When the first-generation Toyota Prius launched back in 1997, there were more than a few industry pundits who thought the whole hybrid thing was a fad. And like most fads, they thought it wouldn’t last.
Humble pie is what those same pundits are eating these days, and more than a few helpings of the stuff.
It boggles the mind when you realise that Toyota’s global sales of hybrid vehicles passed the four million mark in May 2012 – and that 2.6 million of those were for the Prius.
You have to admire Toyota’s tenaciousness because it was slow-going for the first 10 years – the time it took for Toyota to sell the first million hybrids. But popularity for the petrol/electric hybrid has steadily gained traction.
Demand for Toyota’s hybrid vehicles continues to accelerate, accounting for a sizeable 15 per cent of the company’s total global sales.
That’s helped by the Toyota Prius spawning a family of vehicles that now includes the seven-seat Prius V and smaller Prius C – all powered by similar versions of Toyota’s hybrid synergy drive system.
However, despite the inclusion of even more hybrids under the Lexus umbrella with the CT200h hatch joining the range, the now iconic Toyota Prius remains the dominant seller in the hybrid business – at least for now.
The third- and current-generation Toyota Prius was launched in 2009 with a raft of refinements and styling changes over the second-generation Prius.
We tested the updated version of the Prius that was released in March 2012 with more features, more refinement and fresh styling.
It’s still unmistakably Prius, but with a focus on maintaining a contemporary look as well as a measureable improvement in the way the automobile rides and handles.
The fully-loaded and top-of-the-line Toyota Prius i-Tech picks up a host of new standard kit that included solar moonroof, eight-way power driver’s seat, 17-inch alloy wheels, seven-inch VGA colour screen with satellite navigation, digital radio and leather trim.