By on August 14, 2015

2014 Toyota Prius

Fifty-one miles per gallon city. Forty-eight miles per gallon highway. Still the best numbers in the industry for nearly a decade now.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m referring to the Toyota Prius, which is a 5-door hatchback that looks a bit like an egg mated with a shopping cart. It’s been a decade since the Prius came out in hatchback form, and a decade since it achieved those impressive fuel economy figures: 51 miles per gallon city. 48 miles per gallon highway. And still, no one has unseated the Prius.

It hasn’t been without trying. After the original Honda Insight failed, Honda came out with a Prius-looking second-generation Insight trying to dethrone the king. But it didn’t even come close, with fuel economy figures reaching just 41 miles per gallon city and 44 mpg on the highway. Even the Civic Hybrid, in its current form, can manage only 44 mpg city and 47 mpg highway.

And then there are the other challengers. The Ford C-MAX, also a hybrid-only 5-door hatchback, originally seemed like it might be close to the Prius’s EPA ratings — until people started complaining that they couldn’t come anywhere near Ford’s published figures. Down the C-MAX’s numbers went to their current resting place of 42 mpg city and 37 mpg on the highway.

The Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid gets close at 42 mpg city and 48 mpg highway. So does the Honda Accord Hybrid, at 50 mpg city and 45 mpg highway. And the Ford Fusion Hybrid, at 44 mpg city and 44 mpg highway. But none of them can unseat the reigning king and champion, the Toyota Prius.

Interestingly, even Toyota doesn’t seem to be able to top the Prius. Proof of that came a few years back, when they debuted the even smaller Prius c, a subcompact hatchback version of the Prius designed to provide a low-cost alternative to the iconic car. Despite a smaller engine, a smaller size, and less weight, its fuel economy ratings are 53 mpg city and 46 mpg highway — no better combined than the Prius’s 51 mpg city and 48 mpg highway.

So how does the Prius do it? It isn’t by cheating. The people on Fuelly all seem to report somewhere between 47 and 49 miles per gallon, which is right there on par with the EPA’s estimate. By comparison, second-generation Honda Insight people all seem to be somewhere between 43 and 45 miles per gallon.

We must assume that the Prius gets its amazing miles per gallon by honest-to-goodness engineering: a streamlined body, a tremendously efficient engine, and a wide range of other modifications that gives this car a leg up on all of its wannabe-Prius competitors. Which brings me to ask: why hasn’t anyone topped the Prius?

If it’s just engineering, someone can certainly do it. After all, this isn’t rocket science. Tear down the Prius. See what they did. Replicate it. This is how Volkswagen created its current-generation Passat, although unfortunately the car they used as the benchmark was a 1995 Camry CE.

So maybe people don’t want to replicate the Prius. What I’m thinking is, other automakers have decided the Prius is old news, and they want to focus instead on plug-in hybrids and electric cars which are all the rage these days. But here’s the problem with that: last year, Toyota sold 207,000 units of the Prius family, compared to roughly 19,000 Chevy Volts, and 30,000 Nissan Leafs. In other words: although electric cars might be all the rage, the “highly efficient hybrid” segment is still exponentially larger than the plug-in EV class.

And so I ask: in today’s world of people trying to conserve energy, save the planet, and lower their carbon footprint, how is it still possible that nobody has managed to equal the Toyota Prius in terms of fuel economy? How is it possible that nobody has beaten it? How has nobody entered this wildly profitable, popular segment and given the Prius a (slow, quiet) run for its money? Because the way it stands now, it doesn’t seem like General Motors should’ve devoted all that energy to making the Chevy Volt. Instead, they should’ve made a Chevy Prius.

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148 Comments on “QOTD: Why Hasn’t Anyone Out-Gas Mileaged The Prius?...”


  • avatar
    jrhmobile

    Right now there’s little incentive to produce cars with better fuel mileage than the Prius. Or for that matter, to buy Prii.

    As long as gas prices are low, these cars are going to languish on the lots. Better to keep developing and stockpiling hybrid and electric car technology, and keep your powder dry while collecting the big margins on pickups and SUV/CUVs. Because it may be short-term thinking, but it’s very profitable while it lasts.

    Think of the 18-24 months it’ll take to rush new technology to market after fuel prices eventually jump as developing pent-up demand …

    • 0 avatar
      Thinkin...

      Your first sentence nailed it, period. Although it is technically possible to produce a car with higher mpg numbers, it simply isn’t worth it. The Prius is the breakeven point. It would take a massive amount of expense and engineering to better those numbers significantly, all for very little real-world benefit.

      Consider this: Upping the Prius from 50mpg to 100mpg would make less of a difference than getting a truck from 9mpg to 10mpg. Let that sink in… Let’s say a car does 100,000 miles. Here’s the breakdown:
      100k @ 50mpg = 2000 gal. vs 1000 gal. at 100mpg. (saving 1000 gallons)
      100k @ 10mpg = 11,111 gal vs 10,000 gal at 10mpg. (saving 1111 gallons)

      While I’d like my wife’s Prius to get 60 or 70 mpg, it would only save me a few bucks a year, hardly worth the massive expense involved. For this same reason, I expect the next-gen Prius to only slightly better those numbers.

      It’s like commercial supersonic flight. Sure, we could make our planes faster, but why? You’re still going to spend many hours in airports, so why bother to shave off 20 min of flight time at a massive expense?

      • 0 avatar
        srh

        This comment nails it.

        Let’s say it was, in theory, possible to build a Prius competitor with *infinite* MPG. Even then, using your example, the most you could save over the Prius would be 2000 gallons. About the same savings you’d get with a much more realistic mileage improvement in other cars. There is simply no rationale for continuing to improve the mileage of very efficient cars.

        In computer engineering we call this Amdahl’s law. Optimizing the most efficient part of a system provides only minimal incremental gains. Optimization effort should be focused elsewhere.

        Further, as has been shown many times, there isn’t a market for hybrids. There is a market for Priuses, but not for other hybrids.. I’d bet that sales of a hybrid Ford Focus with equivalent mileage to a Prius would still be very small.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        *slow clap*

        But equally important on the “why not make a 60mpg car?” thing …

        100k @ 50mpg = 2000 gal vs. 1666.7 gal for 60mpg.

        That’s 333 gallons over about 8 years of life for the average-ish driver, or perhaps half the lifespan of the car.

        At rough current prices [$3/gal] that’s $1000 over that span, or $125 a year.

