the best-ever brand ranking of any domestic marque. But atop the leaderboard, Lexus and its Toyota parent brand continued the automaker’s reign.

Not surprisingly, three of the five most reliable vehicles in America are therefore Lexus and Toyota products. With the Lexus GS and Toyota 4Runner, the top 10 list is half-filled with Toyota products. Only one vehicle in the top ten is a domestic, the eighth-ranked Chevrolet Cruze.

They may be reliable, but do Americans actually want these vehicles? We took a look at the five least reliable vehicles in America and realized that, yes, in some cases, Americans do want them. In fact, the vehicles on the least reliable list account for 2.7 percent of the U.S. new vehicle market.

When it comes to the five most reliable vehicles in Consumer Reports’ survey, less than 1 percent of the market’s buying habits are represented. (Read More…)

By on October 13, 2016

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Toyota shoehorned a lot of cutting-edge technology into the current-generation Prius, but the fuel-sipping vehicle has a low-tech Achilles Heel.

The automaker is recalling 340,000 2016 and 2017 Prius models to fix a potentially deadly parking brake problem, the Associated Press reports (via USA Today). In the Prius, it could lead to “sudden acceleration” of a different kind. (Read More…)

By on September 28, 2016

2016 Toyota Prius

Toyota invested plenty of time, money and effort into making its plug-in Prius Prime stand out from its lesser hybrids, and the result may have convinced the company to change its future plans.

According to Autoblog, the automaker now has doubts about keeping the regular Prius as a standalone, hybrid-only model beneath the plug-in version. With conventional hybrid sales faltering, and the Prius Prime looming over the model line, attempting to improve the technology could be pointless. (Read More…)

By on August 7, 2016

About the only plug-in action most Prius owners get. Picture courtesy Toyota.

The short-lived Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid was never a popular vehicle, and the subject of one man’s lawsuit could answer why.

A suit filed against Toyota in an eastern Michigan court claims the plaintiff’s 2012 Prius Plug-in didn’t come close to offering the meager advertised range of the upgraded hybrid, CarComplaints reports. (Read More…)

By on August 4, 2016

2017 Toyota Prius Prime Rear 3/4, Image: Toyota

Toyota has pushed back the launch dates of its next-generation Prius plug-in hybrid, spelling a black Christmas for environmentally conscious motorists.

According to Reuters, the model — known as the Prius Prime in the U.S. — won’t bow this fall in Japan, and production will be cut back to match reduced demand. It’s not a great start for a model the automaker clearly worked hard on. (Read More…)

By on June 29, 2016

2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Toyota will recall a total of 3.37 million vehicles to resolve two safety-related issues, one of which involves an environmental control that can quickly become very bad for the environment.

The largest of the two recalls concerns faulty side curtain airbags that could partially inflate without warning, according to the Associated Press. The issue isn’t related to the Takata airbag recall — rather, the problem stems from small cracks in some driver and passenger side airbag inflators, which can widen over time and lead to the partial inflation of the side curtain. (Read More…)

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