Its Best Days Behind It, Toyota Prius Prepares to Mark an Anniversary

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
its best days behind it toyota prius prepares to mark an anniversary

It’s the Toyota Prius’ party and it can cry if it wants to. Two decades after its North American debut, the Prius is reportedly set to mark the occasion with a special edition. Whether or not the new reigning champ of the hybrid scene, the Prius’s own RAV4 Hybrid stablemate, is invited to the bash remains unknown.

Yes, the Prius has come a long way since its 2001 introduction, but time can either solidify a front-runner’s position or see it fall behind the pack, overtaken by changing trends. The Prius falls into the latter category.

As reported by Cars Direct, a 2021 order guide reveals the presence of a Prius 20th Anniversary Edition for the coming model year. The first such edition rolled out back in 2017 to mark the model’s debut in Japan.

When it shows up later this year, expect a loaded-up front-drive model with badges galore, baby. Low-end and volume mid-range trims will continue to be offered with electric all-wheel drive — a new addition introduced for 2019 to boost the Prius’ appeal and potentially reverse sliding sales. Of course, a year later the Corolla Hybrid came along, ready and willing to cannibalize sales of the company’s dedicated hybrid model.

It’s to the Prius’ credit that the large-and-in-charge (and volume-leading) RAV4 Hybrid and newly electrified Corolla exist. Indeed, the Prius, as the initial cheerleader of Toyota’s evolving hybrid drive technology, has a lot to be proud of. It helped make the brand a hybrid powerhouse, so much so that rival automakers now benefit from Toyota’s investments.

Still, it must be a little bittersweet for the Prius to see the success of other hybrid models coming at the expense of its own sales. The Prius, as Tim Cain told us recently, is not the model it once was. Back in the early days, the model’s name was so synonymous with virtuous green machines, it found itself lampooned by the likes of South Park and Family Guy.

As the model’s annual sales tallies fall, you could point to the styling excess of the fourth-generation Prius (later dialed back) as a major misstep, or you could blame the proliferation of hybrid technology and the rise of crossovers as America’s leading bodystyle. You can blame the model’s own earlier success for creating a stigma about the type of person who drives a Prius.

Whatever the reality of the situation, hybrids now await buyers at almost every showroom, and fully electric vehicles are the new hotness (or they were, back when dealers were open, trade shows could take place, and gas wasn’t cheaper than bulk grain). Toyota still doesn’t have an EV, though it does have a plug-in hybrid in the form of the Prius Prime. That’s another bit of credit due.

[Image: Toyota]

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on May 01, 2020

    I never hated the Prius even though I have been basically a pickup owner for the past 35 years. At one time it would have made a good commuter vehicle for me but putting 2k to 3k miles a year and working at home almost exclusively it doesn't make sense. Having had my 2012 Buick Lacrosse E-Assist for over 6 months and just putting a little over 1k miles on it during that time along with cheap gas a Prius just doesn't make sense. If I were driving 15k a year like I did 20 years ago I might buy a Prius. With a midsize pickup I at least have the open bed which I use a lot in the Spring and Summer. I don't need a brodozer nor do I want one so a midsize pickup is more than enough.

  • Uofsc93 Uofsc93 on May 03, 2020

    That's an excellent point about the IV gen's styling as the first blow to the Prius' demise. Our Gen III was at 85K & I was ready for a refresh. Rumor was it would look more mainstream, which I was fine with & bam they go the other extreme. We kept the Gen III (still going strong), & eventually bought a (you guessed it) Tesla.

  • Arthur Dailey This car is also in my all time favourite colour combination for 1970s' Town Cars. The black exterior with the deep red (burgundy) interior. Even took my driving test in one. The minute that the driving examiner saw the car I knew that I had passed. He got in and let out a long sigh and started asking about the car. My Old Man always had a Town Car in that black/burgundy colour combination for 'business meetings' that required the use of a back seat for passengers. No way that his full sized associates could fit in the back of a Mark IV or V. So I also have quite a bit of driving time behind the wheel of Town Cars. Just add in the 450 cid engine and the 'optional' continetal hump and I would love to have one of these in my driveway.
  • Art Vandelay 15k for some old rusty 80s junk that is slower to 60 than the Exxon Valdez? Pass. Plus no TikTok on the old Mercedes
  • JMII I know people behind me get POed when I refuse to turn (right or left) depending on traffic. Even my wife will scream "just go already" but I tend err on the side of waiting for a gap that gives me some cushion. It's the better safe then sorry approach which can be annoying for those behind. Oh well.
  • Bobbysirhan Next thing you know, EV drivers will be missing the freedom to travel on their own schedules instead of their cars'.
  • Cprescott I'm not surprised by this behavior - it is consistent with how owners of Honduhs, Toyoduhs, or Mazduhs drive. Without fail, these are the consistently obtuse drivers on the road.