        That’s just … not compelling, especially if there are *any* compromises in NVH or anything else you care about.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Thinkin.., indeed…. :)

        Dragging “lesser” vehicles up to a level closer to the Prius, is realistically more relevant. On that note, the more spacious, and vastly more conventional, Accord Hybrid looks to me like it may well have an “improved” powertrain, as it gets mileage better than Toyota’s similar sized/shaped Camry/Avalon hybrids. While the PlugInns (Volt et al) are enough of an improvement over the Prius, for a substantial number of use cases, to actually matter.

      • 0 avatar
        Tosh

        When we measure miles per gallon we’re measuring the INVERSE of consumption (which is what one is really wanting to know), so one is able to ‘game’ the math with cute little tricks like that ‘savings analysis.’ Start reporting ‘fuel economy’ as consumption, not INVERSE consumption!

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      From the buyers’ perspective, absolutely. Gas is cheap and looks like it will remain cheap through 2020 at least so why settle?

      But manufacturers are working with 5 year lead times and OPEC flooding the market sneaked up on everybody. Other than that the two years when the world economy was on fire from 08-10, a time when product development very nearly stopped in any case, expensive gas has been both the reality and the assumption for a full decade . Obama’s CAFE standards have only gotten more harsh. The green cars that we don’t want should be here in force.

      And they largely are. Count the sedans that aren’t four cylinders with the back seat kammbacked off. CVTs and turbos are in, throttle response is out, the V8 is dead, windshields slopes go all the way to the front axle, ad nauseam. (And we hate them all and buy CUVs instead.)

      So where are the Priuses?

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      Right. Gas is so cheap that it would take you so long to make up the gas mileage minus cost difference between a Prius and a Versa that people actually into saving money won’t bother. Bleep, an Accord Sport that’s fun to drive is so much cheaper than a Prius that you’d still be ahead cost-wise at the end of a typical 4 year ownership cycle. The only reason to buy a Prius is to send a liberal message to the rest of the world that you’re “Green.”

      So until gas goes up to $5.00 per gallon, cars like the Prius will be more an niche environmental statement, usually driven by the wealthy, than any real cost saving mode of transportation.

      As to why there aren’t more competitors to bring the cost down, there hasn’t been an incentive for automakers to invest the technology into super high mileage cars for the U.S. due to lack of demand. If not for the SUV/CUV craze it might be different but over the last two decades, the primary action has been into larger vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        Thinkin...

        @SuperD: It’s a common fallacy that the Prius is expensive. New it’s only $2k more expensive than the Accord Sport, and you’ll more than make that up in an average ownership term, even at the current, low gas prices:

        http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=35556&id=35551&id=35552&id=35553

        Consumer Reports consistently rates it the cheapest vehicle to own and maintain, and the most reliable. Most don’t even need brake service until well past 100k. It may be slowish and boring, but as far as transportation appliances go, it’s damn near perfect.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          Also true.

          If I was just looking for an Appliance, I’d have bought a Prius V instead of my XC70.

          (Well, maybe – I actually need that space for camping trips, and the V isn’t as big as the XC.

          But in principle, as a pure driving-appliance, the Prius is compelling.)

      • 0 avatar
        ahtbaker

        Not really always driven by the wealthy (we are not!)- we are buying a used (2005-2008) Prius- maybe 2 -for under $6,000. Good deal and why not save on gas? Many of these comments are sooooo ‘Murica! “bigger the better- who cares about conserving anything?? Wasting is FUN!”

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Agree with others – your first sentence nails it.

      Toyota has expanded Prius into a four product line subbrand of sorts, and sales have decline year over year even with more models and more choice. They don’t break out the numbers in the delivery report by unit, but I suspect the data is available for some of the B&B closer to the auto industry than me.

      There simply is no incentive in the market…for now.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      It’s not like fuel prices have been low all the time. The Prius was out for longer than a decade. During that time, there have been two pretty big fuel price spikes (starting in 2003 until the 2007-08 financial crash, and a more recent one, before prices fell down again). My point is that when car manufacturers design a new model, they don’t use a myopic logic “since fuel prices are low now”. They need to project 3-6 years ahead. Moreover, it’s not like fuel prices are uniformly cheap across the world. Visit some European and Asian countries, and the fuel costs are already pretty high over there, forcing people to accept even cars like a Focus or Fusion with 1L 3-cylinder engine.

  • avatar
    319583076

    Toyota got lucky and had the right ego in charge – all competitors have been crippled by the wrong ego in charge. In most human endeavors, the result of any process is attributable more to the human-political power struggle than anything else. Sometimes, by chance, the right ego is in the right place at the right time to make something that works well –

  • avatar
    Lythandra

    Meh, back in college I bought for $1000 an ’84 VW Jetta Diesel with 184k miles that got a consistent 45 mpg. I even drove it around constantly floored since it was sloooowwww, 85 mph top speed. No electric needed. Drove it for a few years then bought an RX-7.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      A gallon of diesel contains more energy than a gallon of gasoline. The MPG figures aren’t comparable.

      • 0 avatar
        Ianw33

        Academically the two might not be comparable. However, to most consumers, they most definitely are. 50 miles on a gallon of fuel is more than 45 miles on a gallon of fuel, regardless of the energy density.

        I understand where you are coming from, and don’t necessarily disagree with you. We just sometime forget that we are living in a “Idiocracy” world now and a bigger number is a bigger number, technicalities be damned!

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The issue here is that the average person believes that MPG is a measure of efficiency, when it isn’t. A diesel is not more efficient because it gets higher MPG, it’s just using a denser fuel with BTUs that take up less volume. It’s apples and oranges.

          Diesels are actually somewhat more efficient due to the higher compression ratios, but MPG overstates the difference.

          • 0 avatar
            Ianw33

            Again, i dont think we are really disagreeing, just looking at the same issue from differing angles. i get where you are coming from.

            But a lot of consumers are just going to look at the fact that for $10 of diesel they can go further than $10 of reg gas/hybrid. they don’t care why thats the case, they just see more mpg’s for their dollar.

            My question is, and maybe someone can enlighten me, why don’t we see hybrids with a diesel ICE? To me it would seem that it would be the most efficient overall set up.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            My last point wasn’t a rebuttal, just appending to the previous point. The apples-to-apples comparison between gas and diesel could be made with CO2, but not MPG.

            I would presume that diesel hybrids haven’t been a factor because hybrid development was spearheaded by Toyota for the Japanese and US markets, where gasoline cars dominate. We’ll see how Audi does with its plug-in diesel hybrid.

          • 0 avatar
            Thinkin...

            Diesel hybrids just aren’t a good mix of technology (in cars) for a few reasons. First, gas/electric hybrids use atkinson-cycle engines, which severely lack in low-end torque – precisely where electric motors are best able to make up the slack. Once atkinson engines are up in their powerband, they are remarkably efficient, so it’s a gas/electric hybrid is a marriage made in heaven.

