Avg. Price Paid:$9,269 - $10,183
Original MSRP: $21,500 - $23,770
MPG: 48 City / 45 Hwy
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2008 Toyota Prius Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Toyota Prius was new.

The performance of the 2008 Toyota Prius is competitive with some conventionally-powered midsize cars. The car uses a four-cylinder gasoline engine mated to two electric motors, a continuously variable transmission with built in artificial shift points, electronically-assisted steering and regenerative braking, all features found on few other cars. Driving the Prius necessitates some adjustments from most drivers. Its steering requires a light touch, its regenerative braking is noticeable but performs well, and its acceleration, while not about to win any drag races, can keep up on the highway. The Prius bests such conventional family cars as the Mercury Milan and Pontiac G6 in our performance rankings, despite its unique architecture. And it does it all with industry-leading fuel efficiency. Most reviews say the Prius is not a driving enthusiast's car -- instead, it approximates a normal family sedan while squeezing more than 40 miles out of every gallon of gasoline. 

  •  "Like most hybrids, the 2008 Toyota Prius is best suited to drivers whose travels rarely take them farther than the city limits. ... 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." -- Edmunds
  • "In performance, the latest Prius takes the lead over Honda's Civic Hybrid. Acceleration from a standstill and for passing and merging is enthusiastic, though it's weaker at higher speeds. Ride comfort is another bonus; though occupants can feel rough spots, they're largely subdued." -- Cars.com
  • "For bragging rights, the Prius can crawl its way through three-hour long border line-ups without ever needing to idle its ICE, which is priceless. Try that in a Civic Hybrid." -- Automobile.com
  •  "The Prius's acceleration won't cause tunnel vision, but the steady stream of power from the two sources and the continuously variable planetary transmission call for little compromise on the part of the driver." - Automobile Magazine
  •  "Slow movement away from a stop accounts for middling 10.5 sec 0-60 mph in our test. But Prius picks up speed nicely, copes reasonably well with traffic. Throttle response best between 25-55 mph." -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

The 2008 Prius is powered by Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system, which mates a 76 horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine to two electric motors, which produce 67 horsepower. Reviewers are generally pleased with how the system automatically runs on one or both of its power supplies to balance acceleration and fuel economy without having to charge the batteries. Reviews often compare the acceleration of the Prius to that of four cylinder midsize cars -- a compliment to how far the car's hybrid powertrain has come, since the first-generation Prius was widely viewed as sluggish. It uses a continuously variable transmission that includes no gears -- yet the Prius electronically simulates gearshifts. The Prius is clearly built, however, for maximum fuel economy. In that respect, it succeeds. The EPA gives the Prius an mpg rating of 45/48. No other production car can match those numbers.

  • "Net peak horsepower is 110, mainly because the two power sources hit their peaks at different times. Regardless, power delivery is smooth and consistent from rest all the way to top speed." -- Edmunds
  •  "Acceleration from a standstill and for passing and merging is enthusiastic, though it's weaker at higher speeds. -- Cars.com
  • "No eco-weeniemobile this, it's easy to get the drop on most cars and stray in front of, let alone keep up with, traffic." -- Motor Trend
  • "Acceleration is brisk and seamless for a modest-priced sedan, with no unusual lags or other quirks." -- U.S. News

Handling and Braking

Experts generally like the steering and handling capabilities of the 2008 Toyota Prius, but some note a learning curve when buyers slide behind the wheel for the first time. Its electronically-assisted steering requires a light touch, but gives the car a turning circle tighter than anything else in the midsize class, on par with the subcompact Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris. The Prius is stopped by anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist and traction control on the base model's 15-inch wheels, and 16-inch, 7-spoke alloy wheels on the Touring model. The 2008 Prius uses regenerative braking, in which the electric motor operates as a generator when the car is coasting or the driver steps on the brakes, in order to recharge the batteries. Many reviewers say the effect is noticeable, but does not seem to impact brake performance.

  •  "The Prius makes a fine highway companion, but it is best suited to the city, where its light electric steering, tight turning circle, excellent visibility and available rearview camera make it easy to park and maneuver through traffic" Edmunds
  •  "Toyota says much of the Prius' braking is of the regenerative sort, without input from the friction-operated brake pads. This phenomenon is noticeable while driving, but it's not intrusive." -- Cars.com
  • I found it to be quite nimble and fun to drive, actually. I'd say it drives just as well as the Civic Hybrid I tested a little while ago, if not even better." -- Automobile.com:
  •  - "Base model's soft suspension and fairly skinny, economy-based tires allow marked cornering lean and noseplow. Touring models have sharper moves, slightly better grip in turns. Prius is also less stable in crosswinds than most conventional compact cars." -- Consumer Guide
Review Last Updated: 2/18/09

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