Used Toyota Prius Saloon 2000 - 2003 review

Category: Family car

Green enough, but it doesn't drive as well as mainstream rivals

Toyota Prius Saloon (00 - 03)
  • Toyota Prius Saloon (00 - 03)
  • Toyota Prius Saloon (00 - 03)
Used Toyota Prius Saloon 2000 - 2003 review
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Steve Huntingford
Published01 January 2006

What's the used Toyota Prius saloon like?

Car manufacturers are always keen to prove how green they are and usually this means unveiling yet another concept car that is never going to turn a wheel. Back in 2000, though, Toyota put considerable amounts of money where its mouth was and made the electric/petrol hybrid Prius.

Under acceleration the Prius uses a combination of its 1.5-litre 58bhp petrol engine and a 40bhp electric motor. At cruising speed, it relies on the petrol engine alone, using excess power to recharge the battery, which is also recharged under braking. Then, at very low speeds it runs on its electric motor alone, producing zero emissions.


Green enough, but it doesn't drive as well as mainstream rivals

  • Good room, safety and impressive economy
  • Very slow on motorway hills
  • so-so handling

Generally, it's a system that works very well - and almost without the driver noticing. Although the engine can struggle on motorway hills, performance is reasonable. As you might expect, the emphasis is on comfort rather than sharp handling, so there's a fair bit of body roll.

What's different about this green machine is that there are no sacrifices, no battery taking up half the cabin or boot. The aerodynamic four-door saloon can accommodate a family of five, and the rear seats are easily folded to increase boot space.

Ownership cost

What used Toyota Prius saloon will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a Toyota Prius saloon?

Buying a high-mileage Prius can be like buying a leasehold flat. It might be cheap, but if there are only a few years left to run on the lease, it could prove a false economy. In the case of the Prius, the lease is the battery or, strictly speaking, the bank of batteries.

When the battery fails, it won't be cheap to replace; you're looking at well over a grand. At least it's covered by an eight-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

In other respects, though, the Prius is as easy and as cheap to run as any conventional car. Major services are required at 20,000 miles, but these should be no more expensive than having a standard Toyota Corolla maintained.

You also won't have to pay the Congestion Charge if you travel into central London and the Prius's low emissions mean low road tax. Insurance is group 8, and the fuel economy is good, but be warned that 45-50mpg is a more realistic figure than the claimed 65mpg.

Our recommendations

Which used Toyota Prius saloon should I buy?

The choice isn't hard because only a single version was sold in the UK, and during its three-year life the Prius was not subjected to any face-lifts or major revisions.

Equipment includes a single-slot CD/radio/cassette player, climate control, all-round electric windows and electric power-assisted steering. All cars ride on 14-inch alloy wheels wrapped in energy-efficient, low rolling-resistance tyres.

Driver and passenger airbags, anti-lock-brakes and electronic brakeforce distribution are standard safety kit, but security, with just an engine immobiliser and remote central locking, could be better. From March 2003 customers were able to add a sophisticated but expensive sat-nav system, which you may like to look out for.

Only one gearbox, a CVT automatic, is available and the gear selector lever is mounted in the dashboard. A colour screen constantly displays how much energy the car is using.


What alternatives should I consider to a used Toyota Prius saloon?