The 2008 Toyota Prius is a full-featured midsize car that just so happens to be the most fuel-efficient car on the market. The fact that it now starts at less than $21,000 is icing on the green-colored cake.
The 2008 Toyota Prius should be considered more than just a rolling personal statement declaring, "Ahoy there you scummy SUV driver! I'm part of the solution, not the problem." Of course, people buy cars to make statements all the time. A stately luxury car can say, "Look world, I'm successful." Buying a Hummer can say, "This enormous 6,000-pound truck is synonymous with my (delusional) sense of personal machismo." Yet despite being the poster child for environmental awareness, the Prius should be closely considered for all the real, tangible ways it provides daily transportation. You don't have to bleed green to appreciate its virtues.
Even without its innovative and revolutionary hybrid power plant, the Prius would be a sensible, functional-first midsize sedan. It may look small, but the well-packaged and airy interior is spacious for passengers and cargo alike. Plus, a long list of standard and optional features allows the Prius to serve both customers in search of a low-priced conveyance and those in need of more luxurious trappings.
Of course, the Prius is first and foremost a hybrid -- and the benchmark upon which all others are based. Capable of running on electricity alone or in concert with the small gasoline four-cylinder engine, the Prius is capable of fuel economy that no current mainstream car can match -- even with the lower, revised 2008 EPA estimates. Like most hybrids, the 2008 Toyota Prius is best suited to drivers whose travels rarely take them farther than the city limits. Around town and in stop-and-go traffic, the Prius' electric motors and regenerative braking are optimized to provide superior fuel economy and optimal power delivery. It's OK on the freeway, but without consistent braking or coasting, the battery runs down, forcing the anemic four-cylinder engine to carry most of the load.
In a few short years, the Toyota Prius has gone from low-volume oddity to being one of the 10 best-selling cars in America. With that popularity have come a slew of new hybrid models that generally trade a few miles per gallon for a more traditional body style. Toyota's own Camry Hybrid and the Nissan Altima Hybrid have gas-electric systems similar to the one in the Prius, but offer a more regular car-driving experience. The Altima can even be described as fun to drive, something few other hybrids --including the Prius -- can boast. The Honda Civic Hybrid is also a similarly priced alternative, providing more rewarding handling and a higher-quality interior.