            Second – diesel engines don’t particularly like to be stopped and started a lot. This is why truckers like to let their engine idle all night, rather than shut it down. Hybrids need the engine to be ready to stop and start hundreds of times on each drive – which would be hell on a diesel.

            That isn’t to say that companies haven’t tried, but it’s just not a good use of resources. (like hydrogen cars…)

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        More energy and more carbon. Still no free lunch.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          Yes, but who gives a flying goddamn about “carbon”?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You must be the kind of guy who thinks that 160 km is longer than 100 miles because 160 is a larger number than 100.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            ^ This!!

            Plant a few treeeeeeeees (or anything) + photosynthesis (remember that from middle-skool science?) = OXYGEN! Yep, Oh-2!

            It’s the stupid greenie-weenie pathological need for control of this, in addition to CAFE, which will have us all driving Trabant-equivalents before long. 0.5-liter quad-turdo two-cylinders in pickups, and six-turdoed lawn-mower engines in family sedans and CUVs are just around the corner!

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Where did you study science?

            (Let me guess – nowhere.)

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The Nissan Versa is $12,000 less, so you can’t drive the Prius enough to make up the difference.

    • 0 avatar
      PeterKK

      Right, but most prius drivers are either bad at math or else not driving it to save money anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Toyota’s own research (admitted very dated now) indicated that the majority of Prius buyers bought it to make an outward statement on saving the planet.

        A buying decision was driven by treating it as a fashion accessory.

        There have been a number of stories that an increasing number of hybrid buyers are “one and done,” leaving the fold on the next trade. It may not be driven by dissatisfaction as it is driven by changing needs.

        • 0 avatar
          statikboy

          Are you saying that the majority of fullsize pickup buyers aren’t just buying jewellery? If so, I fully disbelieve you.

        • 0 avatar
          formula m

          Prius buyers don’t want to feel guilty in their mind when they step on the gas pedal and for other people to see how they are doing their part to save the planet. Truth is that the materials needed to build the battery in a Prius (nickel) causes more pollution than all of the CO2 a Hummer will produce during its lifecycle. They do the nickel mining here in North America and then ship materials to Japan, build the car and ship it back to North America. The nickel mining process combined with the shipping of materials both ways actually causes more damage than they will ever save.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Although I have seen “Nobama” and NRA bumper stickers on Prii, so the stereotype is not ALWAYS justified. (Besides, the high-rolling crowd has moved on from this to Teslas.)

          I’ve ridden in a third-generation Prius, and it’s not a bad place to be; while the interior is slightly low-rent to cut weight, evidence shows that the powertrain (including and especially the battery) is as bulletproof as the greats like the ChryCo Slant Six, the GM 3800, etc.!

          Some people may even buy these to..uhh..MOVE SMARTLY while getting 40mpgs. Case in point: several years ago, I was doing a Toledo-Detroit slog, cruise at 80, little traffic, center lane. I noticed a white speck in my rearview mirror, and thought nothing of it, but a couple seconds later, that speck became a Prius which by rights should have taken my doors in its slipstream — had to be doing a buck-twenty at least. (Didn’t know these could hit quite those velocities, especially on the skinny tires; I would assume that TRD or other vendors have go-fast bits for these.)

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      You can say that about a lot of cars. Can’t it be okay that someone doesn’t want to drive a Versa? The Prius isn’t just about saving money. It’s image as much as anything.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Prius and Versa aren’t peers. Compare the running costs of a Prius to other midsized vehicles, and you’ll find it’s a great bargain, even at today’s gas prices.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The longevity of the Toyota and Ford hybrids shouldn’t be discounted either. 200K+ miles with minimal maintenance is very doable.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Is the Prius a midsize vehicle? What makes it a premium vehicle, over the Versa?

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Yes, it’s been a midsized vehicle since 2003.

          • 0 avatar
            Jacob

            Prius is not midsize, but thanks to smart packaging, the rear legroom is plentiful.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Yes the Prius is midsize by the EPA’s size classification system which is based on the number of ping pong balls that can be stuffed in a vehicle. So at 115.3 total cu ft it is right in the middle of the EPA’s definition of a midsize car which ranges from 110-119.9 cu ft.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      The question is “Why hasn’t anyone…”. Other competing OEMs know that even if they can beat Prius mileage, they can’t beat its image/celebrity. And what if consumers start doing the math?

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Ford will try again. They are building a clean sheet hybrid instead of sticking a battery in the trunk of a Euro vehicle built in the US due to ATVM loans.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Don’t overrate its “image/celebrity” with auto buyers. If someone could match or beat the Prius, I’d give their vehicle some thought. However, I’d also look at the reliability, interior room, probable resale value and other factors. The Prius looks good even if you look beyond the fuel economy leadership.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          It’s very hard to do everything a Prius does at it’s price. That’s why it is successful. It’s roomy, reliable, holds it value, relatively inexpensive, has a powertrain that will last, and gets excellent MPGs.

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            “It’s very hard to do everything a Prius does at it’s price”

            +1. The Volt effectively beats the Prius, but at a much higher price tag. Toyota really did a good job balancing “good enough” with “cheap enough” and the sales prove it.

            They could make it a PHEV and/or use LiIon batteries (and they have, at a huge premium over the base model) but what made the Prius a winner from it’s first generation onwards is that it cost exactly as much as a “normal” car and required no sacrifices to own.

        • 0 avatar
          Japanese Buick

          this. Prius stereotyping is lazy and dumb. I’m driving a Prius for a DD now, I got into it by accident (it was wife’s car, she dumped it, I took it over until it could be sold but kept it instead). Once in it I found the car has a lot of virtues for commuting. For one thing that may surprise you, there is more driver leg and headroom than in my former LS400. It’s actually a very comfortable car, very well laid out, good tech and of course reliable as a hammer. Spending about $20/wk on gas despite a 60 mile daily commute is just icing on the cake.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Edmunds TMV suggests $9k less (I compared automatics, because we’re not talking “cheapest possible penalty box”, but things real humans might cross-shop).

      (And there are certainly feature differences – the cheap Versa doesn’t have a keyless ignition, and every Prius does.

      A Prius also has half again as much seats-up cargo space, and over twice as much seats-down, which matters for some people – the Versa Note is more comparable than the sedan, but $1k more.

      So we’re talking a $8k difference for a more downmarket vehicle with less power and lower resale, by far (the Prius is still worth $6k more, a year old, per Edmunds; but when you check 5 year old models … the Prius is still worth $5k more).

      If you don’t keep cars until they fail beneath you [* I do.] the Prius is probably honestly a more sound deal, financially.

      Plus, I’ve been in a Prius and everything I hear about the Versa makes me suspect it has far worse NVH.)

  • avatar
    PeterKK

    I would guess because it was first. You are behind the curve as it stands. Especially if Toyota is actually unable to beat themselves. It shows how special the Prius really is. It works. It works well, and it’s had years to work out the bugs and really optimize the system. If you had GMs money and production how many years would it take you, still, to even match the prius? Much less beat it?

    I don’t know, but I do know you then would STILL have to try and sell it over the prius. My guess is it looks as impossible to the other auto makers as it does tome.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Nobody who hasn’t completely committed to kaizen since the 1950s is going to compete in the nut-grinding game of relentless incremental improvement with a company that has.

    I agree that a stern chase of Peak Japanese engineering is a predictably losing endeavor. Better to play to other strengths like raw power and cultural arrogance. So HELLCAT and nazi staff cars.

  • avatar
    harshciygar

    Dude, really? You’re going to mention that Toyota sold 207,000 Prius in 2014…but NOT mention that that was an 11.5% DECREASE in sales compared to the year before? Where do you think those buyers went?

    Hint: the most traded-in car for a Tesla Model S was the Prius. It may no longer be the case, but for awhile it certainly was.

    You answered your own question…automakers are investing into other technologies, specifically plug-in cars. The Prius is no longer the must-have green car lauded by young folks, it’s the car you inherit from Grandma and Grandpa.

    That’s how you become Buick.

    Sure, most people can’t afford a Tesla Model S…but most people can’t really afford a fully-loaded Prius either, and if I am going to aspire to own a car, should it be one with 120 horsepower, or almost 700?

  • avatar
    Joss

    Americans have gotten even fatter?

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Besides the engineering challenges, there’s another reason why nobody’s done it: because it doesn’t matter. Once you top 40-45 mpg, fuel becomes a trivial expense, and the added benefit of an extra MPG becomes infinitesimal. So don’t hold your breath waiting for the 60 mpg* car – or the 54.5 mpg car. We all know it’s technically possible, but the compromises (space, safety, utility) aren’t worth it for the tiny fuel savings.

    *Yes, you can get there with plug-ins, and here in this coal state I’m surprised they aren’t mandatory.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup.

      The Prion’s 51/48 (call it 49.5) is 2.02 gallons per 100 miles. Or 303 gallons per 15000 miles

      The Accord hybrid’s 50/45 (call it 47.5) is 2.10 gallons per 100 miles. 315 gallons per 15000 miles.

      Even the original Insight’s 70ish amounts to 214 gallons per 15000 miles, a ~400$ reduction in annual fuel costs if gas goes back up to $4/gal. It’s hard to get excited.

      I do seem to remember there’s an Audi that’s available in Europe but not here that gets ~70 mpg. Of course, in Europe gas is close to $10/gal.

      From the point of view of reducing greenhouse emissions, personal transportation vehicles represent only 15% of the problem in the US. We could have a greater impact on greenhouse emissions by halving the amount of meat we eat than by doubling gas mileage or halving driving.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Why? Because only Toyota customers will accept a car that slow and unstable.

    As far as I can tell, Toyota customers don’t even realize that other cars stick to the road, accelerate when you press on the rightmost pedal, provide feedback on road conditions through the steering wheel, and can hold a straight line even though they are within 300 feet of a big rig on the highway. They also don’t know that a three year old car shouldn’t have collapsed seat foam and a steering wheel that’s flaking.

    They are in a constant state of terror, that’s why they give you a dirty look when you blow past them at 66 mph with, seemingly, not a care in the world.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      “They are in a constant state of terror, that’s why they give you a dirty look when you blow past them at 66 mph with, seemingly, not a care in the world.”

      If you’re only doing 66, get the hell out of my Prius’ way. I get the 50+ mpg that I wanted at 70-74. And the rest of your post is wrong.

      The Prius is a smallish and relatively light car. However, anyone who’s comfortable driving a small car is not going to be terrified by the Prius experience. People who “need” a 3-ton truck to “feel safe” or consider 700 hp to be “adequate” power probably aren’t the target market, anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Never compared a Prius to a 3 ton truck. They are terrible drivers compared to other cars of the same size. I can honestly say that I’ve never been more scared in a car than driving a Prius in the snow. There’s just no way to tell where the grip is, and whether or not you will make the next corner, at any speed.

        That’s when I realized: Prius drivers feel this way all the time! They’re not driving 15 mph below the rest of the traffic just to be smug, they are doing it because they have balls of steel, and it feels like a 250mph run at Talladega to them. Broken heroes on a last chance power drive, as it were, and I salute them.

        My original point remains: only Toyota has figured-out how to tap this market. No one else could sell a car like that and get away with it.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          “they have balls of steel,”

          That’s certainly true in my case but I don’t know about all the other Prius owners.

          Most of the people who own a Prius have owned something else besides (in my case, 15 other cars, several bought new). They have plenty of experience with other vehicles. Still, this car has excellent customer loyalty, so we conclude that it delivers and they like it.

          In fact, I’ve owned a car that was extremely unpleasant to drive on the freeway and it wasn’t just because it was small but because it was a crappy car. I spun that a few times in the snow, although I was driving relatively carefully, and a spin is a thing I’ve never done with the Prius.

          If this was a bad car with a punishing driving experience, the owners would notice and go elsewhere. If nothing else, a Prius that left a lot to be desired would certainly leave the door open for other manufacturers to take on the challenge of building an equal or better Prius that can more or less compete on price. I don’t see where that has happened.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          The internet stereotype has always been the smug liberal holding up traffic while beaming at the gas gauge but I’ve never seen much of that on the east coast. Three kinds of drivers.

          The older fixed income driver. They drive slow and terrified, but so do their more affluent peers in 270 horsepower Venzas and Avalons so it’s no fault of the car.

          The zero testosterone driver. Nerds, asians, women. They drive invisibly.

          The politically affirmed liberal. They push yellow lights, tailgate, neglect their turn signals right up there with the Ultimate Drivers.

          • 0 avatar
            PartsUnknown

            You can add a fourth – my brother. He’s a union carpenter who drives all over eastern Mass. to various jobsites. He had an F150 but it was killing him at sub-15 mpg. He bought a used 2011 Prius and has put 75,000 trouble- free miles on the thing while saving a boatload of gas.

            And he literally uses it as a work vehicle. With back seats folded down, he fits an incredible amount of stuff (ladders, table saws, etc.)

            130K and running like a champ. Amazing really.

            He does get his share of (mostly good-natured)grief at job sites though, so there’s that.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            “The zero testosterone driver.”

            May we take over the roads!

            Testosterone while driving is like loaded guns in daycare.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          I used to have a commute on I15. For a few years, Prius ownership granted solo HOV access. When that was the case, the typical Prius driver was a professional in a hurry. It wasn’t uncommon to see strings of them running over 90 mph in the HOV lanes.

          • 0 avatar
            JMII

            I had a guy in a Prius fly by me the other day while pulling onto the highway. He got into the HOV lane and disappeared at high speed. I was doing 80 mph, so he was pushing 90 easy.

            This idea that all Prius drivers are eco-weenies is just not true. A few years ago people realized the Prius is a well built, mid-size car with lots of storage but an odd dash board that is priced right. As a bonus its gets really good gas mileage. People accept it as a “normal car” now since its been on the market for so long. Its no longer weird looking or associated with being some future tech experiment.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I think you must have driven a Prius with suspension problems. Either that or you’re seriously exaggerating (on TTAC? never!).

          I’ve driven plenty of rental Prii. They have lifeless steering and a bumpy ride because of the low-rolling-resistance tires, but they work fine. I’ve never been scared in one. The worst thing about them isn’t how they drive, it’s the cheapness of the interior.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            The snow thing wasn’t an exaggeration. More like a “walk a mile in their shoes” moment. I gained a lot of respect for Prius drivers on that day.

            I had the Prius because my car was in the shop and some parts hadn’t shown-up (probably because of the snow). The biggest shock was going back to my car and wondering where all the snow went. I could see it on the ground, but it felt like a dry road compared to the Prius. Turn the wheel, feel the (slight) tug of G forces. Touch the brakes, feel the car slow down. Do both at the same time even!

            Passing, or being passed by, 18 wheelers in a Prius in a slushy snowstorm is truly scary. You have to keep reminding yourself to keep enough throttle to keep going straight, and that there’s still a road underneath the tires. Everything is shaking, the steering wheel is spinning freely, the gas pedal doesn’t do anything, you are getting blown off the road by aero that was not designed for crosswinds. It’s the real deal!

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            heavy handle: “I had the Prius because my car was in the shop and some parts hadn’t shown-up (probably because of the snow). The biggest shock was going back to my car and wondering where all the snow went.”

            Next time, check the tires for tread and proper pressure.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            dal: “They have lifeless steering and a bumpy ride because of the low-rolling-resistance tires,”

            I have often wondered how it would go with sticky tires. I might try that someday.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Is there a way to fit wider wheels and tires to a Prius, thereby gaining SOME useful drivability at the sacrifice of an mpg or two?

      • 0 avatar
        redliner

        “If you’re only doing 66, get the hell out of my Prius’ way”

        This comment made me laugh. I used to own a Prius. I drove the Prius HARD and FAST. It never failed that I would get stuck behind someone in a Porsche Panamera, or Audi S-series going “fast enough” in the leftmost lane while trying to call their financial planer and sip a Tripple Caramel Soy Frapa-mocha-chino Grand,. and fiddle with the infotainment. I was most assuredly not the slowest car on the road. That honor belongs to people with 300+ horsepower more than I had.

        I still managed to get mid-40s mpg all day long and never spent a single cent in repairs.

        –Sincerely, typical east coast Prius owner

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      I am not sure where you got “slow and unstable”. Prius is a perfect commuter car. With just the driver in it, it’s pretty zippy, boasting some of the best 0-45mph acceleration times among all compact and midsize cars. It has plenty of guts to merge well from any on-ramp. Turn circle is perfect for parking in tight sport. The suspension is pretty stiff and I never felt the car was “unstable”. I can mock the road and wind noise, the ride quality of the car. I could call it overprice. But I wouldn’t use the words slow and unstable.

      You were setting up a pretty weak argument there. What’s your experience with Prius besides driving it a bit in snow? Yes, I can see that Prius is not the best car to drive in slow. For one, it calls for low rolling resistance tires with pressures of 35psi or more, and owners routinely inflate them more. In snowy weather, I’d consider deflating the tires a bit or getting winter tires. Anyways. On dry, it’s pretty stable and zippy car.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The Prius is optimized toward better **average** fuel economy, as opposed to achieving a peak result under specific conditions.

    Take the Volt. As a plug-in, it could potentially use virtually no gas at all if ones driving conditions fit within the required parameters, which will leave the Prius far behind in the MPG game. But take the car on an extended journey that requires the gas motor to be used, and the averages will drop substantially and hand the advantage back to the Toyota. The Volt can vary quite a bit in its results, unlike the even-keel Prius.

    The Prius delivers a more predictable outcome across a broader array of alternatives. It seeks to combine the strengths of an electric motor with an Atkinson-cycle gas engine so that they complement each other, as opposed to just using the battery in an effort to shut off the gas engine for as long as possible. Toyota’s approach is generally preferable because it will offend fewer people, which is important if the goal is to sell more than a few units.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      Perfectly put. I have a friend with a Volt, he loves it and it’s a great car. He also has a sub-20 mile round trip commute so his gas engine hardly ever comes on. I have a 60 mile round trip commute so a Volt is out for me. That’s the “problem” with the Volt which isn’t really a problem… it’s optimized for a specific use. The Prius consistently delivers across all kinds of conditions.

    • 0 avatar
      HiFlite999

      I’m not sure how the Volt could manage to “offend fewer people” based on its performance. Yes, mpgs can vary a lot, depending on how it’s used. My present lifetime mpg with the Volt is around 80 mpg, with half the miles on gas and half pure electric. A typical 80 mile each way without a recharge comes in at ~55 mpg. So yes, a Prius might do better in trips of over 200 miles. Yet, an 850 mile, one-day trip in my Volt came in at 43 mpg – is that really so different than the 50 mpg a Prius *might* achieve?

      Not to say that the Prius isn’t good, it is. It clearly has a larger interior than the Volt and its engine-on mpg is better (particularly in-town). But *as a car* the Volt has far better handling, stability, and road manners as well as far lower noise levels. The second gen (2016) Volt has improved pure-gas mileage as well as a much longer battery-only range over the first (2011-2015).

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “I’m not sure how the Volt could manage to “offend fewer people” based on its performance.”

        The outgoing Volt averages 37 mpg in gas engine mode. That is bound to irritate some of the potential audience.

  • avatar
    Audiofyl

    Didn’t the original insight already beat the Prius before extreme mileage really mattered to everyone?

    Additionally, many TDIers will argue they are meeting or exceeding Prius mileage regularly. I’m sure you can find evidence of that on fuelly as well.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Yeah, but the Insight was a two seat commuter hybrid motorcycle disguised as a car. Honda only sold 17K units globally of the first generation Insight so it wasn’t really a threat anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      My first new car I ever bought was a 98′ VW TDI 5 sp with manual windows. Out of the box it got 46 mpg highway. After about 5k miles the highway mpg would reach 50. A lot less technology packed into a reasonably comfortable car that was fun to drive, albeit not fun to drag race…

      For the record, I drove it to just shy of 90k miles. Zero trips to the dealer or anyone else for repairs. Not a bad car in the end.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        The Prius’ marvelous efficiency is due to energy recovery during braking, not a higher energy density fuel. Which is why the city mileage is higher than the highway number.
        It also has an insulated storage tank for engine coolant, which allows for faster warm-ups when running errands between closely-spaced destinations – this car was designed for real-world efficiency.
        But, there are minuses as is well-documented; the Prius owner is paying for efficiency and practicality, not luxury.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          Always wondered how the city mileage could be so great. Thanks.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          shaker,

          And more of the internal “appliances” are electric. The A/C and water pump run only as needed. Electric A/C is particularly useful in stop-and-go traffic.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          “The Prius’ marvelous efficiency is due to energy recovery during braking”

          Well, *and* a really high coefficient of drag, and the electric motors for starting from a stop.

          They all work together; it’s not just One Thing that gives it efficiency.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Regen is a big part of it, but so is electric propulsion in the first place. ICEs really aren’t efficient at slow road speeds because you have to gear them down so much. Electric motors are perfectly happy to run at any speed from 0 rpm up, and so you save a lot by having the electric motor do most of the work in city traffic, even if you occasionally have to fire up the engine to serve as a generator.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      “After the original Honda Insight failed, Honda came out with a Prius-looking second-generation Insight trying to dethrone the king.”

      The first-gen Insight was never meant to succeed – it was a tech demonstrator. Honda built the car on the same low-volume line used to screw together the NSX and sold purposefully at a substantial loss. No company has yet beaten the Insight’s efficiency, either.

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    I get a consistent *combined* 41-44 MPG in my Cruze Eco, and have even reached 48.5 when trying all the tricks I’m willing to play; all without the weight and expense of a battery and complexity of the hybrid system. I even get a stick shift in the bargain.

    There’s even less smug.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      The problem in the US, however, is that diesel costs more than gasoline, so from a pure $$$ standpoint, a gasoline car that gets mid-to-high 30s will cost about the same as your low-to-mid 40s diesel. From that perspective, the Prius still has quite the lead.

      • 0 avatar
        ctg

        There is a Cruze diesel, but I believe he’s referring to the gasoline Eco model, with the 1.4L turbo. It doesn’t get much press, but from what I’ve read it gets pretty impressive fuel economy while also being a decent car to drive.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Depends on where you are, and when.

        Here in Oregon, now, diesel is significantly less than unleaded.

        (Per EIA [http://www.eia.gov/petroleum/gasdiesel/] diesel is slightly cheaper nationwide, and especially so on the west coast.)

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Lots of ICE cars do just as well as hybrids on the highway. What do you get in block-by-block city driving? I’m guessing 25-30 mpg. That’s why people in big cities drive so many Prii (and Escape Hybrids, and etc., etc.).

  • avatar
    redav

    VW has already beat the economy of the Prius with various special diesels. The problem is cost and practicality. Also, electrics dramatically outperform the Prius in both terms of energy efficiency (MPGe) and $/mi.

    There are limits to any technology. For a given size, you can only make a body so aerodynamic. You can only make a gasoline engine so efficient. For the given state of affordable technology, the Prius seems to be close to that limit.

    There certainly are technologies that can improve the performance of the Prius, but as Truckducken noted, once you get to the Prius’ efficiency, it takes a dramatic improvement to make a noticeable difference, much less one that pays for itself. For example, installing a turbo that runs a generator to provide more electric juice so the engine doesn’t have to work as hard would absolutely improve its mpg, but will it improve it enough to pay for the gas saved? I really doubt it.

    That’s why there’s a step change in technology and why full electrics are the leader. The efficiency of a battery+motor is double an engine, and electrons are cheaper than gasoline. Of all the options that have so far come forward, battery EVs are the best combination of efficiency and price.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The other advantages the Prius, and other similar hybrids, have over diesels is reliability and maintenance cost over time. Do you trust the Toyota HSD system or a VW TDI engine attached to the DSG transmission?

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Well, that’s a knock on the manufacturer more than the technology. Diesels and transmissions can be reliable even if VW doesn’t realize that.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Maybe. I like diesels, but the powersplit system in hybrids is one of the most reliable and long lasting powertrains you can buy.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          Yeah, an OM617 will probably be running after the roaches have taken over the world.

          On the other hand, it’ll still weigh about 500 pounds, get horrible fuel economy, and only put out 77 HP without a turbo.

          (Not that one can’t make a modern, efficient, powerful diesel also reliable … though it’s more work.)

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      As I noted, diesel and gasoline MPG can’t be compared directly to each other.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        I get what you are saying, but yes they can. Why? Because we buy fuel by the gallon, not by the energy content. Which is why E85 is such a horrible idea that our governments at all levels love – you are buying much less energy, but are paying a lot more taxes since you have to use so much more of it.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          No, it still doesn’t make sense to compare two things that aren’t comparable.

          Let’s suppose that we learn that it’s 30 degrees in Toronto and 86 degrees in New York. For one to conclude that New York is hotter than Toronto because of a difference in the digits is ridiculous — 30 degrees Celsius and 86 degrees Fahrenheit are the same temperature.

          We buy fuel by the gallon or liter as a matter of tradition. If we bought it by the pound or the kilo, then we would dispense with such nonsensical comparisons.

          And you don’t get less with E85, it’s just a matter of the fact that a given amount of E85 BTUs take up more space. This is akin to arguing that chocolate cake is better than a carrot because an ounce of cake has more BTUs (calories) than an ounce of carrot. It’s not better or worse, just different.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            Pch, your point is mostly irrelevant.

            Fuel is just an transient. People spend money, and they get a distance traveled. It’s only those two parameters that matter–not any of processes in between. Railing against comparing mpg is as worthless as arguing about compression ratio or type of injection.

            If gasoline & diesel were the same price, then comparing mpg would be perfectly fine, since the math works out the same.

            On a larger scale, consumption of resources also matters (e.g., how much fuel can be made out of a given raw material and how much energy is consumed doing so), but that tends to be factored into the price, hence hydrogen is expensive.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “Railing against comparing mpg is as worthless as arguing about compression ratio or type of injection.”

            I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean.

            I’m simply pointing a fact. Diesel and gasoline MPG figures aren’t comparable due to the differences in the energy density of the two fuels — higher MPG does not mean “more efficient.” Some folks have difficulty with facts, but that doesn’t change the facts.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      VW diesels can beat the Prius on the highway, but not in the city.

      Sometimes I think most of TTAC has never set foot in a city with a six-figure population.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I was specifically referring to some of their experimental cars that produced 90+ mpg overall in real tests (without hybridization). Sure, most of the driving that produced those numbers was undoubtedly hwy, I’ll give you that. But the my point was really that technology already exists that beats the Prius, but it’s not cheap, not practical, and not marketable.

        Edit: The one I was thinking of is the VW Lupo 3L.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      One thing about the VW diesel vs Toyota hybrid argument: VW diesel is a lot less reliable than Toyota hybrid (the most reliable powertrain according to tradeinqualityindex.com).

      Sure you can in theory beat the Prius fuel economy, but what’s the point if you waste all your savings in repairs?

  • avatar
    Robbie

    Say that GM made a Prius competitor. We will call this imaginary vehicle: the Chevy Probalt.

    It would get worse gas mileage, drive worse, have battery problems, and use inferior technology compared to the Prius. GM would talk about a perception gap. There would be Super Bowl ads for it – since GM would feel that is the exact demographic for the Probalt – and the American automotive press would unanimously praise the vehicle immensely, because they want the free testing vehicles and free snacks to keep flowing their way. There would still be some Probalts on the road, through a combination of Republican anti-import legislation and Democrat environmental activism.

    In Europe, the brilliant Opel engineers would desperately try fix up the pig, and would actually have turned it into a good vehicle at nearly the same price, if only GM had allowed them. However, given GM’s limits on Opel’s freedom, even the Opel engineers cannot fix the Probalt for Europe, so they sell a few in Europe; say, 5% of Prius sales. Of course, Opel then gets blamed for lousy Europe sales.

  • avatar
    an innocent man

    Every journalist knows the real answer but no one has the guts to print it. But a certain segment of my friends is privy to the real reason: everyone knows that in the 1990s the oil companies bought up the super secret patent rights to the high-tech secret carburetor(!) that got over 100MPG.

    There, I said it. Time to head the safehouse.

  • avatar
    Andy

    I don’t understand the popularity. I always thought the Volt was a much better idea. Enough electric range to cover most trips, and a gas engine to let you go as far as you like. If it had seated five rather than four, I would have gotten one a couple years ago. Ended up with an Accord instead (non-hybrid, because the math just doesn’t work when you’re buying a hybrid to save gas money – the electric thing was cool enough, and maybe even saves enough money, to be worth the extra cost to me).

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The Prius is way less expensive, has more room, had a better interior when the Volt launched (all those buttons in the Volt made me want to die), and already had proven reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      The Volt IS a good idea. Or, maybe I should say, the Volt is a good IDEA.

      The problem is the implementation; it’s $35K, seats 4 (2 of those had better be smallish), doesn’t have much cargo space and the extended-range fuel economy (on premium!) isn’t all that great. Volt 2 will be an improvement in at least some of these areas but even it would hardly sell unless propped up by $7500 per unit in tax credits.

      Some of the Volt’s shortcomings are not GM’s fault but just the result of physical limitations. To get a 40-ish mile battery range, the car needs a lot of battery, which currently costs quite a bit (that is trending down) and requires a great deal of room (also trending down but not nearly fast enough to make a difference in the next generation or two). Some of the Volt’s shortcomings, however, are GM’s fault, principally in cheaping out on the engine.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    I think the question should be refrased a bit. Why is no one in the US buying cars that can outdo the Prius. 51/48 is still good, but it’s hardly amazing.
    Most dieseldriven midsize cars in Europe will average 40mpg or better, the new Honda Civic 1.6 diesel does better than 55 mpg, average, but will exceed 60 on highway. Even most gasoline engine cars can do 40-45 mpg highway now, but offcourse that will vary with your driving style.
    As someone with a ‘gas-guzzling’ CRV I get a lot of questions how I can bare owning a car that barely does 25 mpg on average…
    (but again, most people where I live still think 150 hp is more than enough for a daily driver)

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      25. Gas guzzling.

      Hee.

      (Says the guy who has an F250 long-bed, and an XC70.

      I can get 25… on the freeway, with the Volvo.)

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      As a European, EPA numbers will be pretty irrelevant to you. Definitely a different test cycle, and if I’m not mistaken, it’s based on a different sized gallon to the US one.

      That said, going off the British Honda and Toyota websites, the Civic scores 72/83/78 (urban/extra-urban) MPG to the Prius’s 72/76.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      As I keep noting (apparently in vain), diesel and gas MPG figures are not comparable. Perhaps it would help if I noted that it takes more oil to produce a gallon/liter of diesel than a similar amount of gasoline, which helps to explain much of the MPG difference.

      And you will find that the European test results are always well above the US EPA test. (Anecdotally, I’ve noted 20-30% higher results in the European tests for the same cars.) The US test is more conservative, which in this case also means more realistic.

  • avatar
    Banger

    The reason nobody has tried to out-Prius the Prius is obvious: There’s a stigma among many drivers who have forgotten that things like 12-second 0-to-60 times are perfectly acceptable for 95% of drivers if they know how to drive safely — i.e. not being a jerk and expecting oncoming traffic to slow down for you when you enter the street.

    It applies to hybrids as well as non-hybrids. Diesels are particularly hard-hit by this misperception or perhaps misprioritization of “performance” in a daily-driven commuter car. So are cars that don’t try to look “sporty,” (see: ever-shrinking daylight openings that make our cars feel like driving battle tanks.)

    Example: The Nissan Juke is among the smallest-engine crossovers available here, undercut only by the Buick Encore/Chevy Trax and the Fiat 500X/Jeep Renegade with their 1.4-liter engines. Overseas, you can get a Juke with a 1.2-liter turbocharged engine. By most accounts I have read, the 1.2 is a peppy little engine that gets better fuel economy than the USDM MR16DDT turbo engine can hope to achieve. Nissan won’t federalize it, likely because it’s a few ticks slower to 60 and in the quarter.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Remember also that today’s (and recent years’) Prius has more like a 10 second 0-60 time.

      Which is a mere second-and-changer longer than a Corolla/Civic, which somehow is not considered A Menace To Everyone For Being So Damned Slow.

  • avatar
    daver277

    There was a cvt version ofthe Insight1 but it did little better than a Civic. Only the MT Insight1 would go into lean burn.
    The Insight1 is still the car of choice for hypermiling 15 years on.
    Camaparing it to a motorcycle is rediculous and it does what 95% or people need 95% of the tme.

    The Insight1 is still the most efficient so why has no showpiece car done better after 15 years?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      The Insight 1 with the CVT averaged about 55 miles per gallon in the real world. I should know. I had one for four years.

      The manual version can get around 63 to 65 miles per gallon. I know a lot of folks prefer the manual but in Atlanta I found the CVT to be far easier to live with. The $1 in depreciation it experienced over 48,000 miles also helped and I think the CVT helped that cause.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      “The Insight1 is still the most efficient so why has no showpiece car done better after 15 years?”

      Because nobody actually cares about doing better in retail; hypermilers aren’t a market, they’re a curiosity.

      (Showpiece? Well, the VW XL1 did a lot better, IIRC, and is definitely a “showpiece”, since nobody actually bought the tiny number they made.

      I’d also say that “95% of people” don’t want a 2-seater, as reflected by how few people buy, even if they only use 1 or 2 seats most of the time.

      Turns out that a car that screws up your plans 5% of the time is a bad call for most of us, if we don’t have two cars.)

  • avatar
    Fordson

    You already answered your own question – because in the Accord, Jetta and Fusion hybrids, there are cars that get incrementally worse fuel economy while being vastly better cars to drive and live with every day.

    It’s like asking why nobody has out-lightened the Lotus Elise as a sportscar – the answer is that in the Boxster/Cayman, there is a car that performs just was well as a sportscar, but doesn’t demand the sacrifices in all other areas that an Elise does.

    The Prius is a full-fledged Toyota small car…it is inferior in terms of performance envelope, refinement and feature set compared to its competition (as are the Corolla and Yaris), but people will buy it because it’s a Toyota.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    I need to take issue with the author’s point about the Prius C model.
    There was a posting on this website a few years ago that addressed the near identical EPA mileage scores of the two models, and pointed to the intuitive reality that 700 lbs less mass and a smaller motor do in fact make a difference in the real world. Look at Fuelly.com for the two models. The peak of the bell curves for the standard Prius and the C are about 4 mpg different, the C doing better. In other nation’s mileage rating tests, (Canada for example)the C is clearly superior.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      In real-world driving, the C does a bit better than the regular Prius due to lower curb weight and frontal area. The higher drag coefficient of the C only becomes an issue at 70+ mph. There is only <5 mpg difference either way, so ultimately it comes down to size preference and purchase price.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I believe Alex got much better (numerically) results in the Prius C than the Prius during his tests.

      However, how much was that improvement actually worth? Two less fill ups per year?

  • avatar
    cc-rider

    This past June picked up a 08 Prius for $5900. It was a one owner car and was spotless. It had 135,000 on it and was dealer maintained. The warranty for the batteries is 150,000. It is a bargain for cheap transportation.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      Some states have Prii in their motor pools. I think you would have to be nuts to pay the price for a new Prius, but the used ones seem to be pretty good value for money.

  • avatar
    ccode81

    Toyota can sell this car all over the world with the distribution network, volume can justify the R&D spending.
    It fits Eco friendly people in first world, it fits the economy mind in developing world where usually fuel is expensive when they don’t have domestic oil refinery. It doesn’t require rocket science to maintain at local dealer because it’s built reliable and using quite ordinal parts which are required to routinely replace. It runs on most ubiquitous fuel, the regular petrol.
    And as pioneer toyota holds most peripheral patents, not accessible by others.
    It has most buying power for volume discount to the battery supplier Panasonic.
    Reasons goes on and on for making small difference all around the car to save few bits here and there.

  • avatar
    wsn

    — “If it’s just engineering, someone can certainly do it. After all, this isn’t rocket science.”

    Let me guess, Mark doesn’t come from an engineering background.

    Just because there are Prii on the lot, ready to be reverse engineered, doesn’t mean others can easily replicate the engineering in the Prius.

    First, there’s the intellectual property thing. I.e. law suites are waiting, if your design is too close.

    Then, there’s the cost thing. Maybe Toyota spent $50 for this part, but you just don’t know how to created it under $100.

    Third, a huge amount of the engineering is in the software. When to use the battery, when to stop, etc. Just because you don’t see it with your naked eye, doesn’t mean there isn’t fantastic engineering there.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Good point about the software. From what I recall, Toyota invested a ton of R&D into getting it sorted out.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      Plus, the “mythical man month” thing. 1 woman can deliver a baby in 9 months, but 9 woman cannot deliver a baby in 1 month. Toyota has the head start that others will not easily catch up for the same cost in money, time, reliability, or risk.

      I am not sure how long this lead will be there, but I’d say they probably will still be leader for another 5 years.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Diminishing returns my friend….

    Prius gets 49 MPG combined. Compare that to the 35-36 MPG of its compact competitors like the automatic Civic and Mazda3. That extra 13-14 MPG is only saving you $300 or so a year in gas at current prices. Less than $10 a week! At what cost? Priuses cost way more than other equally equipped and quality of build cars (compacts), and are way worse to drive than those compacts, let alone the midsizers it competes with in price. Gulf gets even smaller on the highway, where a lot of these cars are legitimately cracking 40 MPG and have passing power and lower road noise and all that.

    Prius value are in its great Kammback shape and status symbol in certain regions. My inner conspiracy theorist thinks the Toyota hybrid system was a quasi loss leader for quite some time, until the 2nd gen Prius when volume really took off. It’s not worth it for any other manufacturer to take that kind of development loss.

  • avatar
    spw

    “Little incentive to produce” is very poor excuse. Toyota is largest and most profitable manufacturer in the world, by far margin, and they produce 1.3 million hybrids per year, most of which are Prii.

    I would say that is large enough incentive to produce competition since Toyota makes more money than Ford, GM and Chrysler combined.

    They are obviously onto something so other manufacturers should try to replicate the success.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    Even though Prius is a marvelous piece of engineering, I fail to see the savings from owning one. The _base_ Prius II that does not even have an electric drivers seat has MSRP of $24K. For under $20K, you can buy a well optioned Corolla or Mazda 3. And you have to drive well over 150,000 miles to recover those 4K in fuel savings. Or another comparison, is Accord LX vs base Prius. Accord LX has MSRP of 22K, but it is a larger classier, much faster car, that rides a lot better than Prius, and you still get 30mpg average. Again, you’d have to drive 60-100K miles in a Prius to simply make up the 2K you lost by not buying the Accord LX, and you are still stuck in that tin can pinching the pennies. Honestly, Prius has the ride, road noise, and wind noise level of a $15K car. That’s the problem with it. If the base Prius II cost maybe 22K, and a well optioned model was 24-25K, then maybe, just maybe it would make a better economy argument. Probably Toyota’s competition realizes that there exist only so many myopic consumers with no calculator and if there was a second Prius-like car on the market, there would not be enough consumer demand to make it profitable.

  • avatar
    SC5door

    I guess someone hasn’t been paying attention to the spy photos of the new Hyundai “Prius” in development.